George Jones & Gene Pitney

Posted on April 5, 2010 by

Sunday, December 6, 2009
Cheapo Records, Saint Paul, MN

Artist: George Jones & Gene Pitney
Title:For The First Time! Two Great Stars
Label: Musicor MM204 1966
Genre: 60s Country
Media: Vinyl

The artwork of this albums leads one to believe that this is a quick collection compiled by the label for a budget release. Upon further inspection, it is revealed that of the twelve cuts on the LP, eight are actual duets, with Jones & Pitney splitting the other four with solo efforts.

The combination of the two intrigued me; Jones, a deep country artist and Pitney, a veteran of the Phil Spector machine, film soundtracks and pop success. Both sing in a similar pitch but their timbre is the contrast. Jones’ voice tends to resonate through a whisky bottle where Pitney’s leans toward the melodrama.

Can this work?

The album is decidedly country, opening with a Ted Daffon number, “I Got Five Dollars and It’s Saturday Night.” This obviously suits Jones better than Pitney, but the two trade lines liked they worked together for years, harmonizing on the chorus, with Pitney naturally taking the higher register. It’s a good corny song in a sixties country fashion and Pitney does not sound out of place. This could have easily been a duet between Jones and his then female co-star, Melba Montgomery.

The following number is Gene Pitney covering the the standard, “I Really Don’t Want To Know.” The country aspect of the song is stripped away by Gene’s operatic vibrato. He doesn’t come off as sounding powerful, but vulnerable, which is how the song should be read. Pitney’s other solo is on “Born To Lose” which gets the full-Pitney make over. It sounds a bit out of place on the album, but it is the closing track with production analogous to a fireworks finale.

“I’m A Fool To Care,” “Wreck On The Highway” and “I’ve Got A New Heartache” follow the formula used on the opening number and are all triumphs. “My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You” really shines through among the duets, because it is more of a showcase of Pitney’s strength of a vocalist in a genre he generally doesn’t deeply delve. Jones is one of the greatest voices in country music, so of course he’s comfortable among these standards. Pitney worked off Jones with great success.

The album was produced by Jones’ longtime producer at Musicor & Starday, Pappy Daily, so it sounds consistent with other George Jones releases from that era. One of the two George Jones solo efforts is the Leon Payne number, “Things Have Gone To Pieces.” The song features lyrics that only Jones could emote:

“Somebody threw a baseball through my window,
And an arm fell off my favorite chair again,
The Man called me today and said he’d haul my things away,
If I didn’t get my payments made by ten.

“Things have gone to pieces since you left me,
Nothing turns out half-right, now it seems,
There ain’t nothin’ in my pocket, but three nickels and a dime,
but I’m holding on to pieces of my dream.”

Yes, this can work. If you’re a fan of sixties country music and you’re out digging through used vinyl, don’t pass this up. Even at three times the price it would be worth it.

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