My Kind of Country

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

1989 Album Review: George Strait – ‘Beyond The Blue Neon’

beyondtheblueneonIf 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:

‘Swingin’ doors
Sawdust floors
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.

Grade: A+

This album is available at all major retailers.

Listen to ‘Ace In The Hole’

Listen to ‘Angel, Angelina’.

13 responses to “1989 Album Review: George Strait – ‘Beyond The Blue Neon’

  1. Razor X April 30, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Strait is often criticized (unfairly, IMO) for doing too many of the same types of songs. But one of the things I really liked about this album is that it really does contain a wide variety of styles. This was the first George Strait studio album that I ever bought. Previously I only had his greatest hits collections. I think it ranks as one of his best albums.

    • Meg April 30, 2009 at 10:30 am

      I have to admit that I’ve unfairly thought the same thing, so I was pleasantly surprised by the variety on this one, too. There isn’t a bad apple in the bunch either and I find myself humming tunes from it out of the blue.

  2. Mike K April 30, 2009 at 11:04 am

    I had this on cassette tape when I was a kid and I played it a lot. Not one throwaway track on theis album and, as mentioned, plenty of variety. Two all-time Strait hits, a couple of real weepers and a genuinely entertaining novelty song. What else do you want?

    Good job on the review Megan. Love the ’89 articles that you guys have been doing.

  3. Erik April 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

    George is one of those artists that I should like but don’t. He bores me.

  4. Leeann Ward April 30, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I can see where Eric is coming from, but when George is on, he’s on. Like Kevin has said in the past, I go through phases when I take him for granted and then go through times when I’m amazed by what this man has managed to do with his career and remember that he’s a gem. Right now I’m in a George Strait mood and I’ve recently been able to acquire a bunch of his albums. This is one of the great ones for sure.

  5. Leeann Ward April 30, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Eric,
    Have you heard his older stuff? A lot of it is more appealing than much of what he’s put out lately, though his singles from “It Just Comes Natural” are pretty fun.

  6. Erik April 30, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I’ve admittedly not heard alot of his stuff except for his biggest hits, and I should probably try out an album of his soon. I don’t know, but there’s always been something about him that really rubs me the wrong way. I have no idea what it is though.
    The fact that he’s a male isn’t helping either, because I do love my ladies. 😛

  7. Occasional Hope April 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Strait can be a bit patchy, sometimes seeming to rest on his laurels a bit. But I agree that this album is one of his very best.

    I think Overnight Success is my favourite track.

  8. Pingback: Spotlight Artist: George Strait « My Kind Of Country

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