Faron Young was one of the preeminent honkytonk stars to rise up in the wake of Hank Williams' untimely demise. Like many of the 'Fifties honkytonkers, Faron Young started out as an unabashed Williams imitator, although it didn't take long for his own, individual sound to assert itself. The nasal whine of the Williams style gave way to a robust baritone that revealed a nuanced richness and brought a new kind of emotional maturity and depth to the style. Young crooned without sounding phony, and when he sang with twang, his hillbilly roots could not be denied. Sadly, his was a major talent that lost its way when the urbane "countrypolitan" style took over Nashville. Unlike some artists, Young was unable to stick to his guns and remain true to his hard country roots, and while his early successes on the Capitol label had helped define the country crooning sound, his move to Mercury Records proved artistically disasterous -- he made his best effort but the popped-up material sounded strained and lackluster, and on a deep, deep level, Young sounded like a guy who'd had the wind taken out of his sails. Amid concept albums and crossover attempts, he managed to chart consistently into the 'Seventies, but nothing sounded as virile and pure as his classic 'Fifties work... Like many artists of his generation, he gradually fell off the charts and by the mid-1970s was no longer really a contender. He toured and made appearances for the rest of the decade, then inched into retirement; in the 'Nineties he was struck by emphysema, and fell into a deep depression, eventually committing suicide in 1996, a sad coda for one of country music's greatest stars.
Faron Young "The Classic Years: 1952-62" (Bear Family, 1992)
This is the ultimate Faron Young treasure trove... At least it is for those of us who just can't get enough of his fab Capitol years. This stunning 5-CD set packs a whallop you won't forget... It's pretty much everything Young recorded during his glory years, one great song after another... after another and another... Plus, there's a great booklet filled with copious info about his career, and lot of pix of Faron back in the day. All this and Bear Family's trademark high sound quality, too! The whole big package might be a little overwhelming, but it's really great music. If it's on Bear Family, then it's gonna be really good. This set includes some interesting material that didn't make it onto LP, including some of the gospel material on Disc Five... Also rounding out the set is some teenagerish, late-'50s rock-flavored pop that sounds a lot like similar material from Sonny James and Marty Robbins... It's a little discouraging, and yet oddly listenable. Anyway, if you want to check out all of Faron's classic 'Fifties material, this is the place to go. It's pricey, but worth it.
Faron Young "The Complete Capitol Hits" (Collector's Choice, 2000)
Ace bunny killer. Of the brash postwar honkytonkers who followed in Hank Williams' footsteps, Faron Young was one of the genre's most striking and distinctive singers. Although he started in 1952 as an unabashed Hank imitator, Young swiftly found his own voice, developing a sound that was much more penetrating and forceful than either Williams or Lefty Frizzell, the unchallenged kings of the style. He favored up-tempo numbers, delivering them in a folksy, conversational tone that undercut the normal moroseness of the genre; Faron was like the good-natured, back-slapping local who struck up a conversation at the bar, rather than the scary drunk in the corner. His upbeat feel suited itself well to the rock and roll era that overtook the country scene in the late '50s, and as this excellent new collection shows, Young resisted the temptation to go pop much longer than many of his contemporaries. This two CD set is a treat that hard country fans should remember for years to come, reissuing dozens of tracks from 1952-62 that have been out of print for decades, and capturing a neglected country legend at the height of his powers. Highly recommended.
Faron Young "Live Fast, Love Hard -- Original Capitol Recordings: 1952-1962" (Country Music Foundation, 1995)
Before the 2-CD set listed above came out, this brash blast of hardcore honkytonk was the single best Faron Young album out domestically in the USA... it's still pretty damn good, and has a lot of material that isn't on the other collection. As with all the CMF releases, it's handsomely packaged and it also probably has better pacing than the Collector's Choice set. Either one would be a very satisfying selection, although this is highly, highly, highly recommended.
Faron Young "Country Standards" (EMI, 2002)
A 22-track European best-of, again covering his Capitol years. Doubtless this is pretty comparable to the other collections listed above. Probably has pretty good sound quality, too, since it's from the original label, more or less.
Faron Young "Young At Heart -- The Hillbilly Heart Throb" (Jasmine, 2006)
A solid set of 1950s honkytonk oldies from one of the finest hard country singers to come in the wake of Hank Williams... Young sang with great gusto and the kind of goofy hillbilly charm that made classic country so much fun. This best-of collection holds its own with any of the others on the market today... Recommended!
