Strait was on a serious hot streak in 1987 when he released Ocean Front Property, his seventh studio album, co-produced with Jimmy Bowen again. Each of the three singles from the album went to #1, starting with the title track, and the album itself was the first album ever to debut at the top of the Billboard Country Album charts. At present, it is the only one of his 80s releases to have achieved double platinum status.
That title track, written by Dean Dillon, Hank Cochran and Royce Porter, has become one of George’s classics, with its ironic lyric telling his ex that he’s over her, and barely concealed subtext that only an idiot could believe that:
“I don’t love you, and now if you’ll buy that
I’ve got some ocean front property in Arizona
From my front porch you can see the sea …
If you buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in free”
Dean Dillon contributed two further songs, the solo composition ‘I’m All Behind You Now’, a resigned post-breakup number which closes the album in sightly downbeat mood, and the sweetly melancholic ‘Without You Here’, where he teamed up again with Royce Porter to produce the tale of a wife who can’t enjoy herself on a Caribbean cruise because her husband isn’t with her:
“There’s just no fun in the sun to be had
Without you here
It’s no place to be
This dream vacation is a bad situation
I’m in misery
In a sea of tears
Without you here”
It’s not altogether clear why they’re not vacationing together, but one assumes business kept him at home. There is a happy ending, as he misses her too, and ends up flying out to join her. The song’s phrasing is very characteristic of Dillon’s work, and the song has faint but subtle Caribbean tinges to the production which do not stop it from sounding country.
The second single was another all-time Strait classic, the amusing western swing ‘All My Exes Live In Texas’, written by the great Sanger D Shafer. He had written ‘Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind’ with his third wife Darlene, and he wrote this one with his fourth wife Lyndia. On one level this might be dismissed as little more than a novelty song, as the narrator reels off a list of the exes after his blood resulting in him escaping to Tennessee, but George’s laidback ironic delivery carries the track.
Shafer also wrote (with Tommy Collins) the restrained ‘Second Chances’, a gentle rebuke to his woman’s ex, which is not altogether without sympathy as he shares his own past experience with a similar situation:
“I love that lady
So you best forget
Ever gettin’ her back
‘Cause she’s mine
Man, you know I had somebody else once
And she just gave me one try
And second chances these days are so hard to come by”
There is a great subtle vocal from George which makes this track one of my favorite hidden treasures in his catalog.
The third hit single was David Chamberlain’s ‘Am I Blue’, which is perhaps my least favorite track, because despite the pretty tune and some lovely fiddle from Johnny Gimble, George sounds inappropriately happy for someone singing about being unhappy.
For the first time, George made use of the Ace In The Hole Band, his road band, on record, and they provide excellent backing on two of the uptempo tracks: the Larry Cordle/Mike Anthony western swinger ‘You Can’t Buy Your Way Out Of the Blues’, and the lively ‘Hot Burning Flames’, written by Hank Cochran, Mack Vickery and Wayne Kemp, which has the protagonist bursting with gratitude to the new love who has revived his heart:
“She thought that I would surely die
Sometimes I wanted to
She had no doubt
The fire was out
But she didn’t count on you
You turned cold gray ashes into hot burning flames”
The band’s guitar player, David Anthony, also got a songwriting credit, as he co-wrote ‘Someone’s Walking Around Upstairs’, a good but not particularly memorable song about a man who has left his wife but can’t stop thinking about the man who might take his place.
The set is rounded out with another fine uptempo number with some great instrumental breaks, ‘My Heart Won’t Wander Very Far From You’. The protagonist sets out, at breakneck pace, all the reasons why the attractive woman he’s eyeing could never match up to his wife.
We often talk about George’s consistency as an artist, but I think this really is one of his most consistently good albums. It all still sounds great today. If you’ve never heard the album, you can listen to it at Last FM, and it’s easy to find on sale.