Patsy Cline -- Mixing real rural roots with an explosively bluesy delivery and sweet, swank sophistication, Cline helped revolutionize not only Country, but Pop music as a whole... In the R&B world, her closest match was probably Dinah Washington, who also combined heartfelt emotion with glorious technical precision, and moved from a rough and wild style into a torch singing, orchestral smoothness.
Patsy Cline "The Patsy Cline Collection" (MCA, 1991)
This is the ultimate -- or at least the best -- Patsy Cline collection out there. A 4-CD set which covers the breadth of her career... Some folks may gripe abou the poppiness of the later material, what with the string sections and stuff, but hey, that's a big part of Patsy's career -- she was one of the pioneering artists of the nascent countrypolitan scene... What Dinah Washington did for the blues, Patsy did for country, gave it a voice both smooth and authoritative enough to meld it to the mainstream. Besides, just listen to all those early tracks folks rave about: they're equally full of pop-isms, just rather than slushy string arrangements, it's rock-tinged triplets and doo-wah, doo-wah backup vocals. It doesn't matter. It's Patsy Cline singing and that means that more often than not, it'll be transcendant. Even when she falls short of the mark, she still sounds pretty damn good. If you just want to own one Patsy Cline artifact, this is great choice. In addition to the hundred-plus songs, there's an excellent, highly informative booklet, and lotsa swell pics of our hillbilly sweetheart.
Patsy Cline "Patsy Cline Showcase With The Jordanaires" (Decca, 1961)
Patsy Cline "Sentimentally Yours" (Decca, 1962)
(Produced by Owen Bradley)
Patsy Cline "A Portrait Of Patsy Cline" (Decca, 1963)
Patsy Cline "Greatest Hits" (Decca, 1963)
This was the best-of that was issued after Patsy's fatal plane crash, a double LP that had her biggest hits and a nice smattering of lesser-known material, and a slew of cover tunes that show both weaknesses and strengths. It's pretty good, although the Green Album (reviewed below) was more compact and is more well-known as the standard Patsy Cline collection. Either way, it's great music.
Patsy Cline "Greatest Hits" (MCA/Decca, 1967)
It's the "green album!" For many years this modest, 12-song best-of (originally issued as an LP) was the standard-issue Patsy Cline best-of... Although modern reissue discs pack in more tracks, this still holds up remarkably well, and gives you a lot of bang for your buck. It's got golden, chart-topping classics like "Walking After Midnight" and "Crazy," but also subtler numbers like "Strange" and "Why Can't He Be You," which add emotional depth to Patsy's mystique. It's a great collection, the one that I, and countless thousands of other folks, grew up on. Definitely recommended!
Patsy Cline "The Last Sessions" (MCA, 1988)
Patsy Cline "The Patsy Cline Story" (MCA, 1989)
Patsy Cline "Live At The Cimarron Ballroom" (MCA, 1997)
An invaluable chance to hear Patsy in an informal setting... and at the height of her powers! This disc comes from a long-lost tape of her performing in 1961 at the Cimarron Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma, just days after she was released from the hospital following a particularly nasty car accident. Backing her up is a tight western swing outfit, fronted by steel guitar legend Leon Maculliffe -- the sound quality of the tape isn't A-1 perfect, but the music is a treat. This definitely isn't the Patsy Cline sound that most fans are probably used to; even though she's a polished performer, here, outside of the studio setting, Patsy lets her hair down, sings a little blues, a little rock'n'roll, and plenty of mighty fine country. The rough edges are the thing to savor here -- this album takes Patsy off her pedestal and makes her a real, live country singer again. Recommended!
Patsy Cline "The Ultimate Collection" (Universal/Hip-O, 2000)
A 2-CD best of... couldn't hurt!
