If any more evidence were needed of the impact of the Beatles and their Merseybeat followers starting in early 1964, it is provided by the Billboard magazine chart statistics listed in the annotations of the 1964-1965 numbers in Heartland Music's Easy Listening Gold series. The series tends to hew to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart, and earlier volumes have boasted lots of titles that peaked at number one or number two. This time, although every selection made at least the Top 40, there are only three number ones -- Louis Armstrong's "Hello Dolly," Bobby Vinton's "Mr. Lonely," and Petula Clark's "Downtown" -- and the last of those, by a British performer, was not considered sufficiently easy listening at the time to be included in Billboard's own easy listening chart. Examination of that chart (the statistics for which are not listed on the album) reveals that most of the selections included were Top Ten hits there, with 24 out of 30 hitting number one or number two. (In addition to "Downtown," Billboard did not consider Jackie DeShannon's "What the World Needs Now Is Love" an easy listening song.) Looking at Billboard's other easy listening chart-toppers not included here reveals some possible licensing problems, with the likes of Barbra Streisand ("People"), Stan Getz/Astrud Gilberto ("The Girl From Ipanema"), and Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass ("Taste of Honey") all missing, along with several Elvis Presley titles. It also reveals that the compilers were paying more attention to the Hot 100 than the easy listening chart, where Bobby Vinton's "There! I've Said It Again" was a bigger hit than "Mr. Lonely," and Chad & Jeremy's "Willow Weep for Me" more successful than the selection included here, "A Summer Song." Still, the collection gives a good sense of the mix of styles within softer, more adult-oriented popular music at a time when that music was starting to be marginalized. Show tunes and movie themes ("Hello Dolly," "Dear Heart," "The Pink Panther Theme," "Goldfinger," "Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte") continued to be popular, sometimes even in the form of revivals ("Unchained Melody," "Theme From 'A Summer Place'"). Classic pop singers (Louis Armstrong, Al Martino, Dean Martin, Vic Dana, Andy Williams) continued to score. And folk music ("You Were on My Mind," "Baby the Rain Must Fall," "Don't Let the Rain Come Down," "I'll Never Find Another You") continued to create pop hits. At the same time, however, the British Invasion was reflected even in the middle of the road (Chad & Jeremy, Shirley Bassey, Petula Clark), and the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy, along with rising political turmoil, seemed to bring a new seriousness to much of popular music, with a melancholy tone to many of the songs and even a touch of social consciousness ("What the World Needs Now Is Love") peeking through. By bringing out all these aspects of the times, Easy Listening Gold 1964-1965 is an excellent compilation of the softer side of popular music in the mid-'60s.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann