Showing posts with label seventies country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seventies country. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Quintessential Country Song ~ Nineteen Seventies Edition

For years I denigrated seventies country music. Bear in mind, though, all we had in those years was radio (mostly AM radio) and just like today, radio stations essentially spun the top twenty singles in constant rotation. So, for example, in 1976 we heard Dave and Sugar and Billy Crash Craddock and Freddy Fender with his plunky acoustic guitar. Over and over. 

Not to mention Mary MacGregor with her "Torn Between Two Lovers" (definitely not a country song) and Elvis's bombastic "Moody Blue". Seventies country radio accepted all comers. That was the problem.

That's not to say I didn't buy country singles. I was poor enough to barely afford those, but I plucked them from the Woolworth's end cap four or five at a time. Still, I was feeling surly toward country. I didn't buy Good Hearted Woman by Waylon and Willie on principle. I shuddered at the sight of Kenny Rogers singles. I never once purchased a John Denver record. Artists I'd loved for years, like Johnny Rodriguez and even Merle, were now issuing crap, and I refused to lay down money for an inferior track based solely on sentimentality. I was a stern musical taskmaster.

Crystal Gayle was kind of a freak of nature. I knew she was Loretta Lynn's little sister, but face it, the reason people stared in awe at Crystal on their TV's was because of her four-foot long locks. They were like a second person 

Everyone, I guess, needs a life goal, and Brenda Webb's (Crystal's) was growing her hair out as long as grotesquely possible. Catching her on the tube, it was hard for me to concentrate on the songs, because I was completely mesmerized by her hair.  

Crystal first caught my attention with a track that oozed like maple syrup into everyone's brain in 1977. Suddenly she was everywhere. The song wasn't exactly country. It was something, but it wasn't country.

I found her affectation artificial, especially since she started out sounding like this:

Nevertheless, this new Crystal Gayle was off to the races. 

But the artificiality of it all riled my purity senses. I wasn't ready to let country disappear, For the same reason that I abhorred John Denver and skirted past The Eagles, I rejected this woman who pretended to be something she wasn't. Yes, I enjoyed Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There" and "After The Lovin'" by Engelbert Humperdinck, but I never claimed they were country.

Thus, I missed a few Crystal Gayle gems. Like this one:

But this next Crystal track is quintessential. Richard Leigh wrote it, like he wrote Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue and these:

I didn't recognize the perfect fusion of song, production, and performance until decades later. Interestingly, this is the most country song Crystal Gayle recorded in her fleeting career.

One must experience it on vinyl: 

And you don't even have to be distracted by her hair.

So, granted, seventies country wasn't all bad. In fact, the decade produced a ton of seminal music.

In future posts, I'm going to highlight that ~ if only to purge my demons.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Buying Country Albums Was An Exercise In Futility

...yet I bought them.

Most people probably can't relate to my particular musical circumstances. I was one of the diehard country fans in the nineteen seventies who was not enamored with Johnny Cash. That left me options that were paltry. Johnny Cash was a persona. He wasn't a country artist; he was a folk singer. His three-chord ditties could be done by anyone -- heck, even I did them and I was a putrid guitar player. His songs were boom-chicka, boom-chicka, boom-chicka, boom-chicka. That's it. If it wasn't for the man that Cash was, he probably wouldn't have even gotten a recording contract. Country music, to me, was twin fiddles, steel guitar, and a voice that cried. I was a purist in a sea of muddy productions that yearned to be "relevant", which wasn't the allure of country music at all.

Looking back, John Denver was probably more country than the so-called country artists of the era. The Eagles were more country than the country hit-makers. No wonder Olivia Newton-John won Female Vocalist of the Year at the 1974 CMA's.

I liked Connie Smith, Faron Young, Merle, Johnny Rodriguez, and Gene Watson. In my early twenties, I was a fossil.

The new gal, Barbara Mandrell, had potential. There's no denying she was cute. She was tiny with huge hair. She could actually play an instrument. She liked real country, until she didn't. By the time she was sleeping single in a double bed, I was over her. Before that, though, she did songs that were "updated" country -- still country, but bowing to the hipness of the nineteen seventies. I wanted to be hip, too, so I decided Barbara would be my new go-to girl.

She did songs like this:

And this:

So I bought the Midnight Angel album. It had one good song, and that was the title track. That was my life of buying country albums, yet I persisted. It was apparently important to have that album cover on one's shelf. 

I bought Dave and Sugar. That's a relic of the seventies, if ever there was one.

Country albums were a retail lie. Stick the number one single on it and the rubes will buy it. Three dollars and ninety-nine cents in the bank!

The only artist who was making actual albums in the seventies was Merle. 

You can't count "Wanted:  The Outlaws". That was a slapped-together conglomeration of outtakes, the brainchild of a prescient record producer.

Certainly there were some other stellar albums released during the decade.

...but sadly, very few.

If one was to purchase albums, to, I guess, have on their shelf (singles were so much more prudent -- no waste -- and by the seventies, marked down to eighty-nine cents), here are some of the better bets:

Folks who don't know think the seventies were Kenny Rogers and Willie and Dolly. In fact, those artists were "almost eighties". There was a long-spanning decade between Tammy Wynette and Janie Fricke. One had to root out the Crystals and the Sylvias from the Gene Watsons. And trust me, there was a world of difference. If only for Gene Watson, the seventies were worth the pain.

Music is music is music. The vast majority of it is bad. We need to remember the jewels.

I still don't know what I'll ever do with my Barbara Mandrell albums, though.