Eddy Arnold (1925-2008) was one of the great country crooners of 1950s and '60s, a superstar of the so-called "Nashville Sound" era, when the country establishment "went pop" as a way to counteract plunging sales during the rock'n'roll revolution. Arnold, who had been a fine country singer in his youth, embraced swooping orchestral arrangements, working with bandleader Billy Walker on several of the biggest hits of the era. Like many artists of his era, Arnold recorded a huge amount of material before LPs came into vogue, and most of these early twang tunes were unfamiliar to his pop-oriented fans, only seeing the light of day in the reissue boom brought on by CD and digital technology. Some of his early songs were revived as Nashville Sound re-recordings, notably "Cattle Call," which he first recorded in 1945, but remade in 1961. Arnold's commercial peak was in the mid-'60s, but by decade's end his style of gooey pop-vocals quickly fell out of fashion, and from 1970 onwards he rarely made it into the Top 20. Nonetheless, Eddy Arnold had a long, varied and remarkably prolific career, and his easygoing style continues to draw fans... Here's a quick look at his work...
Eddy Arnold "The Early Hits Of The Tennessee Plowboy" (ASV-Living Era, 2000)
A little-known fact about Eddy Arnold is that he actually was pretty good "real" country singer back when he started his career in the late 1940s... Initially known as "The Tennessee Plowboy," Arnold recorded plenty of fun, sprightly, sappily romantic hillbilly hits back in the 1940s, when he was still an up-and-coming youngster. When I first found out about this phase of Arnold's career, through a cache of old 45s bearing his original nickname, I was flabberghasted -- I had always thought of Arnold as the ultimate Nashville cheeseball crooner, a guy with a couple of immortal tunes ("Cattle Call" and "Room Full Of Roses") amid an ocean of overripe pop-country crossovers. This 25-song collection will redeem Arnold for a generation of listeners in much the same way those old 45s did for me; these are great, deliciously corny country tunes -- real country tunes, mind you -- that will cut through the years and charm true country fans as well as Arnold loyalists. Includes early versions of a hits like "Cattle Call" as well as yummy, lesser-known tunes like "Daddy Is Only A Picture" and "What A Fool Was I" and "Then I Turned And Slowly Walked Away..." Nice sound quality and great song selection as well.
Eddy Arnold "Strictly From The Hills" (Bronco Buster)
Unfortunately -- and justifiably -- Eddy Arnold is best known as an archetypal Nashville pop-vocals cheeseball, whose most distinctive hits were "Make The World Do Away" and a remake of the early '40s classic, "Cattle Call"... What most folks don't know is that early on, when he was still a young whippersnapper, Eddy Arnold was actually a damn good country singer. Soft around the edges and smoother than most other hicks, but good. These 1950 transcription tapes were made for Brown Records, a specialty label that made transcription discs for radio stations to play. This was around the time Arnold went by the backwoods-y nickname, "The Tennessee Plowboy," and the tunes are all pretty cool. This disc may give you a whole new opinion of the man.
Eddy Arnold "Hillbilly Favorites" (Bronco Buster)
This one's pretty cool, too. You wouldn't think it from listening to his final 83 albums but once apon a time Eddy Arnold was a really great country singer, with steel guitars, fiddles and everything. These songs, taken from rare 16" transcription discs on the Brown record label, showcase Arnold at his all-too-brief best, during the late 1940s and early '50s. Ironically this disc contains a stripped-down version of his hit song, "Cattle Call," which was one of the successful smashes that lured him into going countrypolitan later in the 'Fifties Loaded with lovely, pointedly sentimental material, this CD uncovers Arnold's deep roots in the older stringband tradition. It's a shame RCA can't see fit to do a similar reissue of the many mid-to-late '40s singles Arnold did in the same vein. I'd snap it up in a second.
Eddy Arnold "The Best Of Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1967)
Eddy Arnold "The Best Of Eddy Arnold, v.2" (RCA Victor, 1970)
Eddy Arnold "The Essential Eddy Arnold" (RCA-Nashville, 1996)
If you want to check out Arnold in his post-billy countrypolitan crooner phase -- the music he's best known for -- then either of these brief collections should do ya right. Not only do these have his big smashes, such as "Cattle Call," "Bouquet Of Roses" and "Make The World Go Away," but the producers also had the remarkable good taste to include several of his early songs from the 'Forties, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Inevitably, these CDs chart his rapid plunge into super-cheesy countrypolitan -- but they're still worth checking out for the good stuff.
