Bill Anderson was one of the most successful songwriters in 1960s Nashville, and one of the decade's frequent chart-toppers as well. His big career breakthrough came in 1958, when his song, "City Lights" became a #1 hit for Ray Price, leading to Anderson's contract with Decca Records, where he stayed for three decades as one of their stalwart performers. Here's a quick look at his career...
Bill Anderson "Whispering Bill: Bill Anderson's Greatest Hits" (Varese Sarabande, 1996)
I can't say I was ever a huge fan of "Whispering" Bill's late-'60s glory years at Decca... As a songwriter he rightfully deserved high praise, but as a performer he seemed hopelessly mired in the wimpiest pop excesses of the Nashville Sound... Nonetheless, this is a great collection of prime material from the height of his fame, with the original versions of corny oldies such as "Po' Folks," "I Love You Drops" and "Still..." It's hokey material, jam-packed with hushed recitations and super-goopy arrangements, but still a nice slice of Nashville in it's pop-ridden glory years, even edging a bit into the early 'Seventies. This set seems to be out of print, but until something comparable comes along, it's worth looking for, since the originals are infinitely more worthwhile that the numerous re-recordings Anderson would wax further on down the line. Check out the second volume, too!
Bill Anderson "Whispering Bill: Bill Anderson's Greatest Hits v.2" (Varese Sarabande, 1997)
Outstanding! These '70s tracks, made when the pressure was on to stay on the charts, are a real hoot! Novelty songs galore, and many of them are quite fun, particularly "Country DJ," "Sometimes," and "Every Time I Turn The Radio On." Sure, the collection ends with a reprehensible disco-y cover of "Still The One" (yes, the old Orleans song...), but other than that... this is pretty darn enjoyable, in a corny kinda way. Recommended!
Bill Anderson "The Definitive Bill Anderson" (Universal, 2006)
This is a much-welcome best-of set from Music City songwriter Bill Anderson, known for his milquetoast-y "whispering" vocal style and for his long string of hits in the "Nashville Sound" era the 1960s... Since his mid-'60s heyday, Anderson's legacy has been poorly served, with only a sprinkling of best-of sets over the years... This 20-song set is the first major retrospective of his work in nearly a decade, and it'll make more than a few folks happy, since the last best-ofs -- two separate CDs on the Varese Sarabande label -- have been out of print for a while now. Anyway, you can kind of see why he fell off the radar: the highly stylized, willfully melodramatic production, coupled with Anderson's super-understated vocal style, makes his music very much of its time... However, looking back through the mists of time, what once seemed corny, wimpy or precious now seems charming and almost naive... Compared to the monolithic, paint-by-numbers pop-schlock sensibilities of modern-day Nashville, the prefab innocence of Anderson's old work sounds quite genuine and sincere. Plus, what a hit list: "Walk Out Backwards" (revived in 1997 by Sara Evans), "Still," "Mama Sang A Song," "8x10," and numerous other tunes that helped define the craftsmanship that the new Nashville became known for. This disc also bridges into his early '70s hits, which in many ways were kookier and more intriguing than the earlier work he's best known for. Included here are songs like "Sometimes" and the lightly raunchy "If You Can Live With It (I Can Live Without It)". A nice slice of pop-country history!
Bill Anderson "Oh Boy Classics Presents... Bill Anderson" (Oh Boy, 2001)
As with other albums in this odd series, this disc doesn't provide any info about when these recordings were actually made; I'd guess they are from somewhere in the 1980s, or possibly the '90s. Obviously it's from way past Anderson's commercial heyday of the 1960s and early '70s, but in some ways these re-recorded, bare-bones versions of classics such as "Po' Folks" and "I Love You Drops" are a little bit more accessible than the more ornate "Nashville Sound" originals. Anderson's voice was never that masterful to begin with, and it hasn't changed much by the time these tracks were laid down with, so in essence what you get here is a chance to revisit these songs with simpler, less pretentious arrangements, but the old Bill Anderson charm pretty much intact.
Bill Anderson "The Best Of Bill Anderson" (Curb, 1991)
Bill Anderson "The Millennium Collection" (MCA Nashville, 2006)
Bill Anderson "The First Ten Years: 1956-1966" (Bear Family, 2011)
This 4-CD box set will make fans of Nashville songwriter "Whispering " Bill Anderson go a little weak in the knees... I know I, for one, would love to check out his early stuff from the 'Fifties, and hear just how "country" he was, before the smooth production style of the Nashville Sound took over completely. Also comes with a handsome hardcover booklet, packed with archival photos and elaborate discographical info, as only Bear Family can provide. Of course, with the Bear Family mark of quality there often comes a hefty price tag, so I'll have to wait until they mail me my winning lottery ticket before I can pick this puppy up. Still...
Bill Anderson "Greatest Hits, v.1" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
Bill Anderson "The Bill Anderson Story" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Greatest Hits, v.2" (Decca, 1971) (LP)
Bill Anderson "...Sings Country Heart Songs" (Decca, 1962) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Still" (Decca, 1963)
Bill Anderson "Bill Anderson Sings" (Decca, 1964) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Showcase" (Decca, 1964) (LP)
Bill Anderson "From This Pen" (Decca, 1965)
Bill Anderson "Bright Lights And Country Music" (Decca, 1965) (LP)
A great set of honky-tonk oriented tunes, an unexpectedly uptempo set of cheating songs and heartsongs, with only a couple of comedic tossoffs, and mostly a solid set of rollicking true-country tunes. It's nice to hear Anderson doing some straight-up twang, and this edition of his Po' Boys band was pretty sharp, particularly Weldon Myrick on pedal steel. Recommended!
Bill Anderson "I Love You Drops" (Decca, 1966) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Get While The Gettin's Good" (Decca, 1967)
Bill Anderson "I Can Do Nothing Alone" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
A gospel album...
Bill Anderson "Country Style" (Decca-Vocalion, 1968) (LP)
Jan Howard & Bill Anderson "For Loving You" (Decca, 1967) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Wild Weekend" (Decca, 1968) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Happy State Of Mind" (Decca, 1968) (LP)
Bill Anderson "My Life/But You Know I Love You" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Christmas" (Decca, 1969) (LP)
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard "If It's All The Same To You" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Love Is A Sometimes Thing" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Where Have All Our Heroes Gone" (Decca, 1970) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Always Remember" (Decca, 1971) (LP)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)
Archetypically wimpy early '70s countrypolitan, with lots of slow-tempoed, overwrought weepers, standard-issue "Whispering Bill" stuff. One interesting thing here is the song selection -- there are several Anderson tunes, naturally, but no less than three songs by neo-outlaw tunesmith Kris Kristofferson, ranging from "Help Me Make It Through The Night" and "Come Sundown" to the less well-known "When I Loved Her." He also covers a Kenny Rogers song, but we'll forgive him: no one could know that far back that Kenny Rogers was in fact the dark lord Sauron... There are a few uptempo novelty numbers on here that hint at Anderson's upcoming renaissance, when he got his mojo working a few years later. Silliest song" "Lonesome Is The Mother Of Soul"; most lively: "The Kind Of Needin' I Need." Mostly this is an underwhelming album, but it's harmless enough, and easy on the ears. Worth a spin, I guess.
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard "Bill And Jan Or Jan And Bill" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
Bill Anderson & Jan Howard "Singing His Praise" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
An all-gospel set...
Bill Anderson "Just Plain Bill" (Decca-Vocalion, 1972) (LP)
Bill Anderson "For All The Lonely Women In The World" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Don't She Look Good" (Decca, 1972) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Bill" (MCA, 1973)
Bill Anderson "Whispering Bill Anderson" (MCA, 1974)
Bill Anderson "Live From London" (MCA-UK, 1975)
Bill Anderson "Every Time I Turn The Radio On" (MCA, 1975) (LP)
Bill Anderson & Mary Lou Turner "Sometimes" (MCA, 1976) (LP)
One of two albums singer Mary Lou Turner recorded with songwriter Bill Anderson... This includes their duet, "Sometimes," which was #1 hit single...
Bill Anderson "Peanuts And Diamonds And Other Jewels" (MCA, 1976) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Scorpio" (MCA, 1977) (LP)
Bill Anderson & Mary Lou Turner "Billy Boy And Mary Lou" (MCA, 1977) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Love... And Other Sad Stories" (MCA, 1978) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Killen)
Anderson takes his "whispering" style into the heart of disco-era pop production with surprisingly pleasant results. On the lead track, "I Can't Wait Anymore," he becomes sort of a country Barry White, singing a fairly raw, blunt song of lust and desire over a disco-y beat, sticking to the swinger theme on the more country (and more clever) "How Married Are You, Mary Ann?" There's also some nice soft, sunshine-y country, with most songs penned by Anderson, although songwriters Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman seem to have been in his orbit as well. The album closes out with a novelty number, a weeper about a washed-up country singer whose glory days have gone while all his cash has dried up along with the adulation of his fans -- it's a duet with mega-oldtimer Roy Acuff, and if anyone's gonna sell a song like that, it's these guys in the late '70s. This isn't a record you could readily recommend to most modern country fans, but I think anyone who's delving into this particular era might enjoy it a lot. Worth a spin!
Bill Anderson "Lady's Choice" (MCA, 1979) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Nashville Mirrors" (MCA, 1980) (LP)
(Produced by Buddy Killen)
Another curious set of past-his-prime (or is he?) Anderson, paired up with overly robust, somewhat outlandish pop-country production. Several songs highlight the new level of sexual frankness that oozed into the Nashville mainstream in the swinging '70s, but while Anderson celebrates eroticism, he does it as a romantic, with talk of holding hands and smoothing down a lover's hair. Mostly this is too gooey for me, and the production is too slick, but darned if he doesn't manage to sell these songs nonetheless -- only one I would really go back to ("The Old Me And You") but even though nothing really jazzed me up, this is a fairly listenable album. It's almost all Bill Anderson originals, with a big exception being a goofy cover version of Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight." This was Anderson's last album for the label he spent two decades on, and his only major-label outing for the entire '80s, but it's surprisingly vigorous -- if you're into country-pop/countrypolitan, this one's worth a spin.
Bill Anderson "On The Road With Bill Anderson" (NR, 1980)
Bill Anderson "Southern Fried" (Southern Tracks, 1983) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow" (Swanee, 1984) (LP)
Bill Anderson "Celebration" (Po Folks, 1987)
A Christmas album, with some gospel standards mixed in for good measure...
Bill Anderson "Yesteryear" (Po Folks, 1989)
Bill Anderson "Country Music Heaven" (Curb, 1991)
Bill Anderson "Fine Wine" (Warner Brothers, 1998)
Bill Anderson "A Lot Of Things Different" (TWI, 2000)
This album is such a pleasant surprise! Taking a page from Chip Taylor's book, Anderson has adopted a gruff, grizzled old-timer persona, with a slight Don Williams softness... These are songs about growing old, having grown old, looking back, and not losing that loving feeling... Yeah, maybe today's Country Top 40 ain't likely to touch acoustic-based country like this with a ten foot playlist, but it's an interesting footnote to one of Music City's most illustrious careers, and far more vigorous a release from Anderson than I would have ever anticipated. If you're an old-schooler, this one might be something you'd want to give a listen or two.
Bill Anderson "No Place Like Home On Christmas" (Varese Sarabande, 2002)
Bill Anderson "Whisperin' Bluegrass" (Madacy, 2007)
Bill Anderson "Songwriter" (IMI, 2010)
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