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RCA Country Legends: Sylvia

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Album Review

It's easy to see why hardcore country listeners expressed nothing but disdain for Sylvia during her hitmaking peak in the early '80s. At a time when country music already trending toward light, sweet pop music, Sylvia's records were the aural equivalent of cotton candy, so light they nearly floated in the air. Add her good looks to the equation, and she seemed like a model marketed as country to the legions of country purists. And they did have a point, since Sylvia's music was only marginally country. There was a bit of twang here and there, some traditionally country themes and song structures, but it was sugar-coated and polished to a gloss, fitting in better aurally with the soft rock of the time instead of even the country-pop. All this is evident on her 16-track installment of BMG Heritage's RCA Country Legends series. What makes this series interesting is that it doesn't use the Billboard charts as the sole guideline for compilation; instead, it takes the biggest hits and expands them with album cuts, B-sides, and rarities intended to draw a clearer picture of the artist's depth as a country artist. Usually, this has produced some very interesting, revealing collections, but it's an approach that's kind of odd for Sylvia, since her entire career only makes sense in terms of the charts, and this comes up short on hits. Of the 16 tracks, only six were hits, leaving 12 charting hits behind, including big ones like "Fallin' In Love," "Snapshot," "Sweet Yesterday," and "Like Nothing Ever Happened." For a chart-oriented artist, that's a lot of missing material, but RCA Country Legends still works — and, in fact, functions as a nice counterpoint to Renaissance's comprehensive 1997 hits package Anthology — because it's sequenced well, contains the biggest and best hits, while digging up a few choice cuts like "Cry Baby Cry," "No News Is Good News," "Tonight I'm Gettin' Friendly With the Blues," and "Eyes Like Mine" that prove that Sylvia did depth outside of the charts. That said, RCA Country Legends won't change any minds about her musical attributes — this is still very soft country-pop, and even condensed to a collection, there are a few duff moments here and there — but for those that like Sylvia or early-'80s soft rock, this is quite enjoyable and nearly as an effective an introduction to her as the hit-laden Anthology


Born: 09 December 1956 in Kokomo, IN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Growing up in Kokomo, IN, Sylvia moved to Nashville around Christmas of 1975 with a definite game plan: get a job as a secretary, get to know influential people in town, and build a career as a recording artist. The plan worked. She picked up a job as the receptionist for Pi-Gem Music, headed by record producer Tom Collins. She started singing on demo sessions, and Collins helped her secure a recording contract with RCA. Since she'd never performed live before, Sylvia ended up learning to do concerts...
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Top Albums and Songs by Sylvia

RCA Country Legends: Sylvia, Sylvia
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