When the Everly Brothers left Cadence Records for Warner Brothers in 1960, they were the biggest rock & roll act in America, with the notable exception of Elvis Presley, who had just been drafted into the Army. The Everlys were survivors, withstanding shifting cultural tides and deftly sidestepping the pitfalls that befell their peers, avoiding jail and scandal when many of their peers couldn't seem to avoid it. But the duo wasn't successful merely because they kept their noses clean, but because their music had a broad appeal. Rooted in country, the Everlys could dip into their roots when necessary, clean up for a pop audience, while -- as the virtual inventors of the power chord -- rocking & rolling like nobody's business. This, combined with a lavish production that came with a major label, made for a set of recordings that were more varied and less consistent than their Cadence work, but their earliest sides for Warner were frequently compelling and always fascinating, as Bear Family's massive, seven-disc set The Price of Fame 1960-1965 shows.
Like many Bear Family sets, the listenability of The Price of Fame suffers somewhat by the chronological inclusion of alternate takes and session outtakes, a practice that can sometimes be interesting -- hearing the Brothers run through various tempos of "Burma Shave" or turn "Little Hollywood Girl" inside out is fascinating -- but these tend to weigh down the middle of the set, as do the Christmas carols, the handful of German and Italian recordings, and perfectly fine Cadence re-recordings that are all signs of the Everlys' international popularity even if they wind up giving the box a bit of a soft middle. Fortunately, there are excellent moments peppered throughout this middle -- indeed, some of their finest underrated singles are here, including the propulsive, sardonic "I'm Not Angry" and "Gone Gone Gone" -- and they're bookended by some of the Everly Brothers' very best music. The set opens with a disc that has the classics "Cathy's Clown," "So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)," "Love Hurts," "Walk Right Back," and "Ebony Eyes," along with cuts that wound up on the albums It's Everly Time and A Date with the Everly Brothers, two of the greatest unheralded early rock & roll albums, and it ends with the hard-rocking Beat & Soul, an album of rock & roll covers -- and the superb original "Man with Money" -- that pointed the way toward the tough spirit and adventure that would mark the back half of the '60s for the Everlys. That period is documented on Bear Family's later box, Chained to a Memory, leaving this as a deep exploration of transitional times, one that would perhaps be better served without quite so much detail -- if the alternates had been saved for two supplemental discs at the end, the duo's evolution would be easier to follow -- but is nevertheless necessary for any serious fan of the Everlys or rock & roll.