My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Janie Fricke – ‘Singer Of Songs’

After nearly a decade as a background singer, and singer of television jingles, Janie Fricke finally emerged with her first ever album, released in May 1978. At the time Janie was six months past her 30th birthday, a rather late start for becoming a solo singer. This is not to say that Janie was an unknown quantity in Nashville, as she had sung background for many of Nashville’s elite such as Dolly Parton, Barbara Mandrell, Crystal Gayle, Ronnie Milsap, Lynn Anderson and Conway Twitty.

Ultimately, it was her work on several of Johnny Duncan’s hits “Jo and the Cowboy,” “Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous,” “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better,” and “Stranger” that brought her talents to the forefront. Whereas she had not been given label credit on the earlier hits, Janie was given equal billing with Duncan on his recording of “Come a Little Bit Closer”.

While Singer of Songs is a bit generic and doesn’t give Janie much chance to show off her vocal prowess, it was a decent initial effort and did produce three decent singles.

The album opens with “I Loved You All The Way”, a bland easy listening ballad with full Nashville Sound treatment. This is followed by “We Could Have Been The Closest Of Friends”, another bland ballad, albeit with a bit more muscular vocal by Fricke.

This is followed by “You Changed My Life in A Moment”, a song I can envision the Carpenters singing – in other words yet another string-laden ballad.

The nights the sky was filled with clouds
My worried mind was filled with fears
I couldn’t count all the lonely hours
Spent with memories and tears

I never thought I would see the day
When I could throw all my sorrow away
But then you came and you showed me the way
You have made all those times disappear

You changed my life in a moment
And I’ll never be the same again
You changed my life in a moment
And it’s hard for me to understand
With a touch of your hand
In a moment of time
All my sorrow is gone

The fourth track “No One’s Ever Gonna Love You”, while not very country, at least has some grit to it and finds Janie giving a forceful R&B vocal that gives a hint as to the power behind her voice.

Track five (aka the last track on the A side of the vinyl release) is “I Believe In You” a nice easy listening ballad that is not the same song as the Don Williams hit.

Track six was the first track on Side Two of the vinyl album, Janie’s cover of Hank Locklin’s huge hit “Please Help Me I’m Falling”. Janie takes the song at a slower tempo than the original but acquits herself well. This is the first song on the album that I would actually describe as Country music, and it is the only track to feature steel guitar. This was the third single from the album and reached #12 – the Canadian country charts had it reach #4.

The first single, “What Are You Doing Tonight” reached #21 and got to #14 on the Canadian country charts. This is a nice pop county song written by Bob McDill.

Maybe I’m saying too much
After all, I just met you
But I’ve got to say just what I feel
I hope it won’t upset you

I think you’re the one I’ve been dreaming of
With a little time we might fall in love

So what’re you doing tonight
What’re you doing tonight
The wind is warm and the stars are bright
What’re you doing tonight

“Week-End Friend” was released by Con Hunley as a single reaching #13. Both Janie and Con gave this song a soulful R&B treatment which effectively showcased the song. This is the only track on the album to feature trumpet and sax.

Friday night don’t come soon enough
When I’ve been waitin’ all week for love
6:05 the train will arrive
He’ll be coming in

I’ve got a week-end friend
I’ve got a week-end friend

He’ll have that special look upon his face
And if it ain’t rainin’ we’ll go to my place
And when we close the door the feeling will pour
All over us again

I’ve got a week-end friend
I’ve got a week-end friend

Track nine is “Baby It’s You” was the second single, reaching #21 (and #19 in Canada). It’s a mid-tempo ballad, again with more of an R&B feel than country. This is not the same song that the Shirells, the Carpenters and Jody Miller took onto the charts.

The album closes with another Bob McDill song, “I Think I’m Falling In Love”. On this track Janie’s vocals give strong evidence as to what her vocals would sound like on future albums.

This is a very tentative album for a singer is struggling to find her voice and her muse. In my opinion tracks 6-10 are much stronger that tracks 1-5 in that the producers took more chances with the arrangements and material and smothered her less with string arrangements. I would give this album a C+ based on the strength of tracks 6-10.

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2 responses to “Album Review: Janie Fricke – ‘Singer Of Songs’

  1. Ken August 3, 2017 at 8:59 am

    To say that Janie’s debut as a single act was a disappointment would be an understatement. After very strong performances alongside Johnny Duncan her first two solo singles were a complete letdown. “What’re You Doing Tonight” and “Baby. It’s You” are showcases for producer Billy Sherrill’s worst excesses. Perhaps influenced by the musical direction that Billy’s former act Barbara Mandrell had taken Sherrill created an album awash in boring, pop-flavored arrangements that were unfortunately beginning to be the norm for all female country acts in that era. Not to mention that most of the songs were pleasant but unmemorable.

    Despite a strong effort by the Columbia promotion team they could not push her first two solo singles higher than #21. The third single saved the album from becoming a complete failure. “Please Help Me I’m Falling” was released the same month as this LP and provided a much better showcase for Janie’s excellent voice. The overall production was more subdued and her soaring harmony vocal overdub created a vibrant new rendition of Hank Locklin’s 1960 hit. Though it peaked nationally at #12 it performed a bit better on many local radio playlists. The record received sustained airplay when it was included in the oldies libraries at many country stations unlike her first two singles that virtually disappeared following their chart runs.

    The failure of this album falls squarely on the shoulders of Billy Sherrill. He had a wonderful voice to work with but squandered it on uninspired arrangements and mostly second rate material. I think that Hope’s C+ grade was far too generous.

    To be clear Janie did get label credit on the “Jo And The Cowboy” single although it was in very small print under producer Larry Gatlin’s name. Though she was not named on the labels for the “Stranger,” “Thinkin’ Of A Rendezvous” or “It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better” singles she did receive a mention on the back of the corresponding album releases alongside the production credits. Janie was not credited on the single or LP for “A Song In The Night.”

  2. Occasional Hope August 3, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Just to note that Paul actually wrote this review.

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