Faron Young "20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection" (Universal, 2001)
This collection concentrates on Faron's later work for the Mercury label. This might not be as satisfyingly kickass as his earlier Capitol material -- times had certainly changed by the 1960s and '70s when these tracks were laid down -- but there are still some fun tunes on here. This modest12-song selection is short, but it does a great job collecting some of the best stuff Young did during these years, including little-known winners like "Keeping Up With The Joneses," a rollicking novelty duet with Margie Singleton in which a married couple has to do everything their neighbors do, including sleeping around and getting divorced. Other gems include hard country thumpers like "If I Ever Fall In Love With A Honky-Tonk Girl" and a zingy, string-y remake of "Goin' Steady," which is fun, even with the added orchestration. And of course, this includes his best-known hits from the era, the galloping "Wine Me Up" and the somewhat spazzy "Unmitigated Gall." The disc progresses chronologically from 1964-71, and as time goes on the arrangements get goofier and more ornate, but considering what they had to work with, the album's producers did a great job picking out some fun stuff. Definitely worth checking out.
Faron Young "Walk Tall -- The Mercury Hit Singles: 1963-1975" (Westside, 2002)
With twice as many tracks on it, this disc gives a more thorough examination of Faron's Mercury years, although apparently the disc has pretty bad sound quality, most likely stemming from the source material. That's a shame, and kind of odd, considering that bright, clear production was a hallmark of the original Mercury releases. Oh well, six of one, half dozen of the other.
Faron Young "Live From The Louisiana Hayride" (Scena, 1990)
You should track this one down. And send it to me. I haven't heard this disc yet, but I imagine it's very, very good. The other albums in this series were excellent, giving a glimpse of some talented hillbilly singers performing at the height of their powers, onstage at the Louisiana Hayride show, the only real competition the Grand Ol' Opry had, back when hillbilly music still ruled the land.
Faron Young "All-Time Greatest Hits" (Curb, 1990)
Not sure of the provenance of these recordings... though they are probably later versions of some of his big early hits.
Faron Young "Story Songs For Country Folks" (Canetoad, 2003)
This Aussie-issued best-of borrows its title from a 1964 concept album (see below) but with thirty songs total, it casts a much wider net than the original LP, drawing on the Story Songs album, as well as 1963's This Is Faron and Unmitigated Gall, from 1966, all on the Mercury label. Haven't heard it myself, but I suspect it could be kind of sketchy...
Faron Young "Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight: Hi-Tone Poppa" (Bear Family, 2008)
Faron Young "...And The Circle-A Wranglers" (Binge Disc/Bronco Buster)
Faron Young "Sweethearts Or Strangers" (Capitol, 1957) (LP)
Faron Young "The Object Of My Affection" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)
Faron Young "This Is Faron Young!" (Capitol, 1959)
Holy cow -- what a great record! One fantastic, beautifully produced honkytonk hit after another. Although there are several of his biggest hits on here -- such as "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," "Goin' Steady," "It's A Great Life," "If You Aint' Lovin' " and "I've Got Five Dollars And It's Saturday Night" -- the complete album is worth tracking down as well, so you can hear less well-known gems like "Tattletale Tears," "Have I Waited Too Long," and his version of the Don Gibson-penned Patsy Cline hit, "Sweet Dreams." This is classy stuff. He might have still been doing a gosh-heck, twangy Hank Williams imitation, but it sounded really nice, and the production here beats to hell the tinny sound of the old '40s and '50s hits this music is based on. Highly recommended!
Faron Young "My Garden Of Prayer" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)
Young's lone religious album... Faron's heart was obviously more into the riotous secular material he was recording at the time and his approach to gospel material was pretty flat, but still pretty enjoyable... The arrangements are generally pretty stark, with plain acoustic accompaniment and matter-of-fact vocals, with a subdued but authentic twang. This disc is worth tracking down, although all the songs on here are also included on the lavish Bear Family box set listed above, along with a few more ornate songs and less traditional tunes such as "God Bless God." But the original Garden LP is also pretty swell. (For more music like this, check out my Country Gospel section...)
Faron Young "Talk About Hits" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)
Faron Young "Sings The Best Of Faron Young" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)
Faron Young "Hello Walls" (Capitol, 1961)
This disc kicks off with the title track, a slow, loping weeper written by an up-and-coming songsmith named Willie Nelson. The tune's slowed-down Texas shuffle is complemented by some brilliantly smooth production, studio touches that aren't lavish as much as they are splendid and grand -- it remains one of country's great hit records of the jukebox era, and Faron was the perfect singer to capture the song's morose charm. On the rest of the album, Young streches out into showier vocal techniques, popping it up while still remaining solidly country. The hard country songs are more fun, but this is still a swell album. Recommended.
Faron Young "The Young Approach" (Capitol, 1961) (LP)
Faron Young "Memory Lane" (Capitol, 1964) (LP)
Faron Young "Falling In Love" (Capitol, 1965) (LP)
Faron Young "This Is Faron" (Mercury, 1963)
Faron Young "Faron Young Aims At The West" (Mercury, 1963) (LP)
A concept album of "western"-themed songs, piggybacking on the "historical" song trend of the times, and the popularity of cowboy ballads such as the Marty Robbins hit, "El Paso," and TV shows such as Bonanza and The Rifleman. The material didn't suit Faron that well, and it fared poorly on the charts. It's okay, in a time-capsule kind of way, but nothing to write home about.
Faron Young "Story Songs For Country Folks" (Mercury, 1964) (LP)
Faron Young "Country Dance Favorites" (Mercury, 1964) (LP)
Faron Young "Story Songs Of Mountains And Valleys" (Mercury, 1964) (LP)
Faron Young "Pen And Paper" (Mercury, 1965) (LP)
Faron Young "Sings The Best Of Jim Reeves" (Mercury, 1966) (LP)
Faron Young "Unmitigated Gall" (Mercury, 1966) (LP)
The title track was a Top Ten hit, but it was a pretty spazzy tune...
Faron Young "Here's Faron Young" (Mercury, 1968)
Faron Young "I've Got Precious Memories" (Mercury, 1969) (LP)
Faron Young "Wine Me Up" (Mercury, 1969) (LP)
Faron Young "Occasional Wife" (Mercury, 1970)
Faron Young "Step Aside" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
Faron Young "Leavin' And Sayin' Goodbye" (Mercury, 1971) (LP)
Faron Young "It's Four In The Morning" (Mercury, 1972) (LP)
Faron Young "This Little Girl Of Mine" (Mercury, 1972) (LP)
The Country Deputies "Faron Young Presents The Country Deputies" (Faron Young Records, 1972) (LP)
Faron Young "This Time The Hurtin's On Me" (Mercury, 1973) (LP)
Faron Young "Just What I Had In Mind" (Mercury, 1973) (LP)
Faron Young "The Man And His Music" (Mercury, 1974) (LP)
Faron Young "Some Kind Of A Woman" (Mercury, 1974) (LP)
Faron Young "I'd Just Be Fool Enough" (Mercury, 1976) (LP)
Faron Young "That Young Feelin' " (Mercury, 1978) (LP)
Faron Young "Chapter Two" (MCA, 1979) (LP)
Faron Young "Free And Easy" (MCA, 1980) (LP)
Faron Young & Willie Nelson "Funny How Time Slips Away" (Columbia, 1985)
In the 1980s, longhaired "outlaw" superstar Willie Nelson used his fame to shed light back on some of the artists that had inspired him or worked with him, back in the golden years of honkytonk. This collaboration with Faron Young was one of the later entries into this series, with affectionate recaps of some of Young's great old hits.
Faron Young "Here's To You" (Step One, 1987)
Faron Young "Greatest Hits, 1-3" (Step One, 1987)
Later re-recordings of Faron's classic hits.
Faron Young "Country Christmas" (Step One, 1988)
Faron Young "Live At Branson" (Laserlight, 1993)
Faron Young "All-Time Greatest Hits" (Capitol, 1963)
Faron Young "Greatest Hits" (Mercury, 1965)
Faron Young "If You Ain't Lovin', You Ain't Livin' " (Capitol, 1966)
Faron Young "The Young Approach" (Tower, 1966)
Faron Young "The World Of Faron Young" (Tower, 1968)
Faron Young "Greatest Hits, v.2" (Mercury, 1968)
Faron Young "The Best" (Mercury, 1970)
Faron Young "The Best, v.2" (Mercury, 1977)
Hick Music Index