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Born Yesterday

Like other classic Everly Brothers albums — such as 1960’s hit-packed The Fabulous Style of the Everly Brothers and the landmark ’68 country-poperetta Roots — Born Yesterday is the product of a basic, infallible equation: Don and Phil’s peerless Kentucky voices plus a dozen judiciously selected tunes equals lasting pleasure. Jeez, the federal tax code would sound good set to the silvery tingle and cozy glow of the Everlys in full vocal flight.

Since their return to active duty in 1983, the brothers have embraced with sensitivity and enthusiasm the hip new songwriting that bears their influence, particularly the ingenuous merger of barnyard bounce and Top Forty polish on their hits of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Frankly, on Born Yesterday it’s sometimes hard to tell the influencers from the influenced; Rank and File’s country swinger “Amanda Ruth,” which gallops along here like the Everlys fronting Rockpile, would have been right at home on Roots.

Yet, as on the duo’s studio reunion LP, EB ’84, there is a sense of frisky adventure about Born Yesterday — in their daring song selection and the gutsy understatement of Dave Edmunds’ artful production — which establishes the Everly Brothers as vital song interpreters for the Eighties. While Mark Knopfler’s entry, “Why Worry” from Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms, hints broadly at Everly oldies like “Let It Be Me” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” Don and Phil deliver their lines without a drop of nostalgia, animating the song instead with a brassy hopefulness. At times, Edmunds emphasizes that reborn quality in the Everlys’ singing with just the barest hint of modern studio technology, like the synthesizers that accent the breezy chorus of “I Know Love.” More often than not, though, he relies on organic touches — Albert Lee’s pithy guitar fills, a pinch of Irish pipes and tin whistle on Bob Dylan’s “Abandoned Love” — to frame the Everly Brothers’ natural harmonic splendor.

Almost metallic in their unblemished sheen, with maybe a slight choke in a hushed romantic passage, those voices do no wrong here. Disparate tunes like the lilting “Arms of Mary,” originally cut in the Seventies by the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, and the uptempo rocker “Always Drive a Cadillac” (alas, a little overdressed for radio consideration) seem custom written for the Everlys’ singular harmonies. It’s too bad that the title song, a poignant love tragedy by Don Everly, is the only original on the LP, but there’s always next time. Based on their enduring vocal charms and the sharp, contemporary cut of their material on Born Yesterday, the Everly Brothers have plenty of tomorrows ahead.


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