Released in June 1986, Black and White saw a strong directional shift in Janie’s music toward a more nuanced and adult approach to music. There is more blues influence evident than in her earlier recorded efforts. This was Janie’s eleventh album (her last name was spelled ‘Frickie’ on the album cover). Norro Wilson produced the album.
Although I regard this album as Janie’s masterpiece, some of the songs are marred by 1980s production. Also this album marked the end of her as a chart force. “Always Have, Always Will”went to #1, but the second single “When A Woman Cries” only reached #20, and no future Janie Fricke single would ever again reach the top twenty. Some would argue that the New Traditionalist movement shoved Janie aside, but I suspect that her age had as much to do with it as newer, younger faces arrived.
Side one of the original vinyl album opens up with “Till I Can’t Take It Anymore”. Written by Clyde Otis and Ulysses Burton, the song has a long history, having been a pop hit for Ben E. King in 1968, with numerous covers including Billy Joe Royal’s #2 country hit in 1990. Janie does a nice job with the song.
Let’s not fight it anymore
Unpack your bags and close the door
Girl, I’ll never leave you
Though you lied right from the start
I can’t convince my foolish heart
Not to believe you
You’ve got two good men strung out
And there’s not the slightest doubt
That other men have loved you before
But you drew your face away
I dream of Heaven and I live in Hell
Till I can’t take it anymore
“He’s Breathing Down My Neck” is a mid-tempo ballad with a very jazzy feel to it. I think this is the weakest song on the album and it’s not at all bad.
Kent Robbins wrote “Take Me Like A Vacation”, an interesting song taken at mid-tempo. The song was later covered by Lynn Anderson. “Nothing Left To Say” is a slow ballad about the end of a relationship. The song is really well sung by Janie, a very nice album track. “Coming Apart At The Seams” is the story of a breakup that the narrator wants no part of, and cannot accept.
Thus ends side one of the original vinyl album. Other than the first track, none of the songs themselves are anything special but the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Side two opens with the best song Janie Fricke ever recorded, the bluesy “Always Have, Always Will”. The song reached #1. There is some lovely steel guitar on the track by former Buckaroo Tom Brumley.
It seems funny I remember your number
After all this time
And I know that it’s late
And I hope that I’m not out o’ line
But for some crazy reason
I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout you all day
And every three hours now
I’ve been thinkin’ of somethin’ to say
Ilove you like a fool
Always have, always will
But you know that it’s just my point of view
But I love you still
Always have, always will
Always have, always will love you
“Don’t Put It Past My Heart” is a mid-tempo song about a woman’s warning to her lover telling him to not take her for granted. This would have made a good single.
“When A Woman Cries” was released as a single, topping out at #20. Written by Buck Moore and Mentor Williams, I would have expected the song to be a bigger hit.
The album closes out with a pair of slow ballads. “He’s Making A Long Story Short” and “I’d Take You Back Again”, one of the few songs penned by Ms. Fricke.
The key to this album is that the songs are all situated in such a way as to let Janie show off her vocal prowess without overstraining her voice. Fricke is in good voice throughout, and while parts of the production sound a bit dated, at no point are the arrangements cluttered and obtrusive. Unlike her prior albums, which were simply collections of songs, this album sets a mood and does it well.