My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘True Love’

crystal_gayle_-_true_love1982 saw more changes for Crystal Gayle’s music as she transitioned to a new label and began working with a new producer. After releasing three albums for Columbia, she signed with Elektra Records, which at the time was trying to bolster its country roster. Her first assignment for her new label found her collaborating with Eddie Rabbitt. “You and I”, which does not appear on this album, was a major crossover smash that reached #1 on the Billboard country chart and #7 on the Hot 100. Shortly thereafter, Crystal made her solo debut on Elektra with the album True Love.

Although the majority of True Love was produced by Crystal’s longtime producer Allen Reynolds, Elektra apparently had some reservations about the album and wanted some changes made. Reynolds refused to cooperate, so label head Jimmy Bowen took over production duties for three additional tracks. Bowen would produce Crystal’s next album, making True Love the last time Gayle and Reynolds would work together for the remainder of the 1980s. They would reunite for 1990’s Ain’t Gonna Worry.

Bowen’s instincts proved to be correct. Among the three tracks he produced was the album’s lead single, an exquisite version of Rodney Crowell’s “Til I Gain Control Again”, on which Crowell provided the harmony vocals. Emmylou Harris had recorded the song in 1975, but Crystal took it to #1. Although it didn’t enjoy any crossover success, it represented a bit of a resurgence for Crystal, since none of the singles from her previous album Hollywood, Tennessee had reached the top spot.

Bowen was further vindicated when “Baby What About You”, another one the three tracks he produced also reached #1. The piano-led mid tempo number is one of my favorite Crystal Gayle songs. It provides a nice change of pace from an album that is otherwise country-rock in its leanings: Bowen’s initial complaints about the album reportedly was that “it rocked too much”. In between “Til I Gain Control Again” and “Baby What About You”, the Allen Reynolds-produced “Our Love Is On The Faultline” also became a #1 hit. The third Bowen-produced track was a remake of “Everything I Own” which had been a hit for the soft-rock group Bread in 1972. Crystal’s faithful-to-the-original reading was released as single in the United Kingdom. It topped out at #93 on the British charts in 1983. The lyrics suggest a lament for a lost love but I recently learned that David Gates composed the song about the death of his father. It’s not a country song, but it’s a very nice MOR number that Crystal sings beautifully.

The UK release of True Love includes an additional track, “Take Me to the Dance”, which I have not heard.

It’s a longstanding tradition in country music to conclude albums with a religious number. This custom is not generally followed in other genres of music, and on a pop/soft-rock leaning album like True Love, a number like “He Is Beautiful To Me” might seem slightly out of place. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful piece of music written by Bobby Wood (“Talking In Your Sleep”, “Half the Way”) and Clive Westlake. Crystal turns in a top-notch vocal performance. The song must be a particular favorite of hers, as it appears on a 2007 compilation of Crystal’s biggest hits (despite never being released as a single). A re-recorded version appears on a 1997 gospel album. A 2008 repackaging of that album is titled He Is Beautiful.

Crystal’s tenure with Elektra was to be an unusually brief one. Midway through the album’s chart run, and before the release of the second single, Elektra closed its Nashville office and its artists were transferred to the Warner Bros. Nashville roster. The singles “Our Love Is On The Faultline” and “Baby What About You” both bore the Warner Bros. imprint, as did all of Crystal’s subsequent work for the remainder of the decade.

Despite producing three #1 hits, I’m not sure how well remembered True Love is. “Til I Gain Control Again” is one of Crystal’s best-remembered hits, but I suspect the rest of the album has largely been forgotten. That is regrettable, because it’s a solid effort and better, I think, than any of her albums for Columbia. It finally saw a CD release in 2008 when it was released on a 2-for-1 disc along with her previous album Hollywood, Tennessee. That disc is currently out of print but can be purchased for premium prices.

Grade: A-

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7 responses to “Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘True Love’

  1. Alan Jobe January 23, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Great review, Razor X. One of my favorite albums by Crystal. Anyone who hasn’t heard this entire album should try to find a copy because it’s a good one. I always find it fascinating that Reynolds and Bowen butted heads (so-to-speak) over this album and yet both would be instrumental in helping Garth Brooks conquer the music world a little less than a decade later.

