36 Unreleased Recordings from the Late 50s and Early 60s packages together two Everly Brothers albums Varèse Sarabande released separately a year earlier, Too Good to Be True and Give Me a Future. Seldom has an album title been as true as it is for Too Good to Be True. This brief but rich 18-track disc contains a wealth of songwriting demos the Everlys made for the publishing company Acuff-Rose in the late '50s, almost all unreleased (two songs, "Give Me a Future" and "Life Ain't Worth Living," were on Bear Family's exhaustive 1992 box set Classic Everly Brothers, which compiled all of the duo's known Cadence and pre-Cadence recordings). The big news is that there aren't just demo versions of such timeless Everly hits as "I Wonder If I Care as Much," "Maybe Tomorrow," and "Should We Tell Him," but six previously unknown, unheard Everly songs: "That's Too Good to Be True," "How Did We Stay Together," "I Didn't Mean to Go This Far," "All I Ask of Life," "I'll Throw Myself at You," and "It's Too Late to Say Goodbye." Like most of the recordings here, these tracks were recorded in 1957, after the duo had their first big hit for Cadence with the Felice & Boudleaux Bryant-written "Bye Bye Love" and were demoing their own original songs for future use at the label. These recordings, let alone these songs, weren't known to exist until Cary E. Mansfield and Andrew Sandoval began work on this project and were presented with the recordings by Acuff-Rose. As Sandoval says in his liner notes, these are the "missing part of the puzzle" between the fine but unremarkable close harmony cuts the duo made for Columbia in 1955 and the classic Cadence sound: it's possible to hear the Everlys grow into their classic sound on these demos. That would have been enough of a treat for devoted fans, but the fact that there are six new songs, all good, makes this absolutely essential. Since these are demos, the songs are short and some of the unheard tunes don't feel completely fleshed out, but the core of each tune is here, and it's rather wondrous to hear new Everly tunes so many years after the fact. There's no question that this is an historically important release, and because of its historical nature it may not be played as often as the duo's classic Cadence sides, but even so, it's hard to imagine any Everly fan not having this superb disc in his collection.
Give Me a Future is Varèse's sequel to Too Good to Be True. Where the first disc had songs that sounded as if they could have been included on a regular Everlys album, along with a healthy selection of demos for songs that were hits, Give Me a Future reveals another side of the Everlys, since it consists of material that feels a little bit different from the songs that wound up on their albums. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule -- there's the bright, galloping "I'll Bide My Time," plus a demo of "Maybe Tomorrow," the only big hit featured here -- but for the most part, this 18-track collection is heavy on brokenhearted, introspective tunes, whether they come from the pen of Don or Phil. Many of these moody songs are about lost love, and there's a haunting quality to these spare, unadorned recordings of Phil's "You're the One" and Don's "Will I Ever Have a Chance Again," but this collection also finds each brother turning inward and tackling ambitious subjects, like Phil's "Captain, Captain" or Don's "I'm Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas" and "Only Me" (the latter two date from the '70s, the album title notwithstanding). At first, it's a little disconcerting that this collection is devoted to solo performances after the opening three songs -- it's strange to hear an Everly Brothers album with so little of their signature harmonies -- but these solo recordings help reveal the differences between Don's and Phil's writing, and show that Phil, who didn't have as many songs on their '50s and early '60s albums as his brother, more than held his own next to Don. Give Me a Future feels more like a collection of demos than Too Good to Be True does, but like that album, this is simply a treasure for devoted Everly Brothers fans -- a few songs may sound a little unfinished, but there's a wealth of good, previously unreleased, sometimes unheard, Everly songs from their prime, and that's worth the time of any true fan.