My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Reba McEntire, ‘Have I Got A Deal For You’

Have I Got A Deal For YouReba’s third album for MCA, released in July 1985, saw her on a roll both commercially and artistically. She had just won her first CMA Female Vocalist of the Year title in 1984, and was to win again in 1985 thanks partly to the success of this album. Her rich voice is at its best, and she exercises it on a selection of excellent songs, including a couple she wrote herself. Have I Got A Deal For You was also Reba’s first production credit, alongside the experienced Jimmy Bowen – an important step in her career development, at a time when not that many artists were co-producing their records. The record feels like a natural progression from its predecessor, My Kind Of Country, retaining the traditional feel, with some lovely fiddle from the legendary Johnny Gimble, and steel from Weldon Myrick, but using newly written songs where the latter had mixed old and new.

Only two singles were released, both reaching the top 10: the fiddle-heavy western swing of the title track, written by Michael P Heeney and Jackson Leap is enjoyable if one of the lesser moments here, and reached #6. The excellent and memorable ‘Only In My Mind’, one of the few songs Reba has written, got one spot higher, and deserved to do better still. It tells of the heartstopping moment when with “a move that would have made the wind stand still”, the protagonist’s husband asks her an unexpected question. The answer he gets is a devastating one:

“He said, ‘Have you ever cheated on me?’
I said, ‘Only in my mind’.”

Not an answer designed to make him feel any better, and delivered in a perfectly nuanced manner by Reba as she then addresses the man to whom she has an emotional connection she feels her husband could never understand. Reba also co-wrote ‘She’s The One Loving You Now’ with David Anthony and Leigh Reynolds, where a downbeat lyric sounds almost inappropriately cheery.

One song which really should have been a hit single for Reba is ‘She’s Single Again’, but a rival version by Janie Fricke beat her to the punch (Janie’s version reached #2 on Billboard). Reba’s take on the song (written by Charlie Craig and Peter McCann) is irresistible, however, as she indignantly warns her married friends to keep close watch on their husbands, as the local femme fatale is back on the market and hunting again:

“Is this number 4, is this number 5?
How many husbands has she buried alive?
She uses the favors that the good Lord gave her
With the devil’s design.”

This album majors on great uptempo numbers, including ‘Whose Heartache Is This Anyway’, written by Wayland Holyfield and Jim McBride, a trenchant rebuff of an ex-lover’s insincere attempt to smooth over the pain, which is reminiscent of Pam Tillis’s breakthrough hit of a few years later, ‘Don’t Tell Me What To Do’:

“I’m not in the mood for sympathy
At least not from the one who’s leaving me …

Why don’t you just go now
You’ve done enough today
And whose heartache is this, anyway?”

Slighter, but still entertaining is ‘I Don’t Need Nothin’ You Ain’t Got’, although it has dated a little thanks to its namechecking Robert Redford as the sex symbol Reba doesn’t need since she’s got her man. The exuberant ‘I’m In Love All Over’ has some nice train rhythms courtesy of Gimble’s fiddle, although the song itself is the least interesting on the album.

My personal favorite track is one of the few ballads, ‘Red Roses (Won’t Work Now’), written by Jimbeau Hinson and David Murphy, a beautifully nuanced song about a woman who has at last learned from experience. Sadder but wiser, she rejects her husband’s latest attempt at reconciliation:

“You can tell me you love me
But thats the one thing I’ll always doubt …

So faithless love, why don’t you
Save the roses for ‘You know who’
I already know how long they’ll last.”

Of the other ballads, Heeney and Leap’s ‘The Great Divide’ is a sad look at the gulf in a marriage, and ‘Don’t Forget Your Way Home’ closes the album with an offer of sanctuary to the restless husband she is letting go.

This may not be one of Reba’s best remembered albums, but I think it is one of her best. It is readily available.

Grade: A

9 responses to “Album Review: Reba McEntire, ‘Have I Got A Deal For You’

  1. Razor X August 5, 2009 at 9:30 am

    This is an outstanding album. It didn’t quite get the critical acclaim that My Kind of Country received, but I’ve never understood why. i agree with you that “Red Roses (Won’t Work Now)” was the best track on the album.

  2. Erik August 5, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Only In My Mind” is my all-time favorite song.

  3. Michael August 5, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    “Only In My Mind” was a phenomenal songwriting effort and, while I tend to prefer Reba’s 90s output, that composition was an 80s masterpiece. I don’t really listen to this album very often (OK, almost never) but I’ll have to give “Red Roses” a spin later today.

  4. Joe August 7, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    I have always LOVE LOVE LOVED this album. Along with “Red Roses…” I’ve always loved “Don’t Forget Your Way Home” and all the uptempo ones, especially “She’s the One Loving You Now.”

    And while I enjoy the alternate production and performance of “She’s Single Again,” I have to admit I like the Janie Fricke version much better. Reba’s is countrier, but Janie’s is hookier, catchier.

    The entire album is so unrelentingly country, I can’t recommend it more. The first Reba album I ever owned, in fact.

    • Razor X August 7, 2009 at 9:58 pm

      I tend to agree with you that Janie’s version of “She’s Single Again” is better. The more contemporary (for that time) production suits it better than Reba’s more acoustic version.

  5. J.R. Journey August 7, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris wrote the liner notes for this album, which were included only on the vinyl and original cassette pressings. I have most of her MCA stuff on vinyl so I will dig it out this weekend and post them here.

  6. Meg August 7, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Love this album! And I agree — Red Roses is wonderful, and Only In My Mind deserved better recognition.

    Those liner notes sound great J.R.! Would love to read those!

  7. J.R. Journey August 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Reba commissioned Loretta and Emmylou to write them, saying at the time they were “two of my favorites and represented two different styles of country music, both of which I love. Loretta comes from the old-school of honky tonk angels and Emmylou is the sort of modern woman we all aspire to be”. * Here are the liner notes from the LP:

    “When it comes to country music, nobody does it like this little gal. Her name is Reba and that spells country. No matter what country she’s in. She knows just how it’s done. Nobody can match her when it comes to a good ol’ country song. But don’t take my word for it – get this album and listen for yourself and you’ll see. I love you Reba.”

    – Loretta Lynn

    “Reba McEntire is what a friend of mine would call a diamond in a coal patch. At a time when people have to ask what country is, she’s a singer of the country song. With her voice to tackle it and the heart to through. Hearing makes you remember what it was like the first time Kitty Wells or Loretta Lynn waltzed across your eardrums. A lot of us out here welcome you Reba, and hope you stick around a long time.”

    – Emmylou Harris

    *the Reba quote comes from Don Cusic’s book, Reba McEntire: Country Music’s Queen.

  8. Michelle Aussie country girl February 12, 2017 at 5:24 am

    I love “Only In My Mind ” I still listen to it today

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