My Kind of Country

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

Album Review – Lorrie Morgan – ‘Something In Red’

LorrieMorganSomethinginRedLorrie Morgan’s sophomore album was a pivotal moment in not just her career but for country music in general. Released in April 1991 it was Morgan’s first set of newly recorded music since the sudden death of her husband Keith Whitley not even two years prior. She also tapped pop singer/songwriter Richard Landis to produce, a move that saw Morgan somewhat distancing herself from the hardcore traditionalism of her debut.

But it’s the tone of Something In Red that was a bit hard to swallow. Morgan barely references Whitley’s passing choosing instead to record songs with peppier production, and even going full-on Adult Contemporary on the title track. She had also moved on from Whitley pretty quickly – to third husband Brad Thompson, whom she would divorce in 1993.

Thankfully, Morgan managed to record some wonderful songs on the ten-track album. Tom Shapiro and Chris Waters wrote “We Both Walk,” a twangy guitar soaked number that hit #4. A cover of George Jones’ “A Picture Of Me (Without You)” would hit #8 and the jaunty “Except for Monday” also peaked at #4. All three are top-notch, three of my all-time favorite of her recordings, and helped to establish Morgan as a fine torch singer.

The title track was the final single. Morgan initially hated Angela Kaset’s lyric so much, she refused to listen to the song all the way through assuming that the woman ended up wearing black. RCA relented and the track is now considered Morgan’s signature tune, despite it peaking at #14. I’ve always loved the song, even if it was the least country sounding single Morgan had released to date.

Something In Red opens with string ballad “Autumn’s Not That Cold,” a effectively sung number about a woman who isn’t terribly lonely over the loss of her man. She goes into full retro mode with “Tears On My Pillow,” in which a woman runs into an ex who’s done her wrong. “In Tears” is another similar number, with Morgan in pain over a broken relationship that hasn’t yet healed. None of these ballads are particularly country which is odd, but Morgan is able to show off her best asset – her voice.

“Hand Over Your Heart” is a much better song, with a nice upbeat production, but it also seems ripped from a 1950s/1960s pop album. When looking at this record for review, I was surprised to see a cover of Journey’s “Faithfully,” a song I practically enjoy, I just didn’t expect it on a country album during what was still the outer fringes of the new traditionalist movement. Morgan sticks close to Journey’s original, opting to bring little imagination to the song. But she makes it work for her voice, singing it with beauty and conviction.

The best non-single on the project is “Best Woman Wins,” a duet with Dolly Parton that also appeared on her Eagle When She Flies Album. Written by Parton, it’s a lighter “Does He Love You” in which two women are in love with the same man, and he must choose between them. The production is a bit too sunny for me, and the mood a little too sing-song-y, but it works for what it is.

There’s no point in beating around the bush. Something In Red is a strange, strange album. Morgan jumps from a stunning cover of a George Jones classic to a Journey remake all in the midst of ten songs that bare very little resemblance to country music at all. And critics gave her credit for shedding her ‘I’m Keith Whitley’s widow’ image, but she moved on so fast it’s as if she never loved him at all. I understand ditching sad songs, but this is insensitive. She should’ve honored him here somewhere, somehow (an “If You Came Back From Heaven” moment should’ve been on this disc, not saved for 1994’s War Paint).

Morgan proves she’s in fine voice throughout and her instrument is on full effect. But Something In Red should’ve been so much more. For My Broken Heart this is not.

Grade: C+ 

12 responses to “Album Review – Lorrie Morgan – ‘Something In Red’

  1. Razor X August 7, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I liked this album a lot when it first came out. I don’t think quite as much of it now as I did at the time, but I would rate it at more than a C+. I think Lorrie was right in her decision not to make any direct references on this album to Keith Whitley’s death. It would inevitably have led to accusations that she was trying to capitalize on it.

    I’m not sure, but I think “Hand Over Your Heart” was originally done by some pop group.

  2. Michael A. August 7, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Yes, For My Broken Heart this definitely is not. I think Razor’s right though; she may have risked accusations of profiting from Whitley’s death if she had included songs that directly addressed it. I think this is a pretty fun album and I’d probably give it a B.

    The title track, while widely accepted as Morgan’s signature song, is actually not a favorite of mine. That happens with a lot of my favorite artists though, perhaps due to radio saturation (Pam Tillis’ “Maybe It Was Memphis”, Trisha Yearwood’s “She’s in Love with the Boy”, etc.)

    Do you have a link to the review of Leave the Light On? I’m assuming it was reviewed during Class of 89 month and I’d like to revisit it!

