In 1992, George Strait teamed up with a new producer, ending an eight-year professional relationship with Jimmy Bowen, who had moved on to assume the presidency of rival label Capitol Nashville. The association with Tony Brown would prove to be even more enduring, lasting until the present day. A change in producers almost always results in a different musical direction. The first Brown-Strait collaboration, the soundtrack album to Pure Country, was certainly a departure for Strait, but due to its nature, a film soundtrack album isn’t always a good representation of an artist’s work. Our first glimpse at the direction in which Strait’s career would go can be seen with the 1993 album Easy Come, Easy Go.
At first glance, Easy Come, Easy Go seems to be a throwback to the Bowen years, perhaps as a reassurance to fans that Strait had no intention of continuing in the pop-country vein that had prevailed on the Pure Country soundtrack. The album opens with the Texas dance hall number, “Stay Out of My Arms”, the first of two songs contributed by Jim Lauderdale. The second Lauderdale-penned track, “I Wasn’t Fooling Around”, co-written with John Leventhal, continues in a similar vein. Also among the songwriting credits for the album are Curtis Wayne and Wayne Kemp, both of whom had contributed to Strait’s earlier projects. Between them, the duo contributed a total of three tracks to this album. “Lovebug” is a cover of the 1966 hit that Wayne and Kemp had written for George Jones. The pair teamed up with the legendary Faron Young to write the song “That’s Where My Baby Feels At Home”, and Wayne wrote “Just Look At Me” with Gerald Smith.
Despite these nods to Strait’s traditional roots, Easy Come, Easy Go does mark a shift in musical direction, seen most evidently on the title track, an Aaron Barker-Dean Dillon composition. “Easy Come, Easy Go”, the first single and the only one from this collection to go all the way to #1, marks the beginning of the modern George Strait. As the title suggests, this is a laid-back tune, not a hardcore honky-tonker. By 1993, the neotraditionalist movement was definitely winding down. This move to a more mainstream sound is likely a recognition of this, as well as an acknowledgment that most artists at the stage in their careers which Strait’s now was, usually began to experience declining commercial fortunes. Someone at MCA or in the Strait camp was obviously savvy enough to stay ahead of the curve and tweak their formula just enough to keep King George in the game.
It’s interesting to note that this is a very different album than the singles released to radio might suggest. There is very little evidence in the title track, “I’d Like To Have That One Back”, or “The Man In Love With You”, of the traditional elements that can be heard on most of the album cuts. “Lovebug” is the sole single that comes close to hardcore country. “The Man In Love With You” is a somewhat bland ballad written by Steve Dorff and Gary Harju. Dorff wrote much of the music for the Pure Country soundtrack, and this tune sounds like it may well be a leftover from those sessions, as it seems slightly out of place in this collection. The album closes with the somewhat jazzy “We Must Be Loving Right”, which is somewhat reminiscent of something that Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett might have recorded. I believe that it was around this time that Strait contributed a track to Sinatra’s multi-genre duets project, so perhaps that’s what put him in the mood for this type of song. Though it seems as though Strait would seem out of place on a song like this, it suits his crooning style perfectly.
Commercially, Easy Come, Easy Go was a huge success for George Strait. Though it only made it to #2 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, it was certified double-platinum by the RIAA, making it his first multi-platinum certification since 1987’s Ocean Front Property (excluding Pure Country which was certified 6 times platinum and remains his best-selling album to date). Overall, it is one of his better 90s efforts. It appears to be out of print in CD form, but inexpensive copies can be purchased through Amazon. It is also available digitally from Amazon and iTunes.