My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: England Dan and John Ford Coley

Album Review – Dan Seals – ‘In A Quiet Room’

I’ve never been a fan of artists re-recording their material, whither in a live setting, acoustically, or for a new label in cases where the singer’s previous label holds the rights to the hit recordings. Usually nothing new is brought to the songs, and it ends up feeling pointless.

Released in 1995, Dan Seals’ In A Quiet Room functions much the same way. His only recording for Intersound, an independent label, the album collects ten of Seals’ biggest hits, re-recorded in an acoustic setting.

Two singles were released from the project, although neither charted. “I’d Really Love To See You Tonight,” a cover of his 1976 pop hit (as part of England Dan and John Ford Coley) came first. While listenable, the track offers nothing new either vocally or stylistically to improve upon the original. “The Healing Kind,” meanwhile, is excellent and draws on a lush mandolin-centric production and beautiful harmony vocals from Alison Krauss

Too bad it’s the only shinning moment on the project. The songs featured on In A Quiet Room are Seals’ biggest hits and therefore so well known its hard not to remember the originals when listening to these acoustic renderings. More often than not, they just don’t sound as full and as a result lack the magic that made them great in the first place.

Songs like “Bop” just plain don’t work in this coffeehouse like setting, as without the drums and horns, the song comes off like Seals is playing sound check before a concert. The same is true for his masterpiece, “Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” which sounds pleasant enough, but without the drums and steel guitar, it sounds too naked. Same goes for “Big Wheels In The Moonlight.”

The ballads are nice to listen to, but all sound the same thanks to similar production treatments that keep them difficult to distinguish between. The only notable exception is “One Friend,” which is extended in length from the original recording. But even though the original clocked in under two minutes, it’s still much warmer sonically.

Overall, In A Quiet Room is a miss because these versions very rarely improve upon the originals in any way, and therefore make the overall album feel pointless. I would much have preferred Seals rework the songs in some notable way, like Mary Chapin Carpenter did with “Quittin’ Time” on her Party Doll album.

Problem is, these songs were perfect originally, so there was no need to mess with them in the first place.

Grade: C+

Album Review: Dan Seals – ‘Rebel Heart’

Rebel Heart was not Dan Seals’ first solo album but it was his first to enjoy any level of commercial success. His two prior solo albums for Atlantic Records had produced five non-charting singles (actually two of them did reach the lower rungs of the pop charts), but the tide began to change when he made the move to Liberty Records in 1983. Like its two predecessors, Rebel Heart was produced by Kyle Lehning. Dan wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s ten songs, including the first single “Everybody’s Dream Girl”, which became his first Top 20 country hit, peaking at #18.

For the most part, the songs on Rebel Heart are not that different from the music Seals had released as a pop artist; it would not be inaccurate to describe much of it as adult contemporary or soft rock with a dose of steel guitar, which is typical of the era. In fact, the production is quite restrained by 1983 standards, though with its synthesizers, drum machines and reverb it often sounds dated to modern ears. That is not to say, though, that it is not enjoyable. “After You” reminds me a lot of the music that Vince Gill was making at the time. The Paul Battle/Bucky Jones/Chris Waters tune was released as the album’s second single. It peaked at a disappointing #28, and the next single “You Really Go For The Heart” performed even worse, stalling at #37.

Just when it appeared that the project would be another commercial disappointment, Liberty released a fourth single — an unusual move in those days, particularly since none of the three previous releases had made a big impact at radio. But that all changed with the self-penned “God Must Be a Cowboy”, which jump-started Dan’s country career and landed him inside the Top 10 on Billboard’s country singles chart for the first time. A simple ode to the cowboy’s way of life, it is one of the few songs on the album with no pop overtones. It’s the best song on the album, and in fact, one of the best of Seals’ career. It was the breakthrough hit he had been waiting for; it was the first in a series of Top 10 singles that continued until 1990.

“On A Night Like This” is my second favorite song in the collection that seems like it would have been a better choice for a single release than some of the cuts that were actually sent to radio. “The Banker” is a very good but non-commercial ballad about a down-on-his-luck farmer whose property is about to enter foreclosure when he suddenly strikes oil. Dan wrote both of these songs as well as two rather bland numbers — “Up On A Hill” and “Candle In The Rain” — that sound like they might have been been written back during his England Dan and John Ford Coley days. “Down the Hall” is a decent pop-country number written by Dan’s cousin Troy Seals with Mike Reid. The song also appeared on The Oak Ridge Boys’ American Made album, which was also released in 1983.

Rebel Heart is a pleasant, though not essential, listen. It is currently only available as digital download , unless you’re willing to shell out nearly $200 for an imported CD copy. However, it is scheduled to be re-released in October on a 2-for-1 CD along with Dan’s 1988 album Rage On, and this appears to be the most economical way to purchase it.

