The re-recording of "I Could Be Persuaded" is of particular interest to me, since it's the first Bellamy Brothers song that I remember hearing (as well as their last Top 10 hit, peaking at #7 in 1990). The new version holds fairly true to the sultry original with its airy Hammond organ and saxophone riffs, while adding a bit more of a Latin sound in the new backing vocal of "Come on, baby, come on persuade me." Richard's voice is a great fit for this song as well.
Track three, "Guilty of the Crime," is the first new song to show up. It rocks harder than the rest of the Bellamys' career (except maybe the thumping "We Dared the Lightning"), but its lyrics are still the same sort of passionate love songs for which the duo has long since been known, hinging on the irresistible hook "You be the judge and the jury; I'm guilty of the crime." This song also stands out by blending the Bellamys' smoother voices with those of Kevin and Michael Bacon. "Fires of Time" is another rocking song, relying on an almost Bob Seger-esque melody while using judiciously-placed name-drops to paint a convincing picture of the condition that the world is in now. Similarly, "Where Did the Common Sense Go" finds the narrator complaining about how we can't fill up our gas tanks anymore, but we can get good pictures of Mars. Indeed, the brothers haven't lost a step when it comes to social commentary. "Trust Me" is one of the weaker new songs, with a heavy-handed production, flat lyrics and an uninspired vocal. "Heart of My Heart" is also a little overproduced, but it's otherwise just as pleasant a listen as any other smooth love ballad in the duo's catalog. Closer "The Old Bulls," despite a couple dirty lyrics, pushes the envelope just far enough to drive home its point: the Bellamys may be old bulls, but they indeed "buck harder" and they "ain't dead yet."
Packaged with the CD is a DVD featuring music videos for "Guilty of the Crime" as well as several of the duo's 1990s singles: "Hard Way to Make an Easy Living," "What'll I Do," "Almost Jamaica," "Over the Line," "Vertical Expression of Horizontal Desire, "Catahoula," "Don't Put Me in the Ex-Files" (featuring Buck Owens), "Old Hippie (The Sequel)" and "We Dared the Lightning," as well as a behind-the-scenes for the making of the video for "Crime." "Hard Way," in particular, uses some truly funny scenes to satirize a musician's life on the road (such as waiting on a royalty check while the sleazy record boss parties with a sexy girl). "Catahoula" features guest appearances from Eddy Raven and Jo-El Sonnier (not to mention the titular dog), and it looks like a lot of fun. Other videos, such as "Over the Line," the ethereal "What'll I Do" and the Latin dance of "Vertical Expression" (complete with guest vocals en español courtesy of Freddy Fender) are rife with shots of sexy girls, but they never feel gratuitous. "Old Hippie (The Sequel)" contains most of the same biting commentary as its predecessor, replete with the Bellamys in hippie garb, but its references to Bill Clinton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Woodstock 2, and the line "when the century turns around" lock the song firmly into the 1990s. (And why is David playing a Dobro if the song doesn't have one?) As a whole, though, the videos are well-executed, injecting plenty of humor into the funnier cuts such as "Ex-Files," somehow managing to combine Buck Owens and paranormal themes in a convincing fashion.
With its generous track listing on both the CD and DVD, Anthology Volume 1 makes a very convincing argument that the Bellamy Brothers deserved more attention than they ever got in their career. With the solid new tracks, it also proves that some thirty-odd years later, Howard and David are two of the most talented underdogs in country music.