  3. J.R. Journey August 7, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Occasional Hope reviewed Leave The Light On back in 2009. Here’s a link.

    Leave The Light On review – August 2009

    I’d rate this album a little higher too, even though I actively dislike the title track. Skip Ewing’s “Autumn’s Not That Cold” is one of my favorite Lorrie Morgan cuts, and certainly my favorite from this album. In her (sorta) autobiography, Forever Yours, Faithfully: My Love Story, Lorrie says that the Journey song was a favorite of hers and Keith Whitley’s, and the coupled dubbed it “their song”. It’s not a glaringly obvious mention of Whitley’s death, but it’s there nonetheless. Also, I don’t see how anyone who hasn’t walked in Lorrie Morgan’s shoes can fault her for “moving on so quickly”. She’s a Catholic girl from suburban Nashville who grew up in show business, not some Victorian era war widow.

  4. Andrew August 7, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    I’ve always found the title track terribly boring. One of my least favorite singles she released.

  5. Jonathan Pappalardo August 7, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Was Reba accused of capitalizing and/or profiting on her tragedy with For My Broken Heart?

    Thanks for the info on the Journey song, J.R. I didn’t know that.

    • J.R. Journey August 7, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      You should pick up a copy of Lorrie’s book, Jonathan. I think you’d really enjoy it. I did.

      As for Reba being criticized for capitalizing on the tragedy of the plane crash, I really can’t say because I was only 8 years old at the time. I’ve never heard anyone say anything like that when they’re talking about the For My Broken Heart album. But I have heard Reba say in interviews that some people questioned her going back to work so soon. (She performed at the Academy Awards only 9 days after the plane crash and recorded For My Broken Heart that summer.)

  6. Razor X August 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Nothing on For My Broken Heart made direct reference to the tragedy.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo August 11, 2013 at 10:52 am

      True. But it struck the appropriate tone.

      • Razor X August 11, 2013 at 3:19 pm

        For My Broken Heart was released about six months (give or take) following the plane crash that killed most of Reba’s band, whereas Something In Red appeared two years following Keith Whitley’s death. So what exactly is the time frame in which one is supposed to “strike an appropriate tone” and when is it appropriate to end the mourning and move on?

  7. Ben Foster August 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    It may be worth noting that Morgan had previously shouldered accusations of capitalizing on Whitley’s death when her single “Dear Me” become a hit shortly after the tragedy. The accusations were unfounded, as the single was actually released before his death, not after, but I think that makes it understandable why she would choose to let some time pass before addressing the loss in song.

    This was actually one of the first country albums I ever heard, and thus it does carry a degree of sentimental value for me. But even today, I think it is a very good album on its own merits, albeit not a particularly cohesive one, and I very much believe the title track deserves mention in any discussion of the best country singles of the nineties. I wouldn’t grade the album any lower than a B.

    To some extent, I can understand why one might be critical of Morgan recording peppy material like “Except for Monday” and “Hand Over Your Heart” so soon after her husband’s death, but I don’t think that tone dominates the album to any significant extent. More importantly, I feel an album should be appraised on its own merits, and not according to the circumstances surrounding its recording and release.

    • Jonathan Pappalardo August 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      I think what baffled me more than the tone of the album was the production. I expected it to sound a lot more country than it actually does, given that I love each single from the project. That took me aback more than the tone.

      I agree, Ben, that albums should be appraised on their own merits. Is a particular album bad just because it isn’t country but comes from a country artist? No. I love Faith Hill’s Cry album and that’s pure pop.

      Going back to Razor’s comment, he’s right. Two years is more than an appropriate amount of time for someone to move on following the death of a spouse. I just feel like she distanced herself a little too quickly from that period of her life (like he was just another spouse and not the love of her life), mostly by getting married so quickly after and not honoring their life together with a track on this album. But I fully understand why she might not have been ready to record a “If You Come Back From Heaven” type song yet.

      • FanOfCountry March 29, 2016 at 10:40 am

        “I understand ditching sad songs, but this is insensitive. She should’ve honored him here somewhere, somehow (an “If You Came Back From Heaven” moment should’ve been on this disc, not saved for 1994’s War Paint).”

        “…and not honoring their life together with a track on this album.”

        Actually she did pay tribute to Keith in a way: “A Picture of Me (Without You)”. While working on this album one of the songwriters told Lorrie that he thinks of her and Keith when he hears this song, and that hit Lorrie and she said “Where is that song? I’ve got to have that song.”—and so she recorded it. This is from a little article that was in a country music magazine in the ’90s. I don’t have the article with me, but do have it at home.

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