In 1976 Gary S. Paxton coaxed Vern Gosdin out of his self-imposed retirement and got Vern into the recording studio, producing the excellent Till The End, which was released in August 1976. Of course, even then the world of country operated on a ‘what have you done lately’ basis and in those days that meant issuing albums annually.
‘What Have You Done Lately’ arrived in the form of Never My Love, released in June 1978. Unlike Till The End, which featured a bunch of Gary S. Paxton originals plus the title cut written by his then-wife Cathy, Never My Love featured a diverse bunch of songs, taken from sources both pop and country.
“Never My Love” was a #2 pop hit for The Association in 1967. The Association’s version is good, but Gosdin gives the song a more dramatic reading.
You ask me if there’ll come a time
When I grow tired of you
Never my love
Never my love
You wonder if this heart of mine
Will lose its desire for you
Never my love
Never my love
The production for all of these songs has the “Nashville Sound” feel with strings and voices. For this song there is a prominent backing performance by rising star Janie Fricke, whose first chart single would arrive three months after the release of this album. Released as a single, this song was Vern’s third top ten hit, reaching #9.
“Catch The Wind” was, of course a massive world-wide hit for Donovan Leitch, and has been covered by nearly every folk singer on the planet.
In the chilly hours and minutes
Of uncertainty, I want to be
In the warm hold of your loving mind
To feel you all around me
And to take your hand along the sand
Ah, but I may as well try and catch the wind
Vern’s version of the song is simply different from every other version of the song that I’ve heard. Rather than the soft gossamer treatment usually accorded the song, Vern gives it a soulful but wry reading, which gives strong emphasis to the lyrics. I think this could have been a major hit had it been released as a single.
“Anita You’re Dreaming” was a minor hit for Waylon Jennings in 1966. I listened to his version and Waylon’s version while writing this article. The arrangement on Vern’s version is very similar to that on Waylon’s record, but Vern has the better voice.
“When I Need You” was a wimpy Carole Bayer-Sager / Albert Hammond ballad that Leo Sayer took to #1 in the US, UK and Canada. I don’t much like the song, but I guess Vern Gosdin can turn anything into a worthwhile recording.
“I Sure Can Love You” is a slow ballad written by Gary S. Paxton and R. Karen Paxton. The song is nothing special, but again, Vern can render even indifferent material worth hearing.
The five songs listed above constituted Side 1 of the album as it was released on vinyl. All five were in the medium-slow tempo that Gosdin seemed to prefer.
Side two of the original vinyl release opened with “Break My Mind”, a medium-fast John D Loudermilk composition that everyone recorded in the late 1960s, but none scored a huge hit with it. George Hamilton IV came closest reaching # 6 in 1967. The lyrics to this tune sound a bit dated, having a definite sixties feel to them:
Baby oh baby
Tell the man at the ticket stand that you changed your mind
Go and run outside and tell the man to keep his meter flying
Cause if you say goodbye to me, babe you’re gonna break my mind
Break my mind, break my mind
Lord I just can’t stand to hear the big jet engines whine
Break my mind, break my mind, oh Lord
Cause if you leave you’re gonna leave a babbling fool behind
The faster tempo comes at just the right time and the use of horns in the arrangement enhances the feel of the song. This was the second single released from this album, reaching # 13.
“Forget Yesterday” was written by Wayne Bradford and is just another slow ballad. The trailing call and chorus effect and other vocal harmonies supplied by Janie Fricke make the song seem more interesting than actually is the case.
Vern’s then-wife Cathy never did Vern wrong with any of the songs she supplied him, and “Without You There’s A Sadness In My Song” is just another example.
Brother Rex Gosdin co-wrote “The Lady She’s Right” with Vernon Reed. I don’t know the vintage of the song, but it is clear that Rex’s early death robbed Vern of a good source of songs. This is another mid-tempo song that Vern wraps his voice around to good effect.
“Something’s Wrong In California” comes from the pen of Rodney Lay, a fine songwriter and singer who never quite broke through to be a star but had a long career as part of Roy Clark’s organization. Yet another slow ballad that sounds fine coming from Vern Gosdin.
Something’s wrong in California, I can tell by the letters she don’t write
Gotta get back to California, something’s just not right in California
Stranded here in Kansas, ain’t got a nickel to my name
Gotta get back to see my baby, just the same to California.
Waylon Jennings also recorded this song, albeit with slightly different lyrics
I wouldn’t regard this as one of Vern’s better albums, mostly due to the lack of up-tempo material. Granted, Vern could probably sing the Orlando Yellow Pages and make it sound acceptable, but I did find myself wishing for a few more tempo changes. This album was made at the end of the “Nashville Sound” era so there are strings and background singers on most of the material, but they are not overused and so do no harm to the sound of the recordings. Anyway, I’d much rather hear the trappings of the “Nashville Sound” than put up with the Southern Rock guitars that mess up so much of today’s country music. The one thing that is true of the production of this album, whatever the embellishments used, the voice of Vern Gosdin is front and center throughout. That is a very good thing. I would give this album a B+.
This album originally was released on Elektra, one of three albums Vern would release for the label. Rhino, in conjunction with the British label Edsel, released this as part of a three albums on two CDs set encompassing all three of the Elektra albums (no bonus tracks, just the tracks from the original albums Till The End, Never My Love and You’ve Got Somebody.