My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: John Conlee – ‘Rose Colored Glasses’

The title track was a surprise hit for John Conlee, and a career-defining hit. Swathed in strings, but allowing his powerful voice to cut through, the insightful lyrics are about a man who is almost fooling himself about a woman who is obviously over their relationship. It was written by Conlee with George Baber. The single peaked at #5 on Billboard, but its influence outweighed that by far.

The album elicited two even more successful hits, now that John Conlee was a known quantity. ‘Lady Lay Down’, written by Rafe VanHoy and Don Cook, is an emotional ballad in which the protagonist begs the woman who is threatening to leave to sleep with him again, to make up for all his past neglect. This and the final single made it all the way to #1.

The last single, ‘Backside Of Thirty’, is another self-penned tune about a successful man whose life ‘all comes undone’ when his wife leaves him and feels he no long has anything to look forward to:

Makin’ money at thirty with a wife and a son
Then a short five years later it all comes undone
She’s gone back to mama with the boy by her side
Now I’m wine-drunk and running with them on my mind

I’m on the backside of thirty and back on my own
An empty apartment don’t feel like a home
On the backside of thirty,
The short side of time
Back on the bottom with no will to climb

It’s dawn Monday morning and I just called in sick
I skipped work last Friday to drink this much red
And when my friends ask me, Lord, I’ll tell them I’m fine
But my eyes tell a story that my lies can’t hide

Conlee wrote another couple of songs on the album, but they fall into the filler category. ‘I’ll Be Easy’ is addressed to a woman who wants to take things more slowly than he does. ‘Hold On’
‘Something Special’ is a nice mid-paced love song written by Dave Loggins. ‘Let Your Love Fall Back On Me’ is a very good song addressed to an ex who has found new love:

I hear you’ve put your happiness
In the hands of someone new
That’s alright I guess
I want the best for you

If all I hear is true
There’ll soon be wedding bells
I guess you’ve set the date
I guess I wish you well

If you find the road you’re on
Hard to travel any way at all
If you should stumble and fall
Let your love fall back on me

Max D Barnes and Rayburn Anthony wrote ‘She Loves My Troubles Away’, a cheerily positive love song about making it through the hard times:

Lost my job down at the docks
My old Chevy’s up on blocks
I got holes in both my socks
But she loves me
Her ol’ washing machine still squeaks
Our hot water heater leaks
I ain’t worked in 14 weeks
But she loves me

And she loves my troubles away
Every night she makes my day
Troubles get me down
But they never stay
Cause she loves my troubles away

I can’t give her fancy things
Pretty clothes or diamond rings
Nor the pleasure money brings
But she loves me
Late at night she takes my hand
Says “you know I understand
You just do the best you can”
Then she loves me

The legendary “Doodle” Owen contributed two songs. ‘Just Let It Slide’ urges reconciliation and tolerance within a relationship:

I don’t even know what started the fight we just had
One minute we’re happy
Next minute we’re both fighting mad
And what does it get us
Outside of this hurting inside?
Cause we’re not forgiving,
We’re never willing
To listen and just let it slide.

Wild accusations lead us to a quarrel every time.
And then comes that game of
Who’s right and who’s wrong in our minds.
When the trigger of temper is pulled by the finger of pride.
Baby lets be forgiving and try to be willing
To listen and just let it slide

Just think of the time we’ve already wasted on hate
And count out the hours when love had to stand back and wait
Then the next time our anger puts us on opposite sides
Baby let’s be forgiving and try to be willing
To listen and just let it slide

‘Some Old California Memory’ is an excellent song written by Owens with Warren Robb, which had been a minor hit (#28) for Henson Cargill in 1973. It sees a loved one leaving by plane.

The production, courtesy of Bud Logan, bears all the hallmarks of its era, with a string section adding sophistication, but it is just subtle enough laid over a country basis to allow Conlee’s voice and the strong material to shine. It is available digitally.

Grade: A-

One response to “Album Review: John Conlee – ‘Rose Colored Glasses’

  1. Ken March 4, 2019 at 12:18 pm

    John Conlee was a breath of fresh air for fans of true country music in the late 1970’s. The format was drifting further away from it’s roots and pop sounding songs & arrangements were beginning to dominate the country charts. Although many of the songs on Conlee’s debut album were heavily orchestrated the lyrics had country themes and John’s voice could never be mistaken for a pop singer.

    To put it in perspective – when the “Rose Colored Glasses” single entered the country top ten during the first week of August 1978 the other songs that John was competing with included Eddie Rabbitt “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” Crystal Gayle “Talking In Your Sleep,” Anne Murray “You Needed Me” Susie Allanson “We Belong Together,” and Charley Pride “When I Stop Leaving (I’ll Be Gone)” A lot of pop leaning fare for sure.

    For the record John’s road to the top ten was paved with three singles that failed to catch fire at country radio.

    His first single “Backside Of Thirty” was largely ignored upon it’s release in late 1976 although it did make a brief five week showing on the Cashbox country chart [peak pos. #83] Re-released in 1979 it went to #1 as the follow-up to “Lady Lay Down.” The B side “Hold On” was included on this album.

    His second single release “Let Your Love Fall Back On Me” was also overlooked at the time but it too was resurrected for this album. I concur with Hope’s positive assessment of that song and believe that had it been re-issued as a single after “Rose Colored Glasses” it could also have been successful. “Hold On” was again issued as the flip side. John was co-writer of that song so perhaps that was a factor in selecting it again as a B side.

    “The ‘In’ Crowd” was the last and the weakest of his first three singles in my opinion. It was later included on John’s second album “Forever. ” The flip side “You Made A Believer Out Of Me” to date has not appeared on an album.

    “Rose Colored Glasses” was mostly composed by John who wrote the first two verses and the chorus. George Baber his friend and co-worker at WLAC radio in Nashville added the final verse. Baber worked as Conlee’s road manager until 1984. On June 8 he was struck and killed by a drunk driver while helping direct John’s tour bus driver out of the parking lot of a California venue following a concert.

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