My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘Crystal Gayle’

crystalgaylecrystalgayleCrystal Gayle released her eponymous debut album in February 1975. The legendary Allen Reynolds produced the record, which was her first for United Artists. It peaked at #25.

The first single was “Wrong Road Again,” written by Reynolds. The short ballad is lyrically generic, but found significance sonically. The heavy orchestration was a sharp diversion from sounds typically associated with country music at the time. The gamble, which became a genre norm going forward, paid off – the song rose to #6.

She wouldn’t receive as a warm a reception with the album’s other two singles. “Beyond You,” which she co-wrote with Bill Gatzimos, is a gorgeous piano ballad that petered out at #27. The far more appealing, and a lot more country, “This Is My Year for Mexico” peaked at #21.

Reynolds also contributed “Loving You So Long Now,” an excellent guitar-driven mid-tempo number reminiscent of his work with Waylon Jennings. Gayle also shines on Paul Craft’s “Counterfeit Love (You Know I Got It),” a gentle uptempo number. Canadian Country Singer Ray Griff, who passed away earlier this year, wrote the jaunty and steel drenched “Gonna Lay Me Down Beside My Memories.” Singer/songwriter Marshall Chapman is behind the fantastic “A Woman’s Heart (Is A Handy Place To Be).”

I also love the ear-catching “Hands,” which may have a slightly cutesy lyric, boasts the strongest production work on the entire album. Crystal Gayle also features the first rendition of “When I Dream,” which Gayle would rerecord as the title track to her 1978 album. Issued as a single it would peak at #3. I much prefer the version found here, which finds the song in a more organic setting, with a nice cadence. Lush ballad “You,” written by Dolly Parton was the only song on the album not quite to my tastes.

As we know from Occasional Hope’s excellent review of I’ve Cried The Blue Right Out of My Eyes, these aren’t Gayle’s first recordings. Paul also pointed out United Artists issued three low-charting singles prior to the release of “Wrong Road Again,” her fourth single for the label. But these are the songs that saw Gayle as the artist she would become, her own woman, outside of her sister’s shadow. Reynolds has crafted an excellent showcase for her while simultaneously contributing to a changing landscape in country music (I always refer to as ‘slick country,’ although a more fitting moniker may exist) that wouldn’t be properly rectified for another decade. But it’s still a fabulous album, that nicely fits into the greater legacy of the genre.

Grade: A

3 responses to “Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘Crystal Gayle’

  1. Alan Jobe January 6, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Love this album, but you all will get tired of me saying this as these reviews go on. Crystal was definitely listening to Loretta in trying to find her own way. But it’s still nice to hear her when she still sounded more country than she would in later years.

    Wrong Road Again is one of my all-time favorite Crystal singles, so it’s definitely my favorite on this album. I also love Loving You So Long Now (Reynolds really was a great song-writer), This Is My Year For Mexico, Gonna Lay Me Down, Hands, and When I Dream.

    Unlike Jonathan, I actually really liked You as well. And this was the first time for me to actually notice a songwriter because I recognized Dolly’s name. I started paying closer attention to writers from this point forward.

    I wish Crystal and her husband Bill Gatzimos had written more songs together. Beyond You isn’t one of my personal favorites because of the production (one of the rare misses for Reynolds), but the lyrics and medley are really nice IMO. I guess with her career beginning to take off, the touring and recording, they just didn’t have time to write that much.

    Great review of a great album.

  2. Ken January 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

    Enjoyed reading your take on this album. For a debut LP this was a very strong effort [NOTE: Her MCA album was merely a compilation of both sides of four singles and two unreleased tracks that was not released until 1978] Even the singles from that U.A. LP that failed to hit were still solid songs and she showed great promise as she was finding her own vocal style and sound.

    However I disagree that the production for “Wrong Road Again” was “a sharp diversion from sounds typically associated with country music at the time.” Not a gamble by any means as much of it mirrored the production Reynolds had already created for Don Williams during the previous three years that had made Don a successful country hit-maker. To be clear the orchestrated “Nashville Sound” had been growing in popularity since Jim Reeves & Patsy Cline’s late 1950’s/early 1960’s recordings. Though some early 70’s artists such as Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, George Jones & Charley Pride continued to mostly use traditional-sounding arrangements other acts like Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Charlie Rich, Glen Campbell, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker and Sonny James had heavily orchestrated releases. For example the week that “Wrong Road Again” peaked at #6 in Billboard [2/15/1975] the #1 hit was the R&B flavored/heavily produced “Devil In The Bottle” by T.G. Sheppard. Don Williams mellow ballad “Ties That Bind” was a notch ahead of Crystal.

    The late 1960’s/early 70’s was very much a transition era for country music when a multitude of different musical sounds & styles were accepted as part of the mosaic of the country radio format. Waylon’s rock-flavored recordings were played alongside Mickey Gilley’s Texas honky-tonk anthems, Ray Price’s lush ballads, Billy “Crash” Craddock’s rockabilly remakes and Lynn Anderson’s pop/country hybrids. Crystal’s voice and sound fit perfectly in that era and as the 70’s wore on her shift toward middle-of-the-road pop music was right in step with the direction that the country format was headed as well as earning her pop hits too. Crystal was in the right place at just the right time.

  3. Paul W Dennis January 6, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I think that “This Is My Year For Mexico” was perhaps already very familiar to country music fans as it appeared on CHARLEY PRIDE’S TENTH ALBUM released in 1970. That album went gold plus and the song received some airplay as well, although Billboard did not track album tracks at the time.

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