Grade: B

Spotlight Artist: Dan Seals

Danny Wayland Seals was born in Texas in 1948 as a member of a very musical family. His father was not a professional musician, but had performed with Bob Wills and Ernest Tubb. Elder brother Jim was a member of successful soft rock duo Seals & Crofts, who were big stars in the 1970s. Cousins included country star Johnny Duncan and songwriter Troy Seals, and a generation later, another cousin, Brady Seals was to become lead singer of the successful group Little Texas. Young Dan grew up exposed to both the country music his father loved, but as a teenager was influenced strongly by the music of the Beatles, which led to the nickname (and later stage name) ‘England Dan’.

The young Dan followed in his brother’s footsteps by teaming up with a high school classmate to form the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. They released a number of albums together, with their greatest success coming with the single ‘I’d Really Love To see You Tonight’, a mellow ballad which topped the Adult Contemporary chart and reached #2 pop. Reba McEntire covered the song in 1978, as a B-side to one of her early singles, an early indicator of Dan’s potential as a country artist (although he did not write the song).

Going solo in 1980 was not an immediate success, and Dan lost his home and most of the money he had made as a pop star in a battle with the IRS over unpaid back taxes. It was then that he moved sideways into country music, signing to Capitol Records in 1983, and working with producer Kyle Lehning. His style retained many elements of his pop past, with an emphasis on gentle ballads, but either his own inclinations or Lehning’s meant that his music was generally less heavily produced than his pop-country contemporaries, and he maintained his success well into the period when the neotraditional movement was sweeping away the worst excesses of the 80s. Dan released some excellent singles through the 1980s, and was rewarded with a run of 16 successive top 10 country hits, including a particularly hot streak with nine straight #1s.

His career slowed down markedly in the 1990s. A move to Warner Brothers failed to reignite it, but he reinvented himself artistically by recording acoustic takes on some of his big hits, and continued to work touring. He died prematurely of cancer on March 25, 2009. In his last years he had been making music with his brother Jim, but a planned album was never completed.

We plan to cover the highlights of the career of a man whose crossover from pop to country respected the genre, and who created some timeless music.

The 10 best reissues of 2011

I probably spent more money on reissues of old music this year than I did on new music, although I purchased lots of new music. Here is my list of the best reissues of 2011 – just one man’s opinion, listed in no particular order.  No fellow travelers such as Americana, just real country music (at least in my top ten).

 

JESSI COLTER – I’M JESSI COLTER / DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH

The Australian label Raven, has issued a number of American country music albums, usually in the form of two-fers. Here Raven presents two albums from the talented Jessi Colter, mother of modern day artist Shooter Jennings and widow of legendary performer Waylon Jennings. While Jessi wasn’t the most prolific recording artist and is actually well served by several of the anthologies available, it is nice to have two of her Capitol albums available, as she originally conceived them.

Her first album for Capitol Records, I’M JESSI COLTER (1975), spawned the #1 Country / #5 Pop hit “I’m Not Lisa” and the follow-up hit “What’s Happened To Blue Eyes”. The album was produced by Waylon Jennings, and features many of the musicians who played on his albums (Reggie Young, Weldon Myrick, Ritchie Albright, Jim Gordon ) but no one would ever mistake the arrangements as anything that would ever appear on a Waylon album, as he deftly tailors the production to fit his bride’s  individual talents. An early take on “Storms Never Last” minus Waylon, is my favorite track on the album. DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH (1976) wasn’t quite as successful reaching #4 on the Country chart and yielding the hits “I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name” (No.29 Country) and “You Hung the Moon (Didn’t You Waylon?)”. The title track “Diamond in the Rough” gives Jessi a chance to stretch and show her blues sensibilities.

This set includes a nice and informative booklet and three bonus tracks from a later Capitol album. If you have no Jessi Colter in your collection, this is a good starting point. Read more of this post

In memory of Dan Seals

dansealsCountry and pop star Dan Seals passed away last night, March 25, due to complications from cancer.  As one half of the pop duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, he charted five top 10 pop hits, including three #1’s.  In 1983, he started charting country singles.  Dan Seals went on to become one of the most successful country radio artists of the 1980s – with nine consecutive #1’s between 1985 and 1988.  A great artist who recorded some pop-country and some very traditional country records too, Dan Seals has been largely forgotten lately.  I am guilty of overlooking some of the great songs he left us.  So here’s my tribute to Dan Seals.  Three of my favorite Dan Seals songs.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Mr. Dan Seals.

I’m going to stop at three, but I also recommend ‘Three Time Loser’‘ and ‘Big Wheels In The Moonlight.

Visit the official Dan Seals site for a message from his family.

And you can go to the Dan Seals Last FM Page to listen to full tracks of all his biggest hits.