Amazing collection of previously-unreleased overdubbed songs
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Jim Reeves has been dead since July 1964. But his decade-long singing career has stretched on and on through the years, in large part due to the efforts of RCA Victor and his wife to issue previously-unreleased demos and lesser-known tracks, augmented with supplemental instrumentation. The first overdubbed hit was "Distant Drums" in 1966, and the last was "The Image of Me" in 1983. Between those years, a large number of overdubbed songs were released, sometimes comprising whole albums (e.g., "Songs of Love," "Nashville '78," "I Love You Because," "There's Always Me"). Most of the time, the results have been enjoyable, and rather than being looked upon as interfering with the original performances, the new instrumentation was more akin to putting a new, different frame around a picture. With the release of "The Unreleased Hits of Jim Reeves" in 2000, we have an unusual and questionable album title, an unusual content consisting of overdubs that were apparently considered inappropriate for release at the time for various reasons, and some very unusual material that fluctuates from superb to dreadful. The lead-off track, "Just Out of Reach," ranks right up with the best of all the overdubs that were made through the years, and listening to it, any fan has to wonder why it was shelved and remained unissued all this time. Similarly, the second track, "I Love You Because" emerges as superior to the later 1976 version (which was yet another overdub), possibly because of the string section that fills out the sound. "Sand in My Shoes" is a Jim Reeves-composed country tune that could easily have been covered by Buck Owens, and it is great. "Ramona" from the "Girls I Have Known" album emerges as a superior track in this overdubbed form, and the supplemental instrumentation really makes the song shine. "Two Shadows On Your Window" is a fine late-1950's Jim Reeves single, and the overdubbed additional instruments again seem to enhance the original. "Danny Boy" which closes the CD is powerful but at a few points is mixed too powerfully. There is a recitation "Ballad of '96" that is much like the material that was released on the "Talkin' to Your Heart" album in 1961. In the midst of this collection of generally fine material is found "Please Forgive," easily the worst song on the CD. I found the song barely listenable, nearly four minutes of a slow, lethargic and poorly-performed rehearsal tape, and the sound quality of the original material was not even good. If this wasn't Jim Reeves singing, nobody would have likely issued this, even in this format. But it's really the only really bad track on the CD. Hopefully some enterprising producer may attempt to flesh out the original Jim Reeves vocals at some future sessions to freshen the sound and bring his music into the 21st century. It would also be great to see RCA reissue some of the better albums as single CD's or two-fers with outtakes or bonus tracks, such as the notable "Tall Tales and Short Tempers," "A Touch of Velvet," or even some of the mid to late 70's totally-overdubbed albums. The original overdub producers of these tracks should be commended for their efforts, as should be the producers who assembled this generally-excellent collection. Highly recommended to Jim Reeves fans."