My Kind of Country

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

Tag Archives: Julio Iglesias

Album Review: Merle Haggard – ‘It’s All In The Game’

it's all in the gameMerle Haggard was always guilty of making interesting albums, and this 1984 Epic release, It’s All In The Game, was no exception to the rule.

The album, Haggard’s thirty-ninth studio album, soared to the top of Billboard’s County Albums chart for one week in September, powered by three number 1 singles.

The album opens up with the first single from the album, the playful chart-topper “Let’s Chase Each Other Around The Room”, a tune co-written with Freddy Powers about a relationship that has been unraveling.

Next up (and the second single) is the Haggard-Powers-Willie Nelson collaboration “A Place To Fall Apart”. The song is not exactly a duet but does feature the voice of Jane Fricke quite prominently. The song is a very nice ballad that soared to #1.

I’ll prob’ly never see you eye to eye again
This letter’s meant to be my last farewell
But you need to under-stand I’m nearly crazy
You need to know my life has gone to hell
Write me back and tell me why it ended
Send a letter that I can show my heart
I’ll be somewhere between I love you and what you’re feeling now
Lookin’ for a place to fall apart

The third song is the answer to a trivia question: Name the only pop song written by a Vice President of the United State. The answer is “Its All In The Game” and the writer was Calvin Coolidge’s Vice President Charles Dawes. Dawes was actually a bank president at the time he composed the melody. The lyrics were added in 1951 a few months after Dawes’ death, so Dawes never knew about the pop sensation that his melody would become a few months later when Tommy Edwards took the song to #18 on the US pop charts. In 1958 Edwards would re-record the song for Mercury records, taking it to #1 on the Billboard pop charts for six weeks and to #1 for a week on the British pop charts.

The song would be recorded many times over the years. Haggard’s former label, MCA issued Haggard’s recording as a single in 1983. The song, released without promotion, reached #54 prompting Epic to have Haggard re-record the song and use it as the title track on this album. Haggard does a nice job with the song, although I still think Tommy Edwards’ 1958 recording is the best version of the song

Many a tear has to fall but it’s all in the game
All in the wonderful game that we know as love
You have words with him and your future’s looking dim
But these things, your hearts can rise above
Once in a while he won’t call but it’s all in the game
Soon he’ll be there at your side with a sweet, with a sweet bouquet (with sweet bouquet)
And he’ll kiss your lips and caress your waiting fingertips
And your heart, your heart will go to fly away

The next two songs “Little Hotel Room” (written by Freddy Powers) and “I Never Go Home Anymore” (written by Haggard) are ballads of Haggard’s frequently expressed sense of loss, alienation and loneliness. Both are interesting filler but I don’t think either would have made a good single. Ditto for “All I Want To Do Is Sing My Song” – it’s not bad but is not worthy of being a single. Here’s a snippet of the lyrics for “I Never Go Home Anymore”:

I own a house on the edge of the city
A suburban mansion I’m told
But the power’s all off and the phone lines are dead
And the hallways are lonely and cold

So I spend all my time in hotels and barrooms
Watching the whiskey they pour
Between airports and highways and the nightlife that’s my way
I never go home anymore

“Natural High” is the third #1 single from the album, again featuring Janie Fricke.

I had a discussion with someone at another country music blog about “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”, a song that seemed out of context and to that other person, perhaps a bit creepy. The song dates from a simpler and more innocent time and was one of the signature songs for the great French performer Maurice Chevalier. Written by the famed Broadway theatrical writers Alan J Lerner and Frederick Loewe (of Camelot, Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon and My Fair Lady fame) , “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” was the opening and closing theme for the movie Gigi. While I would not compare Haggard’s version of the song with that of Chevelier (that would be a unfair), he does do a nice job with this quaint and charming song.

Thank heaven for little girls
For little girls get bigger every day!
Thank heaven for little girls
They grow up in the most delightful way!
Those little eyes so helpless and appealing
One day will flash and send you crashin’ through the ceilin’

Thank heaven for little girls
Thank heaven for them all
No matter where, no matter who
For without them, what would little boys do?

>> Next up Haggard covers the hugely successful duet Willie Nelson had with Julio Iglesias on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before”. It’s not really Haggard’s kind of song . Merle does a decent job with the song as a solo but the magic of the duet is missing.

Merle closes the album with “You Nearly Lose Your Mind”, an Ernest Tubb classic that Tubb wrote and recorded in 1948. Merle always excels with the Texas Troubadour’s songs and this time is no exception. This is probably my favorite song on the album.

