My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Highway 101 – ‘Bing Bang Boom’

bing bang boomAlthough one tends to think of Paulette Carlson as the female voice of Highway 101, the fact is that Nikki Nelson has been the face of Highway 101 for far longer than Paulette Carlson. In fact Nelson has been with the group for as a long as Paulette Carlson and Chrislyn Lee combined.

Bing Bang Boom marked the debut of Nikki Nelson as the lead singer of Highway 101. While her predecessor had a more distinctive (and at times quite annoying) voice, I think Nikki’s voice is better and that she had more potential to make it as a solo act than did Carlson. Unfortunately the material on this album is not quite as strong as on the first three albums so this album did not have the impact of the first three albums

The first single for Nikki Nelson was Hugh Prestwood’s “Bing Bang Boom” an up-tempo romp that charted at #14, exactly the same spot that Carlson’s last single had attained. I think that under different circumstances that this single would have done better, but I think that the market had already turned away from Highway 101’s sound as the last two Carlson singles both failed to reach the top ten

Gather around me and lend an ear
‘Cause I got somethin’ you ought to hear
I’m tellin’ you that you ought to fear
A certain kind of love
Now it can strike in the day or night
And just as quick as a rattler’s bite
You’ve got a case of love at first sight
And it’s what you’re dyin’ of

It’s just bing bang boom, one two three
You’re feelin’ normal as you can be
And then bing bang boom, lickety split
It doesn’t come on bit by bit
It gets instantly in full swing
And it’s bing bang boom

Unfortunately, “Bing Bang Boom” would prove to be the last to twenty single for Highway 101.

The next track comes from the pen of Michael Henderson, “Wherever You Are”, a bluesy ballad of a love gone astray. Nikki really nails the vocals – the song might have made a good single. Then again, the third track, “The Blame” (from Cactus Moser, Paul Nelson, and Gene Nelson) was the second single selected, it was an excellent ballad and it died at #31. This is actually my favorite Highway 101 song, one on which Nikki proves to be the absolute master of the slow ballad

Guess I could say you never held me close,
Those certain nights I needed you the most.
But you could say that I gave up before the love was gone,
and whose to say who was right or wrong.
You’ve got your side and I’ve got mine –
the truth lies in between,
No matter how the story’s told the end is still the same.
It’s a game that’s played by fools,
and it only has one rule.
It’s not whether you win or lose,
It’s how you lay the blame.

The next track is from the pens of Cactus Moser, Gary Chapman and Michael James, anther up-tempo romp titled “Storm of Live”. I think this would have made a good single.

This is followed up by a cover of a Tammy Wynette classic, “Til I Get It Right”. Nikki gives the song a nice reading, but she doesn’t have the essential tear in the voice that unique to Tammy Wynette.

Michael Henderson wrote the next two numbers “Restless Kind” and “Honky Tonk Baby”, both decent album tracks but nothing more. “Honky Tonk Baby” has a bit of a retro or rockabilly feel to it and was actually issued as the fourth single, dying at #54.

“River of Tears” , written by Cactus Moser and Eric Silver, would have been a hit if released during the late 1960s or early 1970s. In my mind, I can hear Rhonda Vincent doing this song as a bluegrass ballad.

“Baby, I’m Missing You” was the third single off the album, reaching #22. The song was written by Steve Seskin and Nancy Montgomery. It is a nice song that would have gone top ten a few years earlier.

The album closes with “Desperate” (co-written by Cactus Moser), and Joy White’s “Big City Bound”, both good album tracks. “Big City Bound” has an arrangement that reminds me strongly of John Anderson’s 1981 hit “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal”.

I would rate this album as a B+. I don’t really think the band lost anything with the change of female vocalist. If anything, Nikki Nelson’s presence probably enabled the band to tackle a greater variety of material in live performance. I think the real issue here is shelf life. Highway 101 had a four year shelf life as hitmakers, and had already experienced significant falloff even before Carlson left the band, with each album charting a little lower than the previous album (#7, #8, #22 and then #29 for the Greatest Hits album. This pattern is eerily similar to the pattern for acts such as SKO/SKB, Desert Rose, Exile and Restless Heart.