Eddy Arnold "RCA Country Legends" (BMG-Buddah, 2001)
If you want to check out Arnold in his post-billy countrypolitan crooner phase -- the music he's best known for -- then either of these brief collections should do ya right. Not only do these have his big smashes, such as "Cattle Call," "Bouquet Of Roses" and "Make The World Go Away," but the producers also had the remarkable good taste to include several of his early songs from the 'Forties, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Inevitably, these CDs chart his rapid plunge into super-cheesy countrypolitan -- but they're still worth checking out for the good stuff. (For more info on his early years, check out my Real Hicks section...)
Eddy Arnold "The Tennessee Plowboy And His Guitar" (Bear Family, 1998)
For a more extensive look at Arnold's early career, this fab 5-CD set should do the trick. With Bear Family's trademark perfect sound and extensive liner notes, it's manna from heaven for the Eddy Arnold true believer! For starters, this is one of the Bear Family boxes I've heard that best stands up to intensive and repeated listens. It's a treasure trove of old-fashioned sentimental county songs, packed with songs about little kids, lost loves, and sweet, saintly mothers, this is without doubt the definitive look at his early career, superseding the more humble (but no less enjoyable) single-disc collections that cover the same era. In the mid 1950s, Arnold unreservedly adopted the new "Nashville Sound," the country-pop accommodation that Music City saw as its only hope to survive the commercial onslaught of the early rock'n'rollers. In some ways, his switch to a pop vocals wasn't that big a deal: Arnold was always a slow paced, sentimental crooner, by going pop he was just shedding the modest fiddle and pedal steel licks that buoyed his old records, and toning down the twang. He also revisited several of his older hits -- "Anytime," "Bouquet Of Roses," "Cattle Call" -- and gave them a grander-sounding orchestral sweep. It's fun to hear them here in their original stripped-down glory, but sweeter still to hear all the less well-known gems that came out at the same time, in all their unabashed, corny glory. There are also songs that he re-recorded within the space of a couple of years, such as "Little Angel With The Dirty Face" and "This Is The Thanks I Get (For Loving You)," which reveal Arnold already trying out a more robust baritone style, and experimenting with various musical arrangements. His understated delivery and richly sentimental, varied material all make for some mighty fine listening. Trust me: I, too, was leery of investing the big bucks to hear "too much" of such a sappy singer's work, but was very pleasantly surprised at how well this collection held up to repeat listens. Nice stuff!
Eddy Arnold "There's Been A Change In Me: 1951-1955" (Bear Family, 2008)
The king of the country crooners, Eddy Arnold's hillbilly era works get the major archival treatment with this impressive 7-CD box set, complete with Bear Family's trademark high-class packaging and well-research liner notes.... There's a lot more twang here than you may be used to hearing on an Eddy Arnold album, as well as a lot of goofy old country songs and and weepy heartsongs galore. There's also a glimpse of things to come: the collection ends with a 1955 pop-country session with bandleader Hugo Winterhalter which produced the big hit version of "Cattle Call," as well as several other early countrypolitan hits. This is a great and long-overdue collection, picking up where Bear Family's stunning Tennessee Plowboy collection left off.
Eddy Arnold "Tears Broke Out On Me" (Bear Family, 2011)
Arnold started out as a 1940's hick artist, with plenty of twang and bounce, but in the '50s he rode at the vanguard of the Nashville Sound/Countrypolitan movement. This generously programmed, 33-song CD set gathers singles and album tracks recorded between 1958-64, and some of them show a little spark of life, though not quite the fire heard in his early days as "the Tennessee Plowboy." A lot of it's pretty corny, though: old habits die hard. Bear Family is pitching this disc as Arnold's big return-to-twang, but the sappy ballads still dominate -- better to think of this as a good collection of less well-known material, including a lot of songs that have never made it onto CD before now. If you're an Eddy Arnold fan, you'll definitely want to check it out; twangfans might want to stick to the old stuff.
Eddy Arnold "Ultimate Eddy Arnold" (BMG, 2007)
Eddy Arnold "Country Songs I Love To Sing/Eddy's Songs" (Collectables, 2004)
An intriguing twofer reissue of two LPs originally released on RCA's cheapie label, Camden Records. The funny thing about those old Camden releases is that they often had older, more interesting material than the regular LPs and best-of sets that came out at the same time on the RCA imprint. I'm not sure if this disc has the stereo mixes, or the original mono (Camden records came out in both formats) but either way, it's still gonna be fun stuff.
Eddy Arnold "That's How Much I Love You/More Eddy" (Collectables, 2004)
Another Camden twofer...
Eddy Arnold "When It's Roundup Time In Heaven" (RCA Victor, 1954) (10" LP)
Eddy Arnold "Wanderin' With Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1955)
Eddy Arnold "The Chapel On The Hill" (RCA Victor, 1956) (LP)
Eddy Arnold "All-Time Favorites" (RCA Victor, 1956)
(Produced by Steve Sholes)
Mostly this is pretty dreadful -- corny, schmaltzy, sedate covers of pop standards from yesteryear, such as "You Always Hurt The One You Love" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter," good songs, but terrible versions. He really committed himself to a crooning style that sounds phony and insincere, although the country part of his band still sound good, particularly steel player Roy Wiggins, with his simple, direct style. The plunky piano and drippy organ drag things down, though... So that's the bad news... The good news is there are also some good, solid country songs on here, such as his versions of "I'm Thinking Tonight Of My Blue Eyes" and "The Prisoner's Song," which are simple and elegant, and showcase the steel guitar without any of the pop stuff dragging it down. A mixed bag. The country songs are worth checking out, but the pop tracks paint a clear and unfortunately accurate picture of where Arnold was headed. (NOTE: This LP is actually a rejiggered version of a 10" album from 1953, with some tracks added and other taken out: interestingly enough, it's the rootsier country songs that are the ones that were added in. So close...)
Eddy Arnold "A Little On The Lonely Side" (RCA Victor, 1957)
Eddy Arnold "When They Were Young" (RCA Victor, 1957)
Eddy Arnold "My Darling, My Darling" (RCA Victor, 1958)
A pure pop-vocals outing, with Arnold in straight-up Bing Crosby mode for much of the album, and nary a hint of country twang to be heard. The arrangements by orchestra leader (and longtime Arnold bassist) Charles Grean is completely unobtrusive: this is pure easy listening, mellow and muted, not much that's "Nashville" about it, but I imagine many of Arnold's more devoted fans would like to check this one out.
Eddy Arnold "Have Guitar, Will Travel" (RCA Victor, 1958)
Eddy Arnold "Praise Him, Praise Him: Fanny Crosby Hymns" (RCA Victor, 1958) (LP)
A tribute to songwriter Fanny Crosby, a 19th Century American Methodist best known for the abundant flow of hymns and religious songs she composed over several decades, such as "Blessed Assurance" and "Praise Him, Praise Him," both included here.
Eddy Arnold "Thereby Hangs A Tale" (RCA Victor, 1959)
(Produced by Chet Atkins)
A jovial, low-key set of folk and historical story-songs, with Arnold right on the rising tide of the coming '60s folk scene tsunami, as well as the "historical" ballad fad that swept the country charts around the same time. The material is a mix of folk standards such as "Tennessee Stud," "Tom Dooley, and "The Wreck Of The Old '97," along with a few singing cowboy oldies and newly-minted story songs such as "The Ballad Of Davy Crockett," "Johnny Reb, That's Me" and the cowboys-and-indians shoot-'em-up, "The Battle Of Little Big Horn." Of particular interest might be Arnold's version of "The Red Headed Stranger," a song that Willie Nelson used as the foundation for his classic '70s concept album of the same name. This isn't an electrifying album, but it's nice and unpretentious, with simple arrangements and cheerful delivery. Worth checking out if you're in a Burl Ives-y or Kingston Trio-ish mood.
Eddy Arnold "You Gotta Have Love" (RCA Victor, 1960)
Eddy Arnold "One More Time" (RCA Victor, 1962)
Eddy Arnold "Christmas With Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1962)
It's the crooniest Christmas ever... Look out there, Bing!!
Eddy Arnold "Our Man Down South" (RCA Victor, 1963)
Eddy Arnold "Cattle Call" (RCA Victor, 1963)
One of Arnold's biggest commercial successes... This album was a warm tribute to the golden era of < href= "../countrystyles/old/singing_cowboys.html">the singing cowboys, with a chart-smashing remake of his own classic, "Cattle Call," backed up by covers of beloved oldies by The Sons Of The Pioneers, Carson Robison and others. Corny, but sweet.
