I'll state right here and now that I've never been a huge fan of Robert Plant. That was until I heard his work on Gone, Gone, Gone. I guess you need to know that the original version, by the Everly Brothers, is one of my favorite Everly songs of all time. It's hardly one of the Everly's biggest hits -- coming well after their heyday on the charts -- and one might even call it a bit obscure as the record has been out of print since the mid 60's. So when I was driving down the street and heard a new version of Gone, Gone, Gone, I was flabbergasted. At first I thought it was a remix of the original. Not so much. Then I turned to my wife and said, "whoever this is is a hell of a singer. They are nailing the harmonies but also changing them ever so slightly. And the production is perfect." It wasn't for a few more weeks that I would find out that it was Robert Plant (and Alison Krauss). "Whoa" says me. Then I find out it is produced by one of my favorite producers, T-Bone Burnett (whom I used to see play at the Coffee House in Davis, California in the early 80's). "Cool", says me.
My paradigm of appreciation for Robert Plant changed in one instant. Plant's vocal style has been totally contradictory to that of the Everly Brothers. Plant is famous for big, rounded, swoops to hit the note he is seeking. I think he would tell you that. But on this song -- and the album -- he sings in a more traditional country style -- jagged, right angles. A style performed to perfection by the freakishly tight harmonies of the Everly Brothers. The change in Plant's style on Raising Sand is a necessity because of his collaboration with country singer, Krauss. You can't harmonize with big, looping vocal swells. You need to hit the note and hit it hard and fast. Plant still gets in some of those swells on this song in between harmonies, but for the most part, he is sticking the note nicely.
The Everly Brothers wrote and recorded Gone, Gone, Gone in 1964. By this time they were stuck in a rock-n-roll purgatory. The hits were behind them and they were too country for the pop charts and too pop for the country charts and too square for the hipsters. Need proof? Take a look at this video of the Everly Brothers performing Gone, Gone, Gone. Tuxedos. Not cool. Spastic dancers wearing knee length skirts. Not cool. But their harmonies on this live vocal version of the song? Cool. (Note the sax addition).
As a whole, rock-n-roll in the US was on life support at this time and the Everly Brothers were not going to be part of the resurrection. They were just left to make great records and influence singers like McCartney, Lennon and Harrison who knew how cool the Everly Brothers still were. (Look no further than Baby's In Black to hear that Everly influence).
Nobody hit the note more precisely than the Everly Brothers. They sing a harmony like only two siblings can. Don Everly taking the lead and Phil Everly hitting the harmony (usually on the 4th note). They nail it on Gone, Gone, Gone. Stop and listen to Phil's precise note climbing harmonization at the second go-round of the chorus starting around 1:05. Whoo-wee. The song is a huge romp of floor-tom drums, piano and big open chords on the guitar that ends quicker than it begins. If you are lucky enough to own the original Gone, Gone, Gone album, you aren't so disappointed at the brevity of the song as the whole album is killer. But for the rest of you, just hit replay a few times.
Click here to listen to both versions of Gone, Gone, Gone.