If you’re looking for a solid classic George Strait album with some pleasant variety that’s cleanly country without all the over production, this one’s for you. Released the winter of 1989 in the year he received both the ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year awards, Beyond The Blue Neon is King George’s 12th album and another #1 on Top Country Albums.
‘Neon’ produced a significant number of popular singles, 3 of which went to #1 themselves, and has been certified platinum. It’s got a mix of Western swing, ballads, tear-in-your-beer and dance tunes. It feels as though this one came straight out of a juke box somewhere, or better yet, you’ve picked up a recording of a live session in a honky tonk.
The title song sets that juke box, honky tonk, pool hall tone with a pleasant slow jazzy tune that features George at his best – crooning. This gem written by Larry Boone and Paul Nelson gives the album its cover image in the first verse:
A heartache drowns as the whiskey pours
There’s a hole in the wall
From some free for all
The ringin’ crack of that old cue ball’
Larry recorded it first on his 1988 Swingin’ Doors, Sawdust Floors album.
Next up is the wonderful, dry humored ‘Hollywood Squares’. It’s a fun, pure-country novelty number featuring some great fiddle and a hook to make you smile: I got so many ex’s and owe so much/I ought to be on Hollywood squares. Though it was never released as a single, it charted at #67 and was included on a couple of later collections as a favorite.
The third song, and coincidently the third single, ‘Overnight Success’ reached #8 in 1990. Weeping steel highlights this traditional sad one’s hook: And if you planned on hurtin’ me/you’re an overnight success. What’s kept George at the top for so many years is his selection of songs, and this one’s a perfect example of a winning combination of a great song and his understated style.
‘Ace in the Hole’ is an upbeat swing tune with great instrumentation featuring the band and back up singers subtly doing their stuff to give George an awesome platform, but shining on a wonderful solo section. Appropriately, ‘Ace in the Hole’ features the band since it also bears the name of the band, and was one of George’s aces with a #1 on the charts. It’s one of my favorites – love the swing numbers on this album.
‘Leavin’s Been Comin’ (For a Long Time)’ is another “it’s almost over” lament. I’m not sure why, but George’s vocals on this one are my least favorite on the album. I don’t imagine it’s an easy one to sing because the melody jumps in larger intervals. This one was previously recorded by John Schneider on his 1986 Tryin’ to Outrun the Wind album.
‘Baby’s Gotten Good at Goodbye’ was the first single from the album to go all the way to #1. It’s featured on no less than seven greatest hits albums and for good reason. It’s a beautiful song. Tony Martin and Troy Martin give George a great story to tell with a memorable chorus that ends with the lines,
‘When she looked back
There were no tears in her eyes
And that’s got me worried
Thinking maybe my baby’s
Gotten good at goodbye’
‘What’s Goin’ On In Your World’ also topped the charts. Written by David Chamberlain, Royce Porter and Red Steagall, this one shows up on 8 greatest hits albums. Another sad and beautiful one with some lovely back up harmonies, it was covered in 2007 by David Ball on his Heartaches By The Number.
One of my favorites on the album is “Angel, Angelina”. It’s a lively dance tune that also features the band on fun solos that come off as effortless though they’re anything but. George provides the smooth lover’s vocals that spin “Angelina” around the dance floor.
Curtis Wayne’s ‘Too Much of Too Little’ is set up as a conversation between a sad cowboy and his bottle in the bar over his lost love. George’s soulful plaint vividly paints the picture of how far into the bottle the poor guy’s gone. For those Miss Leslie fans on the blog, I could hear her doing a great cover of this one from the female perspective.
And last, but not least, ‘Oh Me, Oh My Sweet Baby’ finishes off the set with a rather upbeat farewell dance number. Diamond Rio covered this one in 1992 on their Close to the Edge album.
1989 certainly was a very good year for country music and ‘Beyond the Blue Neon’ was one of the classics born that year.
This album is available at all major retailers.
Listen to ‘Ace In The Hole’
Listen to ‘Angel, Angelina’.