Eddy Arnold "Faithfully Yours" (RCA Victor, 1963) (LP)
A gospel album...
Eddy Arnold "Folk Song Book" (RCA Victor, 1964)
Eddy Arnold "Sometimes I'm Happy, Sometimes I'm Blue" (RCA Victor, 1964)
Eddy Arnold "Pop Hits From The Country Side" (RCA Victor, 1964)
Eddy Arnold "The Easy Way" (RCA Victor, 1965)
Eddy Arnold "My World" (RCA Victor, 1965)
Eddy Arnold "I Want To Go With You" (RCA Victor, 1966)
Eddy Arnold "The Last Word In Lonesome" (RCA Victor, 1966)
Eddy Arnold "Somebody Like Me" (RCA Victor, 1966)
Eddy Arnold "Lonely Again" (RCA Victor, 1967)
Eddy Arnold "Turn The World Around" (RCA Victor, 1967)
Eddy Arnold "The Everlovin' World Of Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1968)
Eddy Arnold "The Romantic World Of Eddy Arnold" (RCA Victor, 1968)
Eddy Arnold "Walkin' In Love Land" (RCA Victor, 1968)
Eddy Arnold "Songs Of The Young World" (RCA Victor, 1969)
Eddy Arnold "The Glory Of Love" (RCA Victor, 1969)
Eddy Arnold "The Warmth Of Eddy" (RCA Victor, 1969)
Eddy Arnold "Love And Guitars" (RCA Victor, 1970)
Eddy Arnold "Standing Alone" (RCA Victor, 1970)
Eddy Arnold "Portrait Of My Woman" (RCA Victor, 1971)
Eddy Arnold "Welcome To My World" (RCA Victor, 1971)
Eddy Arnold "Loving Her Was Easier" (RCA Victor, 1971)
Eddy Arnold "Lonely People" (RCA Victor, 1972)
Eddy Arnold "...Sings For Housewives And Other Lovers" (RCA Victor, 1972)
Eddy Arnold "So Many Ways/If The Whole World Stopped Lovin' " (MGM, 1973)
Eddy Arnold "She's Got Everything I Need" (MGM, 1973)
Eddy Arnold "I Wished That I Had Loved You Better" (MGM, 1974)
Eddy Arnold "The World" (MGM, 1975)
Eddy Arnold "Eddy" (RCA Victor, 1976)
Eddy Arnold "I Need You All The Time" (RCA Victor, 1977)
Eddy Arnold "Somebody Loves You" (RCA Victor, 1979)
Eddy Arnold "A Legend And His Lady" (RCA Victor, 1980)
Eddy Arnold "A Man Of All Seasons" (RCA Victor, 1981)
Eddy Arnold "Don't Give Up On Me" (RCA Victor, 1982)
Eddy Arnold "Close Enough To Love" (RCA Victor, 1983) (LP)
(Produced by Norro Wilson)
Arnold's last album of the 1980s, when he announced his (semi-)retirement... I wouldn't exactly say that I'd recommend this record, but you have to give him credit for trying to keep up with the times. Well, sort of: Norro Wilson's rock-tinged arrangements are actually about six or seven years behind the times, but it's still nice to hear Arnold sing to something that has a backbeat. The repertoire, particularly on Side One is pretty good and the musicians (Pete Wade and his crew) put some real effort into the album. That being said, Arnold himself really did sound tired and over the hill... He's trying, but it's hard to hang with him on most of these songs. Side Two takes a sideways plunge into goopier, less appealing slow stuff, but after a few dreadful ballads, he concludes with the slow country shuffle of "The Blues Don't Care Who's Got 'Em," which was his last chart entry of the decade (grazing the Top 100 at #76). Worth checking out, I suppose... I was surprised that liked it at all, and a couple of the cheating-y songs that start things out are well-written and might be worth reviving. This was probably meant to be a fading lion's final roar.
Eddy Arnold "You Don't Miss A Thing" (RCA Victor, 1991)
Eddy Arnold "Seven Decades Of Hits" (Curb, 2000)
Eddy Arnold "After All These Years" (RCA, 2005)
Hick Music Index