Friday, July 02, 2010

Perfect Voice

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away
ARTIST: Jim Reeves
SONGWRITERS: W.S. Stevenson / Carl Belew / Jim Reeves
ALBUM: Blue Side of Lonesome

I don't have a hankerin' to change. I feel more at home in Nashville.
(Jim Reeves)

The great country music historian, author, and former Nashville newspaper columnist Robert K. Oermann is credited with dubbing the late Vern Gosdin as "the voice." With all due respect, Vern could not hold a candle to the voice of Jim Reeves. Nobody could. Reeves could sing the phone book and make it sound great. As proof, in 1962 he recorded an entire album in Afrikaans, the language of South Africa, yet it is beautiful -- all due to the warm, velvety voice of "Gentleman Jim."

When Reeves was killed in a plane crash in July 1964, three weeks before his 41st birthday, the voice that won worldwide fans was silenced. Reeves' widow, Mary, once said that Reeves did not believe in life insurance, proclaiming the unreleased tapes were her "insurance." His prophecy proved correct,
for thanks to a large collection of demo tapes left behind "new" material continued to please Reeves' fans for decades.

One of those "new" recordings, "Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away, was released in 1968. Reeves once claimed he enjoyed singing sad songs, even though he was not a sad person himself. This song, about a lost love left with a photograph, is on the aptly-named album A Touch of Sadness (which featured songs such as "I'm Crying Again," "Lonesome Waltz," and "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight"). The melody is not as mournful as one would expect, but is rather a mid-tempo waltz.

The lyrics, however, paint a portrait of a man standing with a former love's photo in his hands, looking at it, and trying to decide how to dispose of it. Unlike an earlier Reeves song, "I'm Gonna Change Everything," where the simple answer was to burn "everything I see" that "reminds me you were here," the song says that the "paper impression, a most prized possession" is more than on the glossy paper; it's also indelibly stamped on the singer's heart. "You said to forget all that reminds me of you," Reeves sang, "so I must throw your picture away." Easier said than done, for the next line asks, "How can I just cast aside a love that's in my heart to stay?"

In the decades since his death, most of the re-releases of Reeves' material has been relegated to "the hits," and especially "the big hits" ("Four Walls" and "He'll Have to Go"). Fortunately, Germany's Bear Family has put every Reeves studio recording out in the 16-CD box set Welcome to My World. "Where Do I Go to Throw a Picture Away" is one of the songs that will easily find itself stuck on "repeat" on the CD player.


The entire Distant Drums album -- a title song that was written by Cindy Walker but kept from release because RCA thought the implication of "going off to war" would be too controversial in light of the escalation of the Vietnam war suddenly took on new meaning in the light of Reeves' death. The rest of the album is magnificent as well.

The entire The Country Side of Jim Reeves album -- after "Four Walls" ushered in the Nashville Sound, most of Reeves' material reflected the heavy production. He still recorded strictly country-sounding music; however, it was relegated to RCA's budget label, Camden. This is a 1962 gem that should not be overlooked.

"If Heartache is the Fashion" (from He'll Have to Go and Other Favorites) -- Roger Miller sadly became pigeonholed as the writer of lighthearted or novelty songs, and this song, which he co-wrote with Reeves, proves that is such an unfair stereotype.

"That's When I See the Blues (In Your Pretty Brown Eyes)" (from The Best of Jim Reeves Vol. III) -- one of those "forgotten" Reeves hits, this is one of his absolute best.

"You're Free to Go" (from The Intimate Jim Reeves) -- Carl Smith had a huge hit with this, but Reeves applied his incredible voice and made this classic tune his own.

"In the Misty Moonlight" (from The Jim Reeves Way) -- another Cindy Walker song that was a pop hit for Jerry Wallace, Reeves recorded it shortly before his death. His version buries the Wallace hit rendition.

When My Rowboat Comes In
When I Lift Up My Head
Rose of My Heart
Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me
Our Town
Old Memories Mean Nothing to Me
Not That I Care
Nobody Eats at Linebaugh's Anymore
My Book of Memories
Lost to a Stranger
A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Swallowed By the Cracks
Stealin' Time
Starting Tomorrow
Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate
She's a Runaway
Painted Bells
Out to Sea
One More Song
New Delhi Freight Train
Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine


edchild said...

i still prefer vern....

Raizor's Edge said...

Either one could out-sing 99.999% of the other people out there.