|Performers include: Wanda Jackson, Roger Miller, Marvin Rainwater, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dean, Bobby Edwards, Dave Dudley, Don Gibson, Bobby Bare, Burl Ives, Johnny Horton, Ferlin Husky, Jim Reeves.
|As the fine series The Golden Age of American Rock 'N' Roll focused on rock & roll hits of all kinds from the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s, the title of this offshoot might be confusing. How can you have a country edition of a rock & roll anthology series? It might be better to think of this as a compilation of 30 country hits from 1956 to 1965 that crossed over, usually in a big way, to the pop charts: every one of the tracks made the country Top Ten and the pop Top 100, sometimes getting into the Top Ten of the pop listings as well. As such, a lot of rock & roll fans, and fans of just plain popular music, would be about as familiar with these as they were with rock smashes of the era. Not many anthologies focus on this notable subsection of country and pop, and as expected Ace does a fine job in mixing big and small hits by superstars, one-shots, and country stars who only occasionally crossed over in a big way. Several undisputed classics are here: Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," Marty Robbins' "El Paso," Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me," Bobby Bare's "Detroit City," and Dave Dudley's "Six Days on the Road," for instance. The more experienced collector might get more of a turn-on from the numerous additional items that have never really become staples of pop oldies radio, like Leroy Van Dyke's "Walk on By," George Hamilton IV's "Abilene," Wanda Jackson's "Right or Wrong," and George Jones' "White Lightning." If there's any slight drawback to this compilation, it's that though some of the songs were inarguably quite successful, there are some not-so-hot novelties, saga songs, and hits ? la Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go" that were indicative of Nashville's drift toward stultifying mainstream pop coated with country frosting. But there's more good than bad here, and the 24-page liner notes are excellent, filling in a lot of career details for those who might not be country specialists. ~ Richie Unterberger