Saturday, May 8, 2021

Retro Album Review - Easy Come, Easy Go - George Strait


I would review new albums, but better sites than mine specialize in it, and frankly, I've tried listening to the reviewers' track recommendations and have found the samples so-so at best. My album reviews, therefore, focus on older releases that a casual country fan may have missed. 

I mentioned in the past that I own twenty-three George Strait albums (plus a boxed set). No, I'm not a fanatic. I own many, many, many CD's, not to mention LP's and those little round 45-RPM discs.

(These are just the CD's, and the rows are two-deep.)
It's no secret that George Strait is my favorite country artist. There's a reason they call him King George. That doesn't mean all twenty-three of my Strait CD's are shiny. At a certain point in time, I made it my goal to buy every one of his releases, just to say I owned them all, but as time went on my dedication flagged. And frankly, I simply stopped buying CD's all together. 
Unlike most every classic country fan, I'm not a huge fan of Strait's early work. It's not bad; it's just not standout. Oh sure, for its time it gleamed, but that was all relative. Country in those days was going through an identity crisis. If you've read my previous posts, you know that I abandoned country in the late seventies, and I had no clue who George Strait even was until my non-musical mother introduced me to him. My husband, who is definitely not a country fan, bought George's greatest hits -- Volume 1 -- just to prove to me his open-mindedness, but he stumbled in his selection. I certainly don't hate the songs; they just don't evince any heart-tugging emotion. 
It wasn't until the nineties that George hit his stride. I suspect he asserted more control over his career as it skyrocketed and didn't reflexively kow-tow to his producer's whims. (Tony Brown is a damn fine producer, but an artist's output should be a collaborative effort.)
Weird thing about George: he is a sucker for that easy-listening, smooth definitely non-country stuff, and he's demonstrated that in recent years. But maybe he's just torn. I like sixties and eighties pop/rock even though my heart belongs to country. And if one's been at the pinnacle of his industry for forty years, he's allowed to record whatever the heck he wants. 
I'm happy to report, however, that Easy Come Easy Go is a country album. And what an album it is!
Songwriter Jim Lauderdale is kind of a goofy, odd guy, but he is one of the best songwriters in country, and he has three tracks on this album -- three of the best tracks, by the way. Lauderdale-penned songs have been very good to George Strait. 
I actually remember bringing this CD home, slipping it into my CD changer and being bowled over by the very first (Lauderdale) track, Stay Out Of My Arms. (solid A)
Track #2, Just Look At Me, written by Gerald Smith and Curtis Wayne, is a solid stone country song; perhaps not as memorable as it could be simply because it's dwarfed by the other tracks on the album (B+):

Easy Come, Easy Go, penned by new Hall Of Famer Dean Dillon along with Aaron Barker, is a solidly-written song, its reputation enhanced by constant radio play (I think this may have been the first single release from the album) and by superb production. (solid B)

#4, I'd Like To Have That One Back (songwriters: Aaron Barker, Bill Shore, and Rick West -- Really? Three people to write a song?) sounds like an outtake from the movie Pure Country. It would have fit well there. It's a decent, albeit generic country song, but perhaps it suffers in comparison to the better album tracks. (going with a B- on this one):
Love Bug, which by far garnered the most attention of all the tracks on the album was written by the great Wayne Kemp and Curtis Wayne, and was (obviously) a sixties hit for George Jones, although some oblivious fans assumed it was an original George Strait recording. What can I say? It's a great, fun song, which is why Jones scored a hit with it originally. Here's a live performance that features Vince Gill (c'mon, this has gotta be an A):

Here comes another Lauderdale song at #6 - I Wasn't Fooling Around. Just perfection. (I love how George sings "A-round".) A+

Without Me Around I'd completely forgotten. This is another Dean Dillon (and John Northrup) tune. Frankly the weakest track on the album. (generous C)

I don't know why, but the title The Man In Love With You rang no bells with me until I just now played the video on YouTube. This is a good song, reminiscent of I Cross My Heart. Written by Steve Dorff and Gary Harju, it's a typical George Strait love song, which the more pensive Strait excels at doing. 

(A-ha! Steve Dorff also wrote I Cross My Heart! Am I good or what?)
I like this one, even though I'd somehow forgotten it. (B+)
That's Where My Baby Feels At Home. Okay, he got me with this one. The song was written by (again) the great Wayne Kemp, along with Curtis Wayne and Faron Young. Again, most novices don't know that this was an early hit for Faron Young, but I know. This is country the way country is supposed to be. (A+++)

The final track on the album proves my point about how much George loves that easy-listening dreck. We Must Be Loving Right, written by Clay Baker and Roger Brown, was also recorded by Barbra Streisand. Need I say more? George tries to country it up with some slide steel, but c'mon. 
I do understand why he closed out the album with this one, though. (C minus?)

Anytime one finds an album with mostly A's and B-plusses, that is a once in a lifetime discovery. Easy Come Easy Go could well be my favorite country album ever, though I hesitate to quantify those things. 

What George (and Tony) did so deftly was incorporate the best of ninety's songwriting with choice songs from the past. 
And thus rope us in and never let go.

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