1995 was a good year for Collin Raye. Coming off the success of Extremes, he released I Think About You in late August. Like its three predecessors, it received a platinum certification and retained John Hobbs as producer (Ed Seay and Paul Worley co-produced).
I Think About You was instrumental in shaping my country music identity as it was one of the first country projects I was exposed to as a kid, and remains my third favorite country album to this day (behind Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On, Come On and Dixie Chicks Home). The hits from this project have a special quality I’ve never been able to duplicate with any other artists’ work.
Mark Alan Springer and Shane Smith co-wrote the #2 peaking lead single, “One Boy, One Girl,” a fantastically touching ballad centered around the full-circle love affair between a couple. The ending of the story is a bit predicable, but Raye gives the type of touching performance only he could bring to a ballad, and both Dan Digmore and Paul Franklin drench the number in gorgeous pedal steel.
Even better is “Not That Different,” Karen Taylor-Good and Joie Scott’s song about indifference that climbed to #3. I love how the song builds, starting out as a simple piano ballad and building to its drum-infused conclusion with the bridge. The lyric, both simple and brilliant, is fine testament to the powers of fate, and probably my favorite on the whole album:
She could hardly argue
With his pure and simple logic
But logic never could convince a heart
She had always dreamed of loving someone more exotic
And he just didn’t seem to fit the part
So she searched for greener pastures
But never could forget
What he whispered when she left
I laugh, I love, I hope, I try
I hurt, I need, I fear, I cry
And I know you do the same things, too
So we’re really not that different, me and you
Raye turned controversial with the title track, which peaked at #3 in early 1996. Thanks to Steven Goldman’s treatment, the video turned Don Shultz and Steve Seskin’s song into a tale about domestic abuse at the hands of parents towards their children. The video stars Raye as a cop and his daughter as the victim and puts a dark spin on the otherwise upbeat track. It’s a nice reminder that Raye, known for delicate love songs, could also take on dark subject matter, and handle it very well.
He regressed back to his wheelhouse with the next single “Love Remains.” It was Raye’s first single not to hit the top 10, and while Tom Douglas and Jim Daddario wrote a great lyric, the song was just too slow for mass consumption at radio. Next single “What If Jesus Comes Back Like That” faired even worse, not even peaking top 20. Another ballad, it suffered from prodding production that tried too hard and should’ve been left as an album cut.
Thankfully Epic didn’t end the album there, as Raye could’ve easily faded into obscurity like many an artist whose singles falter at radio. They recognized the album contained one more hit, and if I was forced to choose, it’s probably my favorite track on the whole album. It’s no secret that Hugh Prestwood is a brilliant songwriter, and he turned in another of his classics with “On The Verge,” the highest peaking single from the project since “One Boy, One Girl” almost a year and a half prior. I love everything about the song, from the its overall sweetness, to the gorgeous production.
One album cut that should’ve been a single (ironically, I always thought it was) is “Sweet Misbehavin,” which would’ve served the album more than either “Love Remains” or “If Jesus Comes Back Like That.” The rocking production is fabulous, and it was the perfect uptempo number for the mid-90s era. I don’t think it would’ve been a huge hit, but it likely would’ve been a lower peaking top ten at least.
Prestwood also contributed the excellent album track “Heart Full of Rain,” a gorgeous steel guitar ballad that’s perfectly within Raye’s artistic wheelhouse. It’s a bit slow, but nicely understated. Gary Burr supplied another gem, “The Time Machine.” A neo—traditional ballad, it starts of kind of convoluted, but morphs into the heartbreaking tale of man alone at a bar who uses the power of alcohol to bring back memories of the woman he once had:
To the casual eye it’s a bar stool
But it’s really much more than it seems
A few drinks and then
She’ll be with him again
As he sits on the time machine
“I Love Being Wrong,” written by Billy Kirsch and John Jarrard, showcases Raye’s bluesy side a la “My Kind of Girl.” He sings it well and I love the drumbeat throughout, but it’s a lightweight song at best and hardly memorable. Same goes for Larry Boone, Will Robinson, and Tammy Hyler’s “I Volunteer,” which tries too hard to get its overall message across to the listener.
Overall, I Think About You is one of the strongest albums of the 90s and a remainder that mainstream country can be exceptionally good whither its singles or album tracks. Unlike most albums, the amount of filler is kept to a strict minimum and almost every single track counts towards the greater whole. I cannot recommend this enough and strongly urge everyone to pick up a copy. It’s that good.