The recordings on Hip-O's 2002 collection Phase One: The Early Years 1958-1964 have been collected many times before, in a number of different fashions, but with the exception of Bear Family's exhaustive box set The Journey: Destiny's Child, they've never been presented as clearly or as logically as they are here. Essentially, this is the first disc of that set, containing both sides of his Buddy Holly-produced 1958 single "When Sin Stops"/"Jole Blon," both sides of his 1961 single for Trend; two songs from a 1963 session (these may have been re-recorded later, but the documentation is unclear); five sides for A&M produced by Herb Alpert in the spring and fall of 1964; and nine tracks recorded in December 1964 for a Phoenix independent label. Given that chronology, it should not come as a surprise that the music here is all over the map -- a little bit of rock & roll; a little bit of Cajun; a lot of country; a little crossover pop; a sappy string-laden tribute to Buddy Holly; a cover of "Rave On," with mariachi horns; a heavy dose of folk, including covers of Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds" and Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"; and lots of rock & roll and country covers. In other words, it's formative recordings, finding Waylon as he was trying to find his sound -- and even if you can hear him stumble, it's a hell of an interesting journey, since it covers so much ground. Sometimes the covers are faithful, usually quite enjoyably ("Love's Gonna Live Here Again," "White Lightnin'," "Big Mamou," "Jole Blon," all fair well), but occasionally to their detriment (Waylon could sing "Crying," but not in an arrangement that copies Roy Orbison's original); sometimes they're quite inventive ("Don't Think Twice" points toward country-rock, "The House of the Rising Sun" is nicely moody). Apart from the Orbison covers, Waylon sounds comfortable in nearly every style and, in retrospect, it's amazing to hear how all these experiments would later blossom on his RCA work -- plus, there's the first version of his first great song, a gently rolling take on "Just to Satisfy You." It all adds up to a fascinating listen; that's not just a boon to collectors, it's also quite an entertaining listen. Perhaps you need to be a dedicated listener to purchase these early recordings, but if you're curious, you will be satisfied.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine