Faced with a career that was going nowhere fast on a treadmill of gigs, booze and oldies, Gene Vincent re-grouped in 1966 and with the help of an all-star team of Southern California studio whizzes, recorded a batch of songs that stand out as some of his best work. Challenge Records assembled some top-notch session cats like Glen Campbell, Al Casey, Jim Seals, Dash Crofts and David Gates, rounded up some good songs and let Gene loose. The songs aren't rockabilly, though, not even a little. Instead they are solid mid-'60s fare with a folk-rock-meets-garage sound. He is in fine voice throughout, sounding tough and ready on hard rockers like "Bird Doggin'," "Ain't That Too Much" and "Words and Music," sensitive on sweet ballads like "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo," and heartbroken and blue on desperate songs like "Hurtin' for You Baby" and "Am I That Easy to Forget." He shows off his country side on a rock-solid cover of Merle Haggard's "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive," gets loose and swinging on a boppy "Poor Man's Prison," and on what may be the album's best song, the chiming folk-rocker "Love Is a Bird," which sounds very much like Gene Clark. In fact at times the record sounds like (with some 12-string guitar added) the Byrds, but mostly the results are not too far from what the Everly Brothers were doing around the same time. Sadly, Vincent had even less commercial success than the Brothers, as his Challenge singles sank without a trace and were never collected as an album in the States. In 1985, Topline was the first to put the Challenge sessions on disc with Born to Be a Rolling Stone, which collects all 12 songs cut for the label. 1992's Ain't That Too Much!: The Complete Challenge Sessions, on Sundazed, makes this collection redundant by including great liner notes and a batch of outtakes as well.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra