My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Aaron Tippin – ‘You’ve Got To Stand For Something’

you've got to stand for somethingAaron Tippin burst onto the scene in 1990 with the self-penned title track to his gold-selling debut album, offering listeners some life advice from his father about living with integrity. This sub-genre has become something of a cliché these days, but this example is pretty good, and Aaron’s honest sentiments shine through. It’s no surprise it was a big hit for him, and it stands up well today:

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right
And uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

Tippin’s raw hillbilly whine is certainly an acquired taste, but his sincerity on this song is entirely convincing and the song’s positive self-reliance message was a hit with radio listeners, peaking at #6.
The song’s success led to the release of a full-scale album followed in 1991, produced by Emory Gordy Jr, which was gold-certified even though the subsequent singles flopped.

One of those failures was actually my favorite track on his debut album (and probably my all-time favorite Tippin recording), the desolate ballad ‘I Wonder How Far It Is Over You’. The protagonist finds out the hard way he can’t outrun the memory of his lost love, even walking across most of the United States when his car runs out of gas:

I was deep in California when I finally made a friend
It was me and that old hobo til you showed up again
But he ran out of liquor and I’ve run out of time
I’m standing by the ocean and you’re still on my mind
I’m staring at the water
So blue and deep and wide
And a man could lose a memory
Over on the other side

I wonder just how far it is over you
Is there no place I go
That you don’t come too?
Cause when I left Tennessee
Honey, I thought we were through
Now I wonder how far it is over you

A lonesome fiddle underlines the melancholy mood, and Aaron’s vocal sells the pain the protagonist is feeling. Maybe the song’s bleakness a little too depressing for radio, because it only just crept into the top 40, but it’s really worth listening to.

The third and last single ‘She Made A Memory Out Of Me’ performed even more poorly, although it is another good song. It makes good use of Tippin’s wailing whine, and almost sounds like a Hank Williams song, which may have been a step too far even in the neotraditional early 90s. ‘The Sky’s Got The Blues’ has a similar lonesome feel, with his voice almost shading into a yodel.

The finger-snapping ‘Ain’t That The Hell Of A Note’ tells the story of a man coming home from work to find his wife’s farewell message, casually mentioning in the middle of a numbered list of information points that she has decided to leave him (with no obvious reason, unless her reminder to take out the trash is a clue). It is appropriately followed by the regretful confession of a husband who made all the wrong choices, admitting that ‘The Man That Came Between Us (Was Me)’, which is one of the best tracks on the album. Either of these two might have made a good single.

‘Many Many Beers Ago’ is a likeable drinking through the heartbreak number, with solid pace and energy. The opening ‘In My Wildest Dreams’ is a pleasant mid-tempo love song about meeting the woman of his dreams; it offers nothing special but is decent enough, and was later covered by Kenny Chesney on his debut album. Also enjoyable but unexceptional is the brisk ‘I’ve Got A Good Memory’, bemoaning the lasting power of memories of an old love but with less emotional impact than the infinitely superior ‘I Wonder How Far It Is Over You’.

At the time the album was released, Tippin’s label RCA was notorious for trying to boost sales of CDs, then a relatively new format, and one which was priced higher than the more popular cassettes or vinyl, by adding bonus material. ‘Up Against You’ is the ‘bonus’ track, but it is pretty forgettable.

Overall, this was a strong debut by an artist whose unique voice stood out from the crowd, full of solid songs all written or co-written by Tippin himself.

Grade: A-

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6 responses to “Album Review: Aaron Tippin – ‘You’ve Got To Stand For Something’

  1. Bone May 3, 2013 at 10:38 am

    I love that song, too. I have it on my iPad. Saw Aaron in concert a year or two ago. Unfortunately, he didn’t sing that one :)

  2. Jordan Stacey May 3, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    This is the only Album of his I don’t own, I’ve been meaning to buy a copy as I’ve always enjoyed Aaron. He never had a super strong album but they were always filled with great gems.

  3. J.R. Journey May 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I wasn’t familiar with anything except the title track of this album until about a week ago. On first listen, it seems like a strong debut, but it’s not hard to see why it was Tippin’s second album that really catapulted him into the mainstream.

    Good call on “I Wonder How Far It Is Over You”. What a great, forgotten gem.

  4. Paul W Dennis May 3, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    This was a very strong debut album . As you mentioned ,”I Wonder How Far It Is Over You” is an exceptional track that deserved a better fate than being marooned at #40, but it also a bit of a downer – perhaps there were already a bunch of down-trodden songs on the charts at the time. For whatever reason, radio doesn’t seem to want too many of those going at a single time. Also, despite only reaching # 6 , the title track had a really long life as a re-current. Both of the subsequent singles were competing against the ghost of “You’re Got To Stand for Something” which, at least in my area, was being played on radio at least as often as when it was actually on the charts.

    I purchased this album as soon as it came out – I was surprised that “Ain’t That The Hell Of A Note” wasn’t chosen as the third single after the second single stiffed, although I’m not sure it would have done much better – the title track really lingered in the consciousness of the collective radio audience

  5. Luckyoldsun May 4, 2013 at 12:24 am

    This album was incredibly good. You could tell that Tippin was versed in old-time honky-tonk and he had a unique approach that was witty, and confident, but also self-deprecating. And that raspy, gutbucket voice pulled it all together. “I Wonder How Far It Is Over You” is a killer classic!

    I was not surprised and didn’t care that most of the singles flopped at radio. Tippin was way too rough and twangy, blue collar and regional to be a consistent part of the mix with Garth, Clint, B&D, Kathy Mattea, Vince Gill, Collin Raye, Paul Overstreet, Doug Stone and whatever constituted country radio at the time. I was just glad when one of his singles did manage to sneak through.

    Tippin later descended into self-parody and clownishness, but this album stands the test of time.

    • Razor X May 4, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      I wasn’t suprrised either when the subsequent singles tanked. His voice was then and is now a hard sell to mainstream country radio “You’ve Got To Stand For Something” resonated because it came out around the time of the First Gulf War.

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