Here it is domestically -- finally -- 18 tracks of prime rockin' Conway Twitty from his first five years in the music biz. That first five years set the template for a remarkable five decades, where he nailed a charting record at one time or another. And he did it while he was alive, so Elvis doesn't count. This set, with impeccable liner notes by the great Colin Escott, begins right where it should with "It's Only Make Believe," the 1958 original hit version and still the best one among the many cover versions of the song out there. Twitty gets extra points because he co-wrote it. But there are 17 others here that reveal the tremendous range of Twitty as a singer, from the Jay Livingston and Roy Evans nugget "Mona Lisa," waxed in 1959 to his devastating rockabilly version of "Danny Boy," which was a number ten hit the same year. While everything here is awesome -- his own "Long Black Train," Dan Penn's "Is a Bluebird Blue," the reading of Chuck Willis' R&B weeper "It's Too Late," Roy Orbison's "I'm in a Blue Blue Mood," and Twitty's own "The Pickup" and "Rosaleena" -- all are killers. For those who only know of Twitty as a the golf-club wielding country crooner who ran the charts in the '70s and '80s, and as the founder of the Twitty City theme and amusement park, this will be nothing less than a revelation and well worth your hard earned dollars. This is primal rock & roll, full of nods to great doo wop, country, boogie, rhythm & blues, and pop, all of them transformed into the sublime by Twitty's golden, grainy voice.
Thom Jurek, Rovi