Well if you love your mama and you treat her right
But she keeps on fussin’ at you every day and night
And she’s triflin’ on ye they’ll do it every time
And when your baby starts to steppin’ Lord you nearly lose your mind
Now if your mama’s mean take a tip from me
Lock her up at home Lord and hang on to the key
‘Cause she won’t triflin’ on ye they’ll do it every time
And when your baby starts to steppin’ Lord you nearly lose your mind
But if your mama’s good I’ll tell you what to do
Give her lots of lovin’ and what she wants to do
She’ll trifle on ye they’ll do it every time
And when your baby starts to steppin’ Lord you nearly lose your mind

I regard this as one of Merle’s strongest Epic albums. He still has Roy Nichols (lead) and Norm Hamlet (steel) as part of his Strangers, along with Don Markham on horns and the great Tiny Moore on fiddle and mandolin. I’d give this a solid A.

Week ending 5/24/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

calsmith1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: Country Bumpkin — Cal Smith (MCA)

1984: To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before — Willie Nelson with Julio Iglesias (Columbia)

1994: Your Love Amazes Me — John Berry (Liberty)

2004: Mayberry — Rascal Flatts (Lyric Street)

2014: Play It Again — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

2014 (Airplay): Get Me Some Of That — Thomas Rhett (Valory)

Week ending 5/17/14: #1 singles this week in country music history

EddyA1954 (Sales): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1954 (Jukebox): I Really Don’t Want To Know — Eddy Arnold (RCA)

1954 (Disc Jockeys): Slowly — Webb Pierce (Decca)

1964: My Heart Skips A Beat — Buck Owens (Capitol)

1974: Is It Wrong (For Loving You) — Sonny James (Capitol)

1984: To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before — Willie Nelson with Julio Iglesias (Columbia)

1994: If Bubba Can Dance (I can Too) — Shenandoah (RCA)

2004: You’ll Think of Me — Keith Urban (Capitol)

2014: Play It Again — Luke Bryan (Capitol)

2014 (Airplay): Give Me Back My Hometown — Eric Church (EMI Nashville)

Album Review: Willie Nelson – ‘A Horse Called Music’

a horse called musicFrom the middle of the 1980s, as Willie hit his 50s, his sales slowed down and radio play became more erratic. After ‘Living In The Promiseland hit the top of the Billboard country chart in 1986, his next few singles failed to crack the top 20, until a Julio Iglesias duet (‘Spanish Eyes’) from another of his standards albums reached #8 in 1988.

Released in 1989, the likeable mid-tempo ‘Nothing I Can Do It Now’, written by Beth Nielsen Chapman, was to be Willie’s last ever #1 hit single. A bright optimistic mood is set by Willie’s sprightly vocal and the chugging tempo, as the protagonist decides regretting his mistakes is pointless:

I could cry for the time I’ve wasted
But that’s a waste of time and tears

Chapman sings harmony vocals. She also wrote ‘If My World Didn’t Have You’, a very pretty romantic ballad with a string arrangement, which might have been better suited to a more conventionally ‘pretty’ vocalist.

The strings come close to swamping the album’s second single ‘There You Are’, a desolate ballad about being blindsided by memories of a lost love. It peaked at #8.

Although it did not do well on the charts, the third and final single, ‘The Highway’ (written by Tom Conner and Richard Wesley) is an excellent song, perhaps my personal favourite on the album. A thoughtful, but not regretful, reflection on a middle-aged trucker’s life and the paths not taken – contrasting his roadside bar friendships with the lives of childhood friends left behind, from the classmate sent to die in Vietnam to those working out their lives in low-wage manual labor, which the protagonist clearly finds a fate worse than death.

Also great is the title track, an atmospheric and touching Western story song (written by Wayne Carson) recounting the tale of an ageing cowboy who has lost in love.

Willie himself wrote just three songs on the album. The best of these is ‘Mr Record Man’, a traditional country shuffle about a lonely man finding fellow feeling in lonesome country songs. ‘Is The Better Part Over’ is a heavily strung jazzy ballad about calling it quits on a relationship once the thrill has gone. ‘I Never Cared For You’ pre-emptively tackles his beloved’s doubts of his honesty.

The introspective arty ‘If I Were A Painting’ and the minor-keyed ‘Spirit’ are well-written songs but lacking melody, are rather boring.

Overall, the high points outweigh the less stellar songs here, and it’s worth picking up as a late example of Willie’s commercial period.

Grade: B+