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Harlequin Melodies

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Album Review

To paraphrase Marc Antony, the listener may not be able to decide whether to praise Mickey Newbury or bury him. This record hits one with the full Newbury experience, because, debut album or not, he comes across as a fully developed artist. His originality and talent is wonderfully evident in a series of songs that, whether brilliant or dreadful, always reveal an incredible amount of care being taken. Newbury never settled into any kind of standard arrangements or simple combo sound in his career, preferring to perform solo on acoustic guitar. But he and his producers went wild in the recording studio, baking in multiple layers that are likely to include any and all possible instruments, combined in a manner both audacitious and typical of the anything-goes '60s. Newbury came out of the country and western scene, and no matter how far away he went the heritage was always evident in his vocal phrasing as well as his subject matter, frequently tragic, as is the C&W norm. There was also a Roy Orbison side to Newbury. His control of falsetto and penchant for heavy sentimentality and great dramatic moments will only appeal to listeners who enjoy Orbison. But he is gifted at many other types of material, and in the memorable "Just Dropped In" he created an absolute classic, undoubtedly the most perfect fusion of country and western and freaky psychedelic music ever recorded. The original Newbury version is really weird, even compared to the more well-known cover version by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. Rogers' band had a hit with this song when the band was still considered a rock outfit, years before the leader emerged in his true colors as a country artist, all of which is very appropriate to the Newbury story. The sadness of the songs is deep, at times hard to take. "Here Comes the Rain, Baby" is a gorgeous bit of tragedy. Some of the tunes are just too much, though, such as the obnoxious, pretentious "Weeping Annaleah." Sitars, orchestras, backup singers, gospel piano licks, and the kitchen sink all share equal space in the arrangements. Liner notes by Larry King.


Born: 19 May 1940 in Houston, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Along with fellow songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Tom T. Hall, Mickey Newbury helped revolutionize country music in the 1960s and '70s by bringing new, broader musical influences as well as a frank, emotional depth to the music -- while at the same time never losing respect for tradition. Newbury infused his country music with haunting beauty and spiritual melancholy, creating an impressive collection of introspective, emotionally complex songs that are more spiritual cousins...
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Harlequin Melodies, Mickey Newbury
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