My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Charley Pride – ‘Make Mine Country’

Make Mine Country, Charley Pride’s fourth album, was released via RCA Victor in 1968. The album didn’t produce any singles but featured covers of many notable songs that have become classics. It was produced by Chet Atkins along with Jack Clement, Bob Ferguson, and Felton Jarvis.

The album opens with Jack Clement’s “Now I Can Live Again,” a minor hit for Mickey Gilley the previous year. The uptempo track, about a newly-single man finally putting the sorrow behind him, is brimming with sunshine.

“A Word or Two to Mary,” written by Vince Bulla and Peter Cotton, is a ballad between friends in which a man asks his buddy to compose a letter to the woman he’s leaving behind in death. The track, typical of the era, is beyond creepy and has an inappropriate sing-song melody that clashes with the subject matter.

“If You Should Come Back Today” was also recorded by Johnny Paycheck although I couldn’t find the year he released his version. The honky-tonk uptempo number returns the album to the sunny disposition of the opening track, with a lyric (written by Johnny Mathis and Harlan Howard) about a guy who would forgive his ex if she came back into his life.

Clement also solely wrote “Guess Things Happen That Way,” which Johnny Cash took to #1 the year previous. Pride’s version is slicker sounding than Cash’s, which is the sole difference between the recordings.

The album’s fifth song is “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” which appears here seven years before Freddy Fender had an international hit with it. Pride’s version is terrible by comparison, a by-the-numbers take that lacks the nuance Fender was able to find within the lyric.

Make Mine Country continues with Clement’s arrangement of “Banks of the Ohio.” The track, drenched in mandolin, feels rushed and like the song before it, lacks any care to bring the emotional qualities out in the lyric.

“Wings of a Dove” was already eight years old when Pride released his version. It’s a solid take, although the arrangement is far too cheesy for my tastes.

“A Girl I Used To Know” was six years old by 1968, a top 5 hit for George Jones that would top the charts as “Just Someone I Used to Know” in a duet recording by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton the following year. Pride’s version is very good, but hardly an essential take on the song.

“Lie To Me,” which only saw this version by Pride, is another sunny uptempo number. This one is about a guy who wants his woman to confess her love to him, even if she doesn’t truly feel it deep inside.

The regretful “Why Didn’t I Think of That” appears next, with Pride taking on the role of voyeur, watching the way his ex’s new love shows his affection towards her. The track is merely good.

Eight years after Buck Owens took it to #3, Pride unleashes his rendition of “Above and Beyond (The Call of Love).” He handles the song beautifully, allowing it to stand out among the twelve tracks on the album. “Baby Is Gone,” a mid-tempo ballad, closes out the record.

Make Mine Country is a very strong album, with solid takes on some of the hits from the day. Given that it didn’t have any singles, I can only guess it was an obligatory record aimed at fulfilling some clause of his recording contract. I found the album to be bogged down by a few second-rate relationship songs that could’ve been swapped out for a bit more meaty material.

Grade: B

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3 responses to “Album Review: Charley Pride – ‘Make Mine Country’

  1. Paul W Dennis July 12, 2017 at 7:01 am

    I liked this album a little more than you did, although it is not his strongest effort. This album has the second version I heard of the song “Before The Next Teardrop Falls”, and not having heard Fender’s overwrought version at the time, I liked the song. A month before this album was released, Jack Greene recorded the song on his YOU ARE MY TREASURE album, which I still think is the best version of the song. Although I know now that Greene did not release the song as a single, WCMS gave his version numerous enough spins that I thought it was a single

    Although no singles were released from the album, WCMS and WTID gave some spins to “Now I Can Live Again” and “Lie To Me”

    B+

  2. Tyler Pappas July 12, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Maybe It’s just me, but I never liked any version of “Before the Next Tear Drop Falls” . I just think it’s a boring song.

  3. Ken July 13, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Charley’s fourth album was released while “The Day The World Stood Still,” the second top ten single from his third album was descending the charts. That timing would have allowed for a single release from the new “Make Mine Country” album. But instead RCA chose “The Easy Part’s Over,” a song slated for Charley’s subsequent album scheduled for a late summer 1968 release. Unlike many country artists of that period that scored chart hits but sold few records Charley’s albums did remarkably well. I don’t believe that a contractual issue forced the release of this LP. Rather given his track record RCA was willing to release an album without a corresponding single release. Capitol had made a similar move with Buck Owens two years earlier. “Roll Out The Red Carpet For Buck Owens And His Buckaroos” contained no singles. Released during one of Buck’s most prolific periods it topped the country album chart for eight weeks in 1966. “Make Mine Country” was not quite as successful but did remarkably well climbing to #4 and remaining on the best selling country album chart for 30 weeks!

    I enjoyed this one as much as Charley’s first three releases. Stand out track for me was “If You Should Come Back Today” featuring Lloyd Green’s hot steel guitar. Johnny Paycheck released the song in 1966 as the B side of his Motel Time Again single and it was included on his Little Darlin’ “Greatest Hits” album in late 1968. Charley’s first four hits were ballads so this up-tempo tune would have been a great choice for a single.

    Loved Charley’s take on “Lie To Me.” Johnny Carver recorded it around the time that Charley did and also released it as an LP track. Warren Smith’s version for Mercury was released on the B side of a 1968 mid-year single. The song was co-written by Harold Dorman who had met Charley many years earlier. They both grew up in Sledge, Mississippi but neither man knew that the other aspired to a musical career. Dorman wrote the song “Mountain Of Love” that became a minor pop hit for himself in 1960 and a top five hit for Johnny Rivers in 1964. Pride’s country version was a #1 hit in 1982. Prior to that Charley scored a top five hit in 1974 with Dorman’s “Mississippi Cotton Pickin’ Delta Town.”

    Also enjoyed Charley’s vibrant version of “Wings Of A Dove.” The new arrangement with backup singers was a fresh take on Ferlin Husky’s classic. That track was co-produced by Bob Ferguson who wrote it. Technically that song received two single releases. It was issued as the B side of Charley’s 1969 Christmas release “They Stood In Silent Prayer” then in 1971 received an RCA Gold Standard 45 release with “(I’m So) Afraid Of Losing You Again.” I recall that song getting some radio spins as a featured album track during the summer of ’68.

    I’m with Jonathan on “Above And Beyond.” Appreciate it when an artist does a remake and brings something different to the party. Charley didn’t try to emulate Buck but added a new dimension with the stop & go arrangement.

    “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” was ultimately recorded by more than two dozen artists. To be honest when Freddy Fender’s recording came out it reminded me of how good Charley’s record was by comparison. Got to admit that few of Freddy’s recordings ever got many spins at my house.

    Mickey Gilley’s single “Now I Can Live Again” was issued in September 1968 several months after Pride’s album was released so it’s possible that Gilley had already heard Charley’s version when he recorded it. Compare the two recordings and it appears Gilley’s version borrowed heavily from Pride’s excellent arrangement including the intro.

    “Guess Things Happen That Way” was a #1 hit for Johnny Cash on the Sun label in the summer of 1958. Cash did an updated version for his 1966 “Happiness Is You” Columbia album. Pride was likely encouraged to record it by his producer Jack Clement who wrote it. This was an unreleased track from the May 1966 sessions for Charley’s debut album. Fun version.

    Faron Young wrote the liner notes for this LP giving Charley his full endorsement to add to Pride’s country cred. A photo showed Charley accepting a 1967 Music City News award from Faron under a quote “A Great Entertainer And A Credit To Country Music” – Faron Young

    This was Charley’s last RCA Victor album to be issued in separate mono and stereo versions.

    Put me down for an A grade on this album.

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