Monday, May 6, 2013

George Jones & Gene Pitney - George Jones and Gene Pitney

George Jones & Gene Pitney
George Jones and Gene Pitney
Musicor MS 3044

The recent passing of George Jones wasn't a big surprise to me.  Having read his autobiography, I'd say that the bigger surprise was that he lived as long as he did.  He was one of my favorite country singers, but I only have a tiny portion of his discography, mostly compilation albums.  My favorites are the duet albums he did with his wife, Tammy Wynette, they had a lot of chemisty together.  He also made some nice music with Melba Montgomery in the 1960s.  I think his most unusual duet partner had to be this guy though, pop star Gene Pitney.  I suppose Musicor was trying to expand Pitney's audience beyond teenyboppers with this album much like his forays into Italian music and easy listening crooner stuff.  It works better than you might think, with his high quavery voice Pitney assumes the role that a female singer would have taken opposite Jones' rougher deep voice.  The record is hampered by the selection of the songs which leans heavily on covers of earlier country hits, but the quality of the singing is first rate.  I do find the album a bit maudlin, there are a lot of slow tear-jerkers.  I prefer Jones when he is singing uptempo songs like "White Lightning" or "Why Baby Why."  The only song in that vein on this record is a cover of Faron Young's "I've Got Five Dollars and Its Saturday Night" which was a top 20 country hit single for the duo.  It is my favorite cut on the album although I have to admit that Jones sounds a lot more convincing singing about hell-raising than Pitney does.  My other favorite songs are a couple of songs that Jones sings solo which were released as the A and B side of a single in 1965 that reached the 9th spot on the "Billboard" country chart.  The songs are "Wearing My Heart Away" which was co-written by Jones and "Things Have Gone To Pieces" which was written by Leon Payne and recorded by Johnny Cash back in 1959.  The latter song offers such a string of woes that it is likely to leave you feeling better about your day no matter how bad it was.  I also like the jaunty "I've Got a New Heartache" which was a 1956 hit for Ray Price and Dorsey Dixon's classic "Wreck on the Highway" which is the oldest song on the album dating back to the late 1930s.  It was made famous by Roy Acuff in the 1940s.  Religious songs were hardly Jones' forte, but the song has a more authentic feel to it than anything on the album.  The duo also cover Bob Wills' wonderful "My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You" which was a big hit for Ray Price.  Pitney's harmony vocal on this one really sends me.  All the other songs are engaging, although not particularly memorable.  "I'm a Fool To Care" was a hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford and later for Joe Barry.  "Sweeter Than The Flowers" had been a hit for Moon Mullican back in the 1940s and was later a single by the Stanley Brothers.  "One Has My Name" also goes back to the 1940s and was recorded previously by the song's co-writer, Eddie Dean as well as Jimmy Wakely and Bob Eberle.  I'm not crazy about the song, but it has some of the most effective vocal interplay between Pitney and Jones on the album with Pitney's high voice harmonizing so well with Jones' vocal that I find myself almost thinking he is a woman.  "Don't Rob Another Man's Castle" was a hit for Eddy Arnold in 1949 as well as Ernest Tubbs with the Andrews Sisters.  Pitney has a couple of solo songs.  "I Really Don't Want to Know" was also covered by Les Paul and Mary Ford as well as Eddy Arnold back in the 1950s.  Pitney takes this kind of creepy song about a guy who is insecure about his girlfriend's past lovers and makes it sound like a romantic teen ballad with his emotional vocal.  "Born to Lose" was a big hit for Ted Daffan in 1942 but I think the definitive version is the cover by Ray Charles and Pitney doesn't come close to challenging him.  Given the paucity of new songs or original material on the album, its major appeal is the novelty of Pitney and Jones singing together which is more than enough for me.  I'd listen to Jones sing just about anything with anyone, the man was one hell of singer.  He sings with such feeling and strength, he makes even the corniest song sound real.  Recommended to people who recognize that pop music has just lost a titan of a singer.

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