Sunday, September 18, 2016

SHG: Jim Reeves: "He'll Have to Go"

Jim Reeves: “He’ll Have to Go”
Entered the chart on: 1/11/1960
Peaked on: 3/7/1960
Weeks at #2: 3
Song at #1: “Theme From A Summer Place” by Percy Faith

“Put your sweet lips a little closer to the foam...”

Is this the first honest, real, unadulterated country song we’ve reviewed here at Second Hand Goods? I wouldn’t count “A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation,” as that was transparently Marty Robbins trying very hard to appeal to a mainstream pop audience, i.e.: “See? Not everyone from Arizona is a gun-toting reprobate!” “The All-American Boy” I also wouldn’t call a country song, despite being performed by a country singer. And “Just Walking in the Rain” may have started life as a country song, but it was anything but by the time Johnnie Ray got to it. Dammit, Ray Conniff!

So, yes, Jim Reeves gives us our first full, uncut taste of Country & Western here at Second Hand Goods. This was a record I know from my grandparents’ collection, they were way into classic country (being Oklahoma natives), though I recall it being rather crooner-ish for country. I also know the cover by English sophisti-poppers Prefab Sprout, it appears as a bonus track on the CD release of their 1985 opus Two Wheels Good*.

But I digress. It’s the original which concerns us here.

I think you could call this “countrypolitan.” How can I guess? Chet Atkins arranging and producing it probably has something to do with that. How many country records do you know that feature a vibraphone? Wait, is this the first instance of vibes on Second Hand Goods? I think it just might be!

The arrangement here is actually really very soft and delicate. Brushed drums, backing chorus is almost at a whisper, gently strummed guitar, it’s all there and it’s all pushed in the background, rather fitting for a song meant to evoke an intimate telephone conversation about a man asking his beloved to choose between him and the other man she’s currently spending the evening with.

As previously implied, the arrangement is kept secondary to Reeves’ honeyed baritone voice, which fairly oozes out of the speakers like molasses. He’s a very precise singer, rolling over each syllable with an intense deliberation. I prefer a little more expression from my singers, but I have to admit the man had some serious vocal chops.

While this is not my preferred style, I have to admire the craftsmanship that went into this. It’s very well-done. Kind of like a museum piece; look at it, appreciate it and move on.

Rating: 3

*the US title of Steve McQueen. Apparently, the actor’s estate threatened a lawsuit unless Kitchenware/Epic changed the title of the album. They also abbreviated the bouncy album-opener “Faron Young” to just “Faron” to be on the safe side (and speaking of classic country, the tune’s lyrics reference Young’s “It’s Four in the Morning”).

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