This album dates from 1965, but the 12 songs on it are from a deceptively early period in Don Gibson's career, more than a decade earlier. Recorded between the summer of 1952 and the winter of 1954, this was a period before Gibson had started actively focusing his energies on writing songs. So there's very little -- except for one solo composition and one co-authored effort -- of the original material that one later came to expect from Gibson. On the other hand, the recordings do capture Gibson at age 20, near the outset of his professional career, when he was already an impressive talent. The album is a worthwhile addition to his catalog on that basis alone, even if only two of the songs -- "No Shoulder to Cry On" and "Many Times I've Waited," are his own. He's just as expressive on the songs he didn't write, slow ballads ("Let Me Stay in Your Arms," "Waitin' Down the Road") or bouncy rhythm numbers ("Sample Kisses," "We're Steppin' out Tonight"). The highlight of the sessions was "Ice Cold Heart," which was put into the lead-off spot on the eventual LP release. The sound is a little bit more hard country than one is accustomed to on Gibson's music, three stripped-down guitars plus a steel guitar, fiddle, and piano, with a bass keeping the beat -- his voice works well in this setting, even embracing a yodel in spots, and he is effective in a honky tonk style on "Ice Cold Heart" and his own "Many Times I've Waited." The latter is his best slow number here, in terms of range and expressiveness, though Gibson would achieve a lot more as a singer as he found new, more sophisticated musical settings in which to work. On the original sessions, "Many Times I've Waited," was done last, at his last Columbia session from February 1, 1954. That Gibson original would close out his work for the label, but point toward a new direction for him as his career progressed -- indeed, that session would be just about the last time in his career that Gibson's songwriting would be a secondary element of his work.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder