As outlaws slowly but surely metamorphosed into slick Urban Cowboys, the orneriest of all outlaws, Tompall Glaser, made a typically unpredictable move: he reunited with his estranged brothers. He had left them behind at the beginning of the '70s as he pursued wilder, woollier territory, but when he teamed back up with his siblings, he smoothed out ...
As outlaws slowly but surely metamorphosed into slick Urban Cowboys, the orneriest of all outlaws, Tompall Glaser, made a typically unpredictable move: he reunited with his estranged brothers. He had left them behind at the beginning of the '70s as he pursued wilder, woollier territory, but when he teamed back up with his siblings, he smoothed out some of his rough edges -- not so much making concessions to contemporary trends as simply fitting back in with his old crew. The Glaser Brothers signed to Elektra and released two records -- 1981's Lovin' Her Was Easier and the following year's After All These Years -- that straddled the line between Tompall's outlaw and urban cowboy; the attitude was a bit rebellious but the sound made the albums easier fits for a country radio that was getting increasingly slick. And these two records did make some impact on the airwaves -- the cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" was a significant hit, reaching number two on the country charts -- and in retrospect, they have many of the aural hallmarks of early-'80s country-pop, particularly in the big drums and polished veneer that sounded like it was built on synths even if it wasn't. Even so, beneath that sheen the Glaser Brothers were as thankfully idiosyncratic as ever in their song choices, and in how they blended American styles. Lovin' Her Was Easier was built upon covers, highlighted by a lazily mournful reading of Harlan Howard's "Busted" and a surprisingly light version of Hank Williams' "A Mansion on the Hill," and it also revived the wonderful "Drinking Them Beers," which Tompall had cut for MGM. It's not just that much of this music was familiar: the Glaser Brothers adhere to the folky, harmony-heavy progressive country that made their early-'70s records so distinctive, and even if Lovin' Her Was Easier is just a shade smoother than those records, it works to their benefit: it helps make the record feel as warm and friendly as a reunion should. It was a warmth that didn't last long: they split up, this time for good, after their next album, After All These Years, which retained some of the same spirit of their 1981 comeback but had a different feel. Like that album, After All These Years had a stronger crossover element within its smooth production than might be expected based on Tompall's outlaw reputation, but even if this is slicker than Lovin' Her Was Easier, it also doesn't feel like a conscious crossover attempt; it feels like it was simply playing by the rules of the time, at least as far as the production is concerned. That can't quite be said about the material that the Glaser Brothers chose to cover on After All These Years. Instead of relying on country chestnuts, they relied on newer material, from the Mickey Newbury song "I Still Love You (After All These Years)," which gave the album its title, to "Stay Young," which Don Williams later turned into a hit. The lack of familiar tunes does mean that this doesn't feel quite as warm and familiar as its predecessor, but overall it has a greater range and deeper resonance than Lovin' Her Was Easier. This is still heavy on ballads and songs that showcase the Glaser Brothers' exquisite harmonies, but there's edgier material here, like the honky tonk boozing anthem "Happy Hour Blues" and the barbed and witty "Oh, America." These, combined with romantic numbers like "Maria Consuela" and "Rosali," the ballads, and rolling country-pop tunes like "Can't Live with 'Em (Can't Live Without 'Em)" give After All These Years musical and emotional depth. In other words, it may not have been an intentional farewell, but it is a fitting farewell since it draws on the strengths of the Glaser Brothers as a group and shows that they were still making rich, adventurous music long after their heyday. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi