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Very Special Love Songs

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Album Review

Making every effort to strike while the iron was hot, Epic sent Charlie Rich and Billy Sherrill back into the studio to keep his profile in the public eye. What should have been a haphazard dash-off slab of re-dos and hastily chosen tracks instead turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises of Rich's monumental run in the 1970s. Very Special Love Songs is almost entirely comprised of cover versions and showcases the close, nearly symbiotic partnership Rich and Sherrill had developed. While more on the country tip than many of his recordings from the period, it's still country with a grand twist. The title track is layered with a huge string section and chorus that has Rich crooning like Richard Harris in "MacArthur Park." "Why Don't We Go Somewhere and Love" is more straight-ahead but has odd textures like Sherrill bringing in a barely audible harpsichord to play beneath the acoustic guitars and Hargus Robbion's honky tonk piano. The chorus is straight out of Mac Davis and hits home hard. Other tracks, such as "Take Time to Love," "A Field of Yellow Daisies," and "Why, Oh Why," are offerings of such soulful vulnerability they transcend every country music stereotype that existed at the time. Re-recordings of "He Follows in My Footsteps" and "There Won't Be Anymore" blow away the originals. Rich's voice is stronger, even if it is a bit more worn from cigarettes and whiskey, and it's so much more honest emotionally. Side one is the optimistic and hopefully side while the flip is a shade darker, sadder, more melancholy, but in true Rich fashion, "Pretty People" opens the glimmer of possibly, the barely glimpsed sliver of hope on the horizon that the sad times will end eventually and that the song's protagonist will be able to embrace that time with gratitude. The strings and piano carry the tune all the way out with the vocal ending barely a second before the track does, leaving its exhortations out in the ether hanging for the listener to take inside and contemplate. It's a wonderful release despite the rush.


Born: 14 December 1932 in Colt, AR

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Charlie Rich was simultaneously one of the most critically acclaimed and most erratic country singers of post-World War II era. Rich had all the elements of being one of the great country stars of the '60s and '70s, but his popularity never matched his critical notices. What made him a critical favorite also kept him from mass success. Throughout his career, Rich willfully bended genres, fusing country, jazz, blues, gospel, rockabilly, and soul. Though he had 45 country hits in a career that spanned...
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