Review

Gene Vincent's last albums -- If Only You Could See Me Today and The Day the World Turned Blue -- found him bidding to revive a status he'd achieved with his mid-'50s hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula." These releases tackled different styles to varying success, with inconsistent material being the main problem. The oddest and worst tracks are "Slow Times Comin'" and "Tush Hog," which take nearly 16 minutes between them; they're decently sung, but overwhelmed by clichéd, meandering wah-wah guitar solos. "Danse Colinda" is an equally ill-advised stab at Cajun music, while "Our Souls"' title gets twisted into a venomous dig at former manager Don Arden. Off-kilter arrangements spoil other tracks, such as the eccentric monologue shoehorned between the verses of "There Is Something on Your Mind" or the abrupt collapse of Vincent's galloping country-rock original, "The Woman in Black." The least-contrived moments work best; his aching remake of "500 Miles Away from Home" suggests that Vincent could have carved out a niche in country music, had he wanted it. Though less vocally powerful than his mid-'50s peak, Vincent was still a forceful interpreter of R&B (Brook Benton's "Looking Back on My Life") and his beloved rockabilly (Carl Perkins' "Boppin' the Blues"). And, though he only wrote or co-wrote 20 tracks, Vincent wasn't a bad songwriter, either. Five of them are on these albums, including "Geese," a sorrowful look at life behind bars, while "The Day the World Turned Blue" s a bittersweet salute to fallen rock & roll pioneer Buddy Holly. With better material and production choices, Gene Vincent's twilight era could have ended on a more upbeat note; this compilation supports the old adage of talent shining through regardless of setting. In 2008, Rev-Ola reissued these albums under the title A Million Shades of Blue. ~ Ralph Heibutzki & Al Campbell, Rovi

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