Album Reviews

Jim Ed Brown: Best Of/Jim Ed & Helen Cornelius: Greatest Hits (Morello)

jim-ed-brown

Jim Ed Brown
Best Of
Jim Ed & Helen Cornelius
Greatest Hits
Morello/Cherry Red

Jim Ed Brown was first introduced to the world as one-third of the family pop vocal trio The Browns. With sisters Maxine and Bonnie, the Arkansas trio made a name for themselves in the Southern country circuit, often performing with the young Elvis Presley. The trio would find success in 1959 with their hit “The Three Bells,” and the trio would continue until the mid-Sixties, when Jim Ed’s solo career and the family lives of the sisters took precedence.  His solo career was modest, but he was a consistent presence on the country charts for the entirety of his solo career. This twofer collects hits from the two distinct phases of his solo era: solo hits and his singing duo partnership with Helen Cornelius.

Best Of Jim Ed Brown merely scratches the surface of Jim Ed’s chart career. Impressively, of his thirty-eight singles, only one failed to crack the Top 100, and that single came in 2013, twenty-four years since his last solo single. That’s impressive! The ten songs here, then, represent the best of the best—though not necessarily in terms of chart performance; as it was released in 1973, it simply covers the early half of his solo career. His singing is low-key but enjoyable, occasionally hard country (“Pop-A-Top,”), lighthearted and humorous fare (“Broad-Minded Man,”  “Southern Loving,” “She’s Leaving (Bonnie Please Don’t Go”), reflective, introspective balladry (“Bottle, Bottle,” “Angel’s Sunday,” “Morning”), and some delightful Gospel (“How I Love Them Old Songs”). His songs are delicately and lushly arranged; sometimes there’s a taste of the honky-tonk, but mostly the arrangements are fine Countrypolitan fare.

For the latter part of the Seventies, Brown teamed up with Helen Cornelius, and the pair’s hits offered some of Brown’s biggest chart hits. Unlike the more traditional styles found on Best Of Jim Ed Brown, the songs on 1981’s career-caping Greatest Hits are largely contemporary country, meaning slick—and sometimes anodyne—upbeat pop arrangements driven by an uptempo, slightly disco-minded beat rhythm and only the occasional twang or harmonica to define them as “country.” Not that the songs are particularly bad; “Lying In Love With You” and “If The World Ran Out Of Love Tonight” are well-produced pop, while their biggest hit, “I Don’t Want To Have To Marry You” remains a fresh country number, even though it’s a rather obscure, forgotten hit. Even the album’s lone new track, “Don’t Bother To Knock,” fits nicely with the established hits, and was a top twenty number itself.

Yet after the release of Greatest Hits, Jim Ed Brown quietly retired from the recording aspect of his music career, moving on to become a popular live performer and spokesman. He would return in 2015 when he released his final album, In Style Again, which arrived shortly before his death six months later. Thee two best-of’s don’t tell the whole Jim Ed Brown story—for a short recording career, he was extremely prolific—but these twenty songs do illustrate why he was such a well-regarded singer.

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