Highway 101 still tours occasionally – look for them if they hit your town.

12 responses to “Album Review: Highway 101 – ‘Bing Bang Boom’

  1. Razor X December 14, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    I wasn’t expecting much after Paulette Carlson left the group, but I was pleasantly surprised by this album, which I think was a very solid effort. Loved the title track and “The Blame” and also enjoyed “‘Til I Get It Right” — which, as you pointed out, is not as good as Tammy’s original, but who expected it to be? It’s too bad that they didn’t enjoy more success with Nikki Nelson as lead singer.

  2. luckyoldsun December 15, 2015 at 12:59 am

    “The Restless Kind” is actually a really good song–It was featured on Henderson’s own fabulous “Country Music Made Me Do It” album from the 1994 and was covered by Travis Tritt as the title track to a CD two years later–though I don’t know if it was ever a single.
    BTW, the writer has always been “Mike” Henderson–not Michael–as a solo act and as part of the Steel Drivers. “Michael Henderson” is an R&B artist/bass player who has worked with Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis. They’re as different as Alan Jackson and Michael Jackson. Well, come to think of it, maybe not quite!

  3. Stan Zorin December 15, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Quote “While her predecessor had a more distinctive (and at times quite annoying) voice..”

    ?? …What about squeeky tonality of Dolly Parton’s voice, or Tanya Tucker’s goaty vibrato ? Carrie Underwood sounds as if she has a fish bone stuck in her throat when she sings. Kimberly Schlapman of the ‘Little Big Town’ is entrusted to sing solo occasionally, even though her voice has quality and power of a little mouse’s voice. I could go on. There are very few singers with first rate pipes.

  4. Paul W Dennis December 15, 2015 at 7:04 am

    The songwriting credits on the CD read “Michael Henderson”, I have Mikes COUNTRY MUSIC MADE ME DO IT – it’s a good album but didn’t get a lot of love from radio

    I’m not a big Dolly Parton or Kimberly Schlapman fan

    Country music has many females with first rate pipes

    • luckyoldsun December 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm

      Ok. I don’t have the Highway 101 CD and did not see that.
      The “Bing Bang” CD came out in 1991. Henderson’s own debut disc came out in ’94. I think it’s a good bet that when Henderson got his individual-artist deal, they decided he should be “Mike” specifically because there was already an artist named “Michael Henderson.”

  5. Occasional Hope December 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I love The Blame, but the title track never quite grabbed me – maybe because the title makes it sound lighthearted and silly.

    • Razor X December 15, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      It is a lighthearted song but well written and catchy. I suppose it was easier to be forgiving of that type of song back in 1991 because we weren’t force-fed a constant diet of fluff. I hadn’t listened to it in a very long time and thought when I listened to it again recently that it would not be quite as good as I’d remembered. But I still quite like it.

      • luckyoldsun December 15, 2015 at 7:41 pm

        There were a couple of songs of that ilk then. Another one that came out around then was called “Boom, It Was Over,” by Robert Ellis Orral. Personally, I thought both the “Bing” and “Boom” songs were pretty bad–(but I have to admit, I still remember them).
        They’re nowhere near as good as Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang–My Baby Shot Me Down” from the prior generation–which, I believe was written by Sonny Bono.

        • Ken December 17, 2015 at 7:45 am

          “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” was Cher’s first solo pop hit [#2 in 1966]
          Your first clue should have been that it was written by Sonny Bono.
          Nancy Sinatra recorded the song for her second album but it was never a hit for her. Her version was used for the “Kill Bill” movie.

        • luckyoldsun December 17, 2015 at 4:00 pm

          OK. I could have Googled it, but it’s more fun to comment from what I know–or think I know–and let if fall where it may.

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