My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Patsy Cline – ‘Showcase’

In 1960, Patsy’s contract with Four Star expired, and she signed a new deal with Decca, which had been distributing her earlier singles. Patsy’s triumphant return to the spotlight in 1961 with ‘I Fall To Pieces’, her first hit single since ‘Walking After Midnight’ four years earlier led to the release of a full-length album, the appropriately titled Showcase, with the Jordanaires (best known for their work backing Elvis Presley) singing on most tracks and given almost equal billing when the set was rereleased after Patsy’s death. Owen Bradley remained at the helm, and by now he had found the right crossover template for Patsy’s recordings. They also had access to a wider variety of material than Four Star had allowed. The tracks other than that first single were recorded in August 1961, as Patsy was recovering from a serious car accident.

‘I Fall To Pieces’, which Patsy recorded at her first Decca session, was the breakthrough single, her first #1, and perhaps her most sublime moment on record. Written by Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran, the song is a perfect expression of the pain endured by a woman whose former lover just wants to be friends, while she falls apart every time she sees him. This track opens the album, and ‘Crazy’, the other big hit, was the opening track on side two of the original vinyl LP. The latter, famously penned by a young Willie Nelson, may be the quintessential Patsy Cline recording, the perfect epitome of her sophisticated country torch style. Heartbreak has rarely sounded more beautiful than it does on these two recordings.

Patsy offers the definitive version of another classic, Floyd Tillman’s agonized ‘I Love You So Much It Hurts’, again in her torch style, and this is another highlight. Also very good is ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely (Have You Ever Been Blue)’, an erring wife’s appeal for forgiveness, which has an excellent vocal along similar lines.

The album balanced pop and country in several ways. One was to give country songs a pop makeover.

There is a cover of Buck Owens’ ‘Foolin’ ‘Round’ (co-written by Buck with Harlan Howard), which is an entertaining mid-tempo ultimatum to a cheating spouse but one of the less successful experiments by Owen Bradley. Patsy’s version, which is very different from Buck’s, suffers from strange foreign affectations in her accent and rather off-kilter organ high in the mix which give it a frankly bizarre and now very dated feel. A surprising choice was a cover of Bob Wills’ ‘San Antonio Rose’, which works much better musically, but is a slightly odd choice for a female singer lyrically.

‘Seven Lonely Days’ was a honky tonker (a country hit for Bonnie Lou in 1953) given a pop-influenced sheen and a positive twist:

“Seven lonely days makes one lonely week”

but

”Last week was the last time I cried for you”.

Patsy also re-recorded her old hit ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’ and that single’s B-side ‘A Poor Man’s Roses (Or A Rich Man’s Gold)’ to fit her current style, the latter version of the one which was on Walkin’ Dreams.

More pop-based still were covers of contemporary pop ballads like the loungy ‘The Wayward Wind’ exquisitely sung if a long way from Patsy’s roots, with the Jordanaires’ backing vocals particularly prominent. ‘South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way), was originally written for the western movie of that title (a Gene Autry vehicle) in 1941, and this has more organ, although it is less intrusive than on ‘Foolin’ ‘Round’, and has a very fine vocal performance. Cole Porter’s ‘True Love’ is just a little too far in the sophisticated pop direction for me; it was written for the movie musical High Society and had been a big pop hit for Bing Crosby and actress Grace Kelly in the mid 1950s.

As a whole, it was clearly aimed at marketing Patsy to both pop and country audiences, and it was successful in doing so. Not every track works, but this is a definite artistic statement from one of the finest singers in either pop or country music, with some genuine all-time classic recordings.

Grade: A-

The album has been re-released several times, and is available both digitally and on CD.

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One response to “Album Review: Patsy Cline – ‘Showcase’

  1. Razor X January 15, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    This is an excellent album. When I was a kid, a friend of my dad had it and let me borrow it and make a cassette copy of it, which I played until it wore out.

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