Patsy Cline "25 All-Time Greatest Hits -- The 4-Star Sessions: 1955-1960" (Varese Sarabande, 2000)
The first volume of Varese Sarabande's outstanding collections of Cline's pre-Decca recordings on the independent 4-Star label. This disc has some of her bluesiest and most "country" performances, including gems such as the raunchy "Hungry For Love," and teen-pop oriented material like "Walking Dream" and a triplet-heavy "Stop The World (And Let Me Off)." Many Cline fans find this era to be her best, or at least the closest to her country roots. Inching towards her transcendent crossover style, Cline gives a few interesting spins to lots of formulaic material, and even leaves a unique stamp on hard country classics. Patsy plays it slow and mournful on her 1956 version of "Pick Me Up On Your Way Down," later a rollicking, upbeat hit for Charlie Walker, while a similarly slowed down version of "Life Is Like A Mountain Railroad" is given a subdued, barbershoppish arrangement. And then of course, there's Cline's majestic voice, which lifts any song, no matter how formulaic or run-of-the-mill; on some songs she's struggling against the so-so arrangements, but always with great success. This is a really tasty, generously programmed collection... with great sound quality as well. Recommended!
Patsy Cline "Love Songs" (Varese Sarabande, 2002)
The second of Varese Sarabande's collections of Cline's pre-Decca recordings on the independent 4-Star label. This disc sticks mainly to slower, waltzier numbers, as well as her more overtly "poppy" material -- that is, songs that flirt with the bluesy downbeats of the day. Patsy's always great, but this disc may be a little sleepier than what most folks expect.
Patsy Cline "The Definitive Collection" (MCA-Nashville, 2004)
So, after all those other best-of sets that came out before, what's the difference with this new ones...?
Patsy Cline "Gold" (MCA-Nashville, 2005)
...Not much. It's all basically the same stuff, but since it's all classic Patsy, it's also all really good. Guess the record companies have to keep themselves busy somehow.
Patsy Cline "Stop, Look And Listen (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)" (Bear Family, 2008)
A great, rollicking collection of Patsy Cline's uptempo material, where she touched on blues, R&B and rock. Cline was equally adept at sappy material, but this blues-based stuff was a gas. This album has all the high standards of sound quality, song selection and tons of archival material -- footnotes and photos -- that still make Bear Family the hallmark of country collector cool. Recommended!
Patsy Cline "Sweet Dreams" (Soundtrack) (MCA, 1985)
The soundtrack to a biopic starring Jessica Lange as Miss Patsy... This is really just a best-of collection with the wrong person's picture on it. It's not bad... but why not just buy an actual Patsy Cline picture on it? It's cooler artwork.
Various Artists "REMEMBERING PATSY CLINE" (MCA-Nashville, 2003)
Patsy Cline is a hard act to follow, that's for sure. But I don't doubt for a second that every singer on here felt they owed her a debt as a pioneering foremother of popular song. So we fast forward to forty-plus years after Patsy's untimely demise, and we have two (or three) generations worth of show biz gals coming in her wake, approaching the same big production values, but with a much narrower artistic vision. Scanning the list of artists -- Natalie Cole, Diana Krall, Martina McBride, et al -- I expected sheer disaster. I was surprised, though, to find how restrained the singing was in general -- no crazed modern soul vocalese, no endless parade of "money notes," little in the way of swooping, lavish production. But also little to get stirred up about either. Norah Jones delivers another fine country-cover one-off, Michelle Branch belts out a surprisingly lively, yet restrained version of "Strange"; Patty Griffin does alright on "Faded Love..." Perhaps the biggest surprise comes from vanilla gospel icon Amy Grant, who delivers an understated, effective rendition of "Back In Baby's Arms," which is, amazingly enough, the highlight of this album. On the whole, this album falls flat, but it doesn't completely fall apart, and there are some nice tunes. Ya can't beat Patsy, though... why even try?
"Sweet Dreams" (1985)
Jessica Lange stars as Patsy Cline, and Ed Harris as her husband, in this sometimes-compelling biopic. You will get a sense of how rough life as a gal in showbiz in the 'Fifties could be... Especially when you were a star!
"Remembering Patsy Cline" (1969)
"The Real Patsy Cline" (1986)
"Patsy: The Life And Times Of Patsy Cline"
by Margaret Jones
(Da Capo Press, 1999)
by Brian Mansfield
(Rutledge Hill Press, 2003)
"Honky-Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story Of Patsy Cline"
by Ellis Nassour
(St. Martin's Press, 1994)
"Love Always, Patsy: Patsy Cline's Letters To A Friend"
ed. Cindy Hazen, Mike Freeman
(Berkley Publishing, 1999)
The personal correspondence of Patsy Cline, written to a fan who became a friend in the '50s.
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