My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Gary Chapman

Classic Rewind: LeAnn Rimes & Eddy Arnold — ‘Cattle Call’

Album Review: Highway 101 – ‘Bing Bang Boom’

bing bang boomAlthough one tends to think of Paulette Carlson as the female voice of Highway 101, the fact is that Nikki Nelson has been the face of Highway 101 for far longer than Paulette Carlson. In fact Nelson has been with the group for as a long as Paulette Carlson and Chrislyn Lee combined.

Bing Bang Boom marked the debut of Nikki Nelson as the lead singer of Highway 101. While her predecessor had a more distinctive (and at times quite annoying) voice, I think Nikki’s voice is better and that she had more potential to make it as a solo act than did Carlson. Unfortunately the material on this album is not quite as strong as on the first three albums so this album did not have the impact of the first three albums

The first single for Nikki Nelson was Hugh Prestwood’s “Bing Bang Boom” an up-tempo romp that charted at #14, exactly the same spot that Carlson’s last single had attained. I think that under different circumstances that this single would have done better, but I think that the market had already turned away from Highway 101’s sound as the last two Carlson singles both failed to reach the top ten

Gather around me and lend an ear
‘Cause I got somethin’ you ought to hear
I’m tellin’ you that you ought to fear
A certain kind of love
Now it can strike in the day or night
And just as quick as a rattler’s bite
You’ve got a case of love at first sight
And it’s what you’re dyin’ of

It’s just bing bang boom, one two three
You’re feelin’ normal as you can be
And then bing bang boom, lickety split
It doesn’t come on bit by bit
It gets instantly in full swing
And it’s bing bang boom

Unfortunately, “Bing Bang Boom” would prove to be the last to twenty single for Highway 101.

The next track comes from the pen of Michael Henderson, “Wherever You Are”, a bluesy ballad of a love gone astray. Nikki really nails the vocals – the song might have made a good single. Then again, the third track, “The Blame” (from Cactus Moser, Paul Nelson, and Gene Nelson) was the second single selected, it was an excellent ballad and it died at #31. This is actually my favorite Highway 101 song, one on which Nikki proves to be the absolute master of the slow ballad

Guess I could say you never held me close,
Those certain nights I needed you the most.
But you could say that I gave up before the love was gone,
and whose to say who was right or wrong.
You’ve got your side and I’ve got mine –
the truth lies in between,
No matter how the story’s told the end is still the same.
It’s a game that’s played by fools,
and it only has one rule.
It’s not whether you win or lose,
It’s how you lay the blame.

The next track is from the pens of Cactus Moser, Gary Chapman and Michael James, anther up-tempo romp titled “Storm of Live”. I think this would have made a good single.

This is followed up by a cover of a Tammy Wynette classic, “Til I Get It Right”. Nikki gives the song a nice reading, but she doesn’t have the essential tear in the voice that unique to Tammy Wynette.

Michael Henderson wrote the next two numbers “Restless Kind” and “Honky Tonk Baby”, both decent album tracks but nothing more. “Honky Tonk Baby” has a bit of a retro or rockabilly feel to it and was actually issued as the fourth single, dying at #54.

“River of Tears” , written by Cactus Moser and Eric Silver, would have been a hit if released during the late 1960s or early 1970s. In my mind, I can hear Rhonda Vincent doing this song as a bluegrass ballad.

“Baby, I’m Missing You” was the third single off the album, reaching #22. The song was written by Steve Seskin and Nancy Montgomery. It is a nice song that would have gone top ten a few years earlier.

The album closes with “Desperate” (co-written by Cactus Moser), and Joy White’s “Big City Bound”, both good album tracks. “Big City Bound” has an arrangement that reminds me strongly of John Anderson’s 1981 hit “I’m Just An Old Chunk of Coal”.

I would rate this album as a B+. I don’t really think the band lost anything with the change of female vocalist. If anything, Nikki Nelson’s presence probably enabled the band to tackle a greater variety of material in live performance. I think the real issue here is shelf life. Highway 101 had a four year shelf life as hitmakers, and had already experienced significant falloff even before Carlson left the band, with each album charting a little lower than the previous album (#7, #8, #22 and then #29 for the Greatest Hits album. This pattern is eerily similar to the pattern for acts such as SKO/SKB, Desert Rose, Exile and Restless Heart.

Highway 101 still tours occasionally – look for them if they hit your town.

Album Review: Restless Heart – ‘A Restless Heart Christmas’

restlessheartChristmas albums can tricky to get right. There are certain standards that audiences expect to hear, but it can sometimes be difficult to get all but the most diehard fans to part with their hard-earned cash for the same old songs they already have on dozens of collections by other artists. On the other hand, if the artist gets too adventurous, the results can be very off-putting; SheDAISY’s obnoxious version of “Jingle Bells” comes to mind. For their first Christmas album, which is also their first new studio release in nine years, Restless Heart has chosen a little of each approach. A Restless Heart Christmas contains some old favorites — some with some innovative new arrangements — as well as some lesser-known contemporary numbers, and two brand new songs.

The set opens with one of the new numbers, “Season of Harmony”, which I would have used as a title track, because great harmonies were what made Restless Heart’s music special, and nearly thirty years after they made their chart debut, the harmonies are sounding as good as ever. Lead singer Larry Stewart is in fine vocal form. The song is very much in the same vein as the music the band made in their commercial heyday, yet it does not sound retro. It is followed by “Tennessee Christmas”, which was first introduced to audiences in 1983 by Amy Grant, who wrote it with her then-husband Gary Chapman. It’s been recorded a number of times since then, but Restless Heart’s version of this underrated chestnut is possibly the finest I’ve heard. Roger Miller’s “Old Toy Trains” and a faithful-to-the-original reading of “The Little Drummer Boy” are also among my favorites.

As far as more traditional carols go, the band does a very reverent version of my favorite Christmas hymn “O Holy Night”, while “Silent Night” and “Angels We Have Heard On High” are given updated arrangements. “Silent Night” is performed a cappela with a doo-wop arrangement, which on the surface may sound sacrilegious, but surprisingly, it works well. “Angels We Have Heard On High” also lets the band show off their harmonizing, and performing the old carol with modern instrumentation gives it a contemporary feel. “Jingle Bell Rock”, while not a carol, is also given a new arrangement, with some big-band flourishes, but this experiment doesn’t work as well. It’s my least favorite song on the album.

The closing track “Santa’s Prayer” is a very fine song that finds St. Nick lamenting the over-commercialization of Christmas, and praying that people will rediscover the true meaning of the season.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t a hardcore country Christmas album, but neither are there any over-the-top performances, with “Jingle Bell Rock” being the only production misstep — and a minor one at that. Longtime Restless Heart fans will not be disappointed, and the collection is just middle-of-the-road enough that non-country fans who may be visiting over the holidays should enjoy it as well.

Grade: A