Stop, Look & Listen [MCA]

by: Patsy Cline

Although her recording career was a relatively brief one, running eight years from 1955 to 1963, for the first five years of that span Patsy Cline tracked heavily, skipping from style to style, touching on gospel and straight pop, and even edging at times into near-rockabilly territory. Unfortunately, she was under a strict contract with Bill McCall's 4-Star label during this time that restricted her to recording only material in the 4-Star publishing catalog, and while her efforts were workmanlike, all too often the songs just weren't top shelf, her 1957 hit "Walkin' After Midnight" being one of the notable exceptions. This generous 32-track anthology from Germany's Bear Family Records dips into Cline's 4-Star period, collecting some of her more uptempo sides, and for listeners only familiar with her later Owen Bradley-produced hits like "Crazy" and "I Fall to Pieces," this will be a revelatory experience (Bradley also produced her 4-Star sessions, but you can't shine up a bland song into a diamond no matter how great your singer is). Cline's forte was with seductive, sensual ballads and she really had no future as a rockabilly singer, but she tries here and she's just too good of a singer not to be at least interesting on sides like the rollicking "Ain't No Wheels on This Ship (We Can't Roll)," a competent cover of "Lovesick Blues," and the perky, bubbling pop of "Stupid Cupid," but again, only "Walkin' After Midnight," which is included here, really gives her much to work with. After 1960 Cline had control over what she recorded and her considerable legacy really rests on the tracks she did with Bradley over the last three years of her life. This set fills in some holes, though, and while it may not be top-shelf Patsy Cline, it's still Patsy Cline, which means it's definitely worth a listen or two. ~ Steve Leggett

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