Following the success of 1986’s Girls Like Me comeback album, Tanya Tucker released Love Me Like You Used To on Capitol Records in 1987. The release produced three hits. The title track, which served as the album’s lead-single, soared to #2 on the country charts. The two follow-up singles, ‘I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love’ and ‘If It Don’t Come Easy’ both hit the top spot. The album itself became Tanya’s first gold-selling album in almost a decade and also her first top 10 charting album in the same span. So while Girls Like Me signaled to the country music industry that Tanya Tucker was back, Love Me Like You Used To said she was back for good.
Opening the album is the snappy ‘If It Don’t Come Easy’, a song about letting go of love that’s hard to hold on to. The elegant title track follows with its acoustic guitar opening before Tanya delivers the first line. From that soft beginning, the song builds into a beautiful ballad that finds the narrator longing for the days when they “used to be each other’s inspiration” and “it only took her touch to turn him on”. Tanya Tucker’s greatest strength as a singer has always been her story-telling ability in my opinion, but she can shine just as brightly on a brilliant ballad like this.
Paul Overstreet penned the now-classic ‘I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love’ with the great Don Schlitz and performs the song here with Tanya. The story follows a husband, a little boy, and a man asking his wife, his mother, and his Lord how much they owe for all the things the wife, mother, and Lord have done for them. All three answer simply ‘I won’t take less than your love’. This is another acoustic-framed number and one of the least-dated sounding on the album.
‘I Wonder What He’s Doing Tonight’ is a rocking tune that kicks off with a drum beat and keeps kicking all the way through. The singer is thinking about all the things her ex could be doing. ‘I’ll Tennessee You In My Dreams’ is another Overstreet/Schlitz composition with a woman in California missing her man, who’s in Tennessee. With so many miles between them, the play on words of course is that she’ll see him in her dreams. Up next is a strange tune written by Bobby Braddock called ‘Alien’. The narrator and her lover don’t seem to get along too well anymore and he’s someone she doesn’t know. This takes on the analogy that he’s extraterrestrial. Lines like “you don’t speak the language and you’re quiet as a mouse/The same ole big ole body and the same ole handsome face, but you’re like an alien from outer space” make this a peculiar listen and one you really have to be in the mood for to appreciate.
The bluesy ‘Temporarily Blue’ finds Tanya in moody fashion as she delivers the lyric with a velvety ache in her voice. 1980s country star Deborah Allen co-wrote ‘If I Didn’t Love You’ with her husband Rafe VanHoy, which has also been recorded by Steve Wariner as well as the writer. Tanya’s version is my favorite of the two as she brings a melancholy feel that fits the song like a glove. The pop-influenced ‘Heartbreaker’ follows and is a perfect example of album-filler if I’ve ever heard one. Tanya still performs the song like she’s got a great lyric to sing though.
Dean Dillon and Hank Cochran’s ‘Hope You Find What You’re Loving For’ closes the set. A very modern-sounding production accompanies this love-lost tune which finds the narrator wishing the best for the lover who’s leaving her. Even though he couldn’t find happiness with her, she still hopes he finds it later in life, but she reminds him that she’ll ‘always be an open door until you find what you’re loving for‘.
Tanya Tucker had proved the naysayers wrong and was just beginning the most successful of her chart runs with the release of this album. Producer Jerry Crutchfield surrounded the legendary vocalist with a variety of sounds that all fit the songs. And while looking back on this record, the song selection is puzzling to me at times, the record is still good overall and even great at times.
Listen to ‘Love Me Like You Used To’ on Last FM.
Listen to ‘If It Don’t Come Easy’ on Last FM.