My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Don Gibson – ‘The Best Of The Hickory Records Years (1970–1978)’

If he had written only “I Can’t Stop Loving You”, “Oh Lonesome Me” and “Sweet Dreams”, Don Gibson would be worth remembering. As it was Don had a successful career with RCA during the 1950s and 1960 that saw him run off a long string of successful singles (17 top ten singles) and albums. After 1966, however, the hits began to taper off, for various reasons that I won’t discuss here. A long-time writer for Acuff-Rose, Gibson signed with the Acuff-Rose subsidiary Hickory Records in 1970, and that’s where this story begins:

Up until now, Don Gibson had been very poorly served during the digital era. There have been various CD releases but most of them have featured a few of Don’s Hickory singles plus remakes of Don’s RCA hits. While this isn’t exactly surprising, since Don’s RCA hits are a Hall of Fame catalog in themselves, the fact remains that the RCA originals have been widely available whereas the Hickory hits have been quite scarce.

Don had twenty-nine solo country chart hits on Hickory, many of them unavailable until now. This new collection contains the biggest twenty of Don’s charting Hickory singles, plus five key album tracks.

Is this an adequate collection?

Well, not really since many, including myself, like some of the Hickory remakes better than the RCA originals. The original RCA recordings were sometimes saddled with dense “Nashville Sound” production; whereas the production on these recordings is more mainstream country, with fiddle and steel guitar being much more prominent than in the later RCA recordings.

During Don’s later years, as the genre shifted toward outlaw and urban cowboy, Don released some very good singles that did not chart as highly as earlier endeavors, and remain unavailable to this day. I would have preferred a two-disc collection capturing all charted singles, the RCA remakes, at least a few of the Don Gibson-Sue Thompson duets (none of them huge hits although nine of them charted) and maybe a dozen key album cuts. For maximum bang for the buck, I would suggest buying this album first and then getting the Varese collection 20 Greatest Songs, or perhaps the Curb 18 Greatest Hits.

Still, what is here is excellent in every sense of the word, excellent production, excellent songs and a very idiosyncratic song stylist still at the peak of his powers. During the Hickory years, Don wrote less of his own material but proved to have a good ear for picking songs. What follows is the track list for this album. You might note that “Far Far Away” charted for Don on RCA and on Hickory, and that several of the songs (“Snap Your Fingers”, “The Fool”, “Starting All Over Again” and “Any Day Now”) were remakes of old pop or R&B hits; given a very distinctive Don Gibson spin.

Track Listing (BB = Billboard / RW = Record World):

  1. Games People Play (album track) – written by Joe South
  2. Don’t Take All Your Loving (#17 BB / #10 RW)
  3. Pretending Everyday (album track)
  4. A Perfect Mountain (#16 BB / #10 RW)
  5. Guess Away The Blues (#19 BB / #15 RW)
  6. Having Second Thoughts (album track)
  7. (I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle (#29 BB / #25 RW)
  8. Country Green (#5 BB & RW) – written by Eddy Raven
  9. Far Far Away (#12 BB & RW)
  10. Woman [Sensuous Woman] (#1 BB & RW)
  11. Is This The Best I’m Gonna Feel (#11 BB & RW)
  12. If You’re Goin’ Girl (#26 BB / #22 RW)
  13. Touch The Morning (#6 BB / #5 RW)
  14. Snap Your Fingers (#12 BB / #13 RW)
  15. One Day At A Time (#8 BB / #5 RW)
  16. Bring Back Your Love To Me (#9 / #10 RW)
  17. I’ll Sing For You (#27 BB / #22 RW)
  18. [There She Goes] I Wish Her Well (#24 BB & RW)
  19. What’s Happened To Me (album track)
  20. Praying Hands (album track)
  21. I’m All Wrapped Up In You (#23 BB / #27 RW)
  22. If You Ever Get To Houston [Look Me Down] (#16 BB / #18 RW)
  23. Starting All Over Again (#16 BB / #14 RW)
  24. The Fool (#22 BB / #24 RW)
  25. Any Day Now (#26 BB & RW)

I would give this collection an A+ with the caveat that you really need to pick up one of the earlier collections of Hickory recordings to get the full impact of Don’s tenure with the Hickory label. Noted music journalist Craig Shelburne penned the very informative liners.

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One response to “Album Review: Don Gibson – ‘The Best Of The Hickory Records Years (1970–1978)’

  1. Ken April 19, 2018 at 9:43 am

    Don had a great run with the Hickory label but until now his singles have been compiled in hap-hazard fashion so this collection is long overdue. Previously you would have had to purchase multiple CD’s to collect Don’s significant Hickory single hits and even then some tracks were not available. Prior compilations usually included a few Hickory singles and the remaining tracks were re-makes of his RCA hits. Unfortunately most consumers felt short changed when they purchased those CD’s to discover the RCA titles were indeed remakes rather than the familiar versions that they expected. It’s a bait & switch practice record labels have pulled for decades. I will say that Don did a fine job with those re-recordings as he was in excellent voice and the arrangements were top notch.

    I’ve never been a fan of artists re-recording their hits. In most cases it’s done as a money grab so that their new record label can sell albums based on the name value of those familiar titles. The average consumer is usually not savvy enough to realize that they have been deceived until after their purchase and the audio is not what they had expected. If you check Amazon reviews for “greatest hit” or “best of” collections that contain re-recordings you’ll see hundreds of disappointed comments. Most folks wish to hear the versions of hits that they heard on the radio. If it sounds different than the one they remember they are not satisfied. However personal preference is another matter so I can appreciate Paul’s point of view on this topic..

    Thankfully Omnivore chose to focus on the Hickory originals rather than RCA re-makes. Many are making their CD debut here. Omnivore was mostly on the right track but as Paul indicated they selected five songs that were “B” sides of singles or LP tracks rather than adding a few more singles. Seems odd that they chose random songs when at least ten songs from his solo singles and all of Don’s duets with Sue Thompson were overlooked.That said it is the most complete compilation so far for the final chapter of Don’s hit-making career and deserves a listen. His first two Hickory singles “Don’t Take All Your Loving” and “A Perfect Mountain” are superb early 70’s country and are much better songs than their chart performance would indicate. The steel guitar and chicken pickin’ lead guitar instrumental break on that first single is beyond excellent. “Guess Away The Blues” and Don’s bluesy version of Hank Williams’ “(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle” are also standouts.

    This set rates an A with me. Had Omnivore added five more singles I would’ve added a (+).

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