    I’ve always wanted to hear the three Reynolds-produced songs that were culled from the album. I’m not sure if Take Me To The Dance was one of them but I’ve never heard that song either. Regardless, you can’t argue that Bowen helped make this album successful with the three songs he produced.

    I read where Crystal loved Till I Gain Control Again but didn’t feel it was her. Bowen had to convince her to record it. Smart move, because like you said, it is one of her best-remembered songs. I remember buying the single before I had ever heard it. I just saw the picture sleeve in the store and bought it. I was convinced that the B-side, which was called Easier Said Than Done, had to be the radio single because ‘Gain Control’ sounded nothing like anything she had released previously. But luckily I was wrong and it was a sign of great things to come.

    She picked up Our Love Is On The Faultline while touring in Australia. Someone over there sent her a tape with the song on it. And I don’t know how anyone could resist Baby What About You. It’s one of the best and catchiest songs she’s ever recorded.

    My other favorites are Deeper In The Fire, Easier Said Than Done, and He Is Beautiful To Me. This was the only time that Crystal would score three number one hits from the same album. She came close a few other times, but the combination of Reynolds and Bowen did it for her here.

    I’ve never read too much detail about what went down between Crystal and Reynolds during this time. I know it couldn’t have been easy for her to part ways with him after ten albums. But in the end, I think it was a good choice for both of them. Bowen breathed fresh air into her career while Reynolds went on to successes with Kathy Mattea, Hal Ketchum, and of course Garth Brooks. Luckily, they came back together later on. Crystal has repeatedly thanked and acknowledged him over the years, so at least there was a happy ending.

  2. Jonathan Pappalardo January 23, 2017 at 7:37 pm

    I found ‘Take Me To The Dance’ on YouTube:

    In the comments, the writer of the song, Sharon Ferrara, wrote – ‘I am the writer of this song…the reason it did not appear on a US release is because producers were changed midstream of this album and the new producer took most of the original songs off to put his songs on…I waited so long for this cut but then it was gone….I got word from some friends in the industry that someone who loved the song played it for the foreign buyers, which is a whole other music market…they loved it…we had it translated into french and the album was repressed and my song became the first single off of this album…so thankyou to the European market for having such good taste…it went to # 1 in France, Great Britain, Germany and a few other countries which I forgot…I wrote this tune in 1980…’

    • Alan Jobe January 23, 2017 at 8:17 pm

      Jonathan, thanks so much for posting this. I really appreciate it.

      I can’t say that it’s all that good of a song – definitely not better than the three songs Bowen produced for the album. The production choices leave a lot to be desired.

      it actually sounds like something that would’ve been on an early Disney movie. But it’s always nice to hear something different from Crystal. And at least now we know what it sounds like. Thanks again.

    • Razor X January 23, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      I don’t care for it at all, but thanks for finding and posting it. Interestingly, the CD release of Hollywood, Tennessee/True Love is a UK release and this song does not appear. Not that it’s any great loss.

  3. Paul W Dennis January 24, 2017 at 1:05 am

    Ugh – the reason this song did not appear on the US release is that they found better songs. Crystal sings it well but I could say that about almost every song she recorded

  4. Alan Jobe January 24, 2017 at 8:34 am

    Hearing this, you can see why Bowen wanted to tweak the album. When I think of this song replacing any of the songs Bowen chose, it’s almost laughable. Bowen took what might have been a good – or even mediocre – album and cranked the quality level up tremendously.

    I’m not trying to bash Reynolds – he did a lot of great things in helping Crystal become the superstar she is. But towards the end, he fell into a habit of phoning it in production-wise. He would create great sounds for about four or five songs on her albums and then throw in clunkers like he did with the song above. And unfortunately, those clunkers sometimes reflected so badly that you came away feeling like you had not gotten a quality album. At least not the kind of quality you would expect to get from a Crystal Gayle album.

  5. Pingback: Album Review: Crystal Gayle – ‘Cage The Songbird’ | My Kind of Country

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