Sunday, August 21, 2011

August 21: The Everly Brothers, "All I Have To Do Is Dream"

Artist: The Everly Brothers
Song: “All I Have To Do Is Dream”
Album: All I Have To Do Is Dream (single)
Year: 1958

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While one can easily rattle off a list of large figures in the development of popular music, there are always a handful of performers that are left off.  Though they are in some cases even more important in this development, for whatever reason, they rarely receive the full credit they deserve for their influence, and this becomes more common as one goes back in music history.  Throughout the 1950’s, the “rock and roll” and “pop” sounds were being explored in a number of different directions, and while most are aware of the way in which the musical formula came to be, the way in which the modern pop vocal came to be.  There were a number of performers that aided in its cultivation, but there is simply no other group that had an equal impact of the shape of pop singing and harmonies than one finds in the catalog of The Everly Brothers.  Everyone from The Beatles to Simon & Garfunkel to The Beach Boys owe a great deal of their sound to the work of The Everly Brothers, and there are few singles from the duo that are anything short of spectacular.  Providing the more melodic and mellow alternative to the speedy, louder rock sound that was overtaking the mainstream, The Everly Brothers brought together the sounds of folk, blues, and country in a wonderfully unique manner.  Though each of their songs is unforgettable in its own right, there are few songs in history that can hold their own when compared to the historical significance and musical perfection found on The Everly Brothers’ timeless 1958 single, “All I Have To Do Is Dream.”

Though at first listen,  "All I Have To Do Is Dream" may seem like an exceptionally simple musical arrangement, the fact of the matter is that there is a great deal going on within the song both in terms of composition, as well as the influences one can hear at play throughout the track.  The guitar strum which opens the song, happens to be played by none other than Chet Atkins, and it pulls the best of multiple worlds of music, becoming on many levels the quintessential "rockabilly" tone and sound, and it has been borrowed countless times since.  It is the way that this guitar shifts to a smooth, swaying sound that makes it so intriguing, and this element helps to set the overall mood for "All I Have To Do Is Dream."  The guitar almost shimmers across the track, and the way in which it manages to dance lightly behind the vocals remains one of the most impressive moments in music history.  Combined with the rather unique bassline, which is far more open and widely spaced than nearly any other in history, and one can clearly understand just how much of the fantastic music on "All I Have To Do Is Dream" was completely intentional.  It is also the way in which the percussion plays more lightly than almost any other recording of the time, yet retains a bit of a sting that would become its own sonic blueprint in the years that followed.  The fact that each instrument is working its own rhythm makes the final product all the more impressive, and it is the key that has enabled "All I Have To Do Is Dream" to easily endure the passing decades and musical trends.

However, it almost goes without saying that the most impressive element of any song from The Everly Brothers lives within their shared vocal work.  The way in which Don and Phil Everly combine their voices is rarely anything short of stunning, and one can easily attribute the success of a majority of the great vocal harmony groups to their efforts.  All across "All I Have To Do Is Dream," the duo are nothing short of perfect, as both in terms of the pitch and emotion, they manage to match the music over which they sing.  Truth be told, their singing on "All I Have To Do Is Dream" is so truly perfect that it has almost become cliché as the years have passed, and it is nearly impossible to find any other recording that is up to par in terms of harmonic quality.  One can also easily understand why the song was such a massive hit at the time, topping the pop, r&b, and country charts in the U.S., instantly becoming one of the most accomplished songs in terms of breadth of sales.  Furthermore, "All I Have To Do Is Dream" has become one of the most recognized songs of the entire era, and it has been used in countless films and television shows that depict the point in history.  Yet one can argue that the song also reached such heights due to the perfect lyric, as the words penned by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant may very well be the best of their career, and there is no question that the words stand among the most honest and beautiful ever committed to recorded tape.

As the decades have passed, "All I Have To Do Is Dream" manages to stay relevant, and this is largely due to the fact that within every generation, a significant and well received cover version of the song appears, reminding listeners of the brilliant original recording.  Whether it was Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen singing the song for the film Starman, Kermit The Frog taking a turn on the track for one of the Muppet records, or even the more recent rather strange duet of the song between Elvis Costello and Stephen Colbert, there is no question that the impact of the song remains strong even more than half a century after its initial release.  This in itself is enough to cement the songs' place in history, as there is no other song that seems to have been able to achieve such success, and yet at the same time, the original recording still manages to stand high above every other recorded version.  This is due to the raw and straightforward nature of the performance from The Everly Brothers, along with the fact that the way in which they deployed every element of the song simply "fit" for the time period during which they were recording.  After the song was first released, one can hear traces of its influence in everything from do-wop to soul to country, and there may be no other song that can boast such impact, solidifying the unparalleled magnificence of The Everly Brothers' stellar 1958 single, "All I Have To Do Is Dream."

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