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Another quartet of albums on 2 CDs from Sledge, Mississippi-born RCA recording country legend, Charley Pride; there was a spell, maybe more than one when the former baseball player outsold Elvis Presley. Making him RCA’s top selling act. It was a fateful day when, Cowboy Jack Clement took it upon himself to prise open a door or two on Pride’s behalf. While Pride's recordings came at a time (1983-1986) when traditional country was not for the first time been given the elbow by the powers to be in Nashville all was not lost.
Pride like Johnny Cash, Hank Snow and a few others his days with one of Music City’s major outlets was numbered, however not before he recorded excellent album Country Classics (5-star~) and solid recording Back To The Country. On the other hand on Night Games and Power Of Love the listener has to look for the good stuff. Unlike Country Classics where you are spoilt for choice!
But boy, when he does deliver an unabashed country song like with “Down In Louisiana” on Night Games it is most special. Produced by Norro Wilson there is a slick feel to the recording, and moments like the piece are few and far between. It could be argued “Lovin’ It Up (Livin’ It Down)” comes though without real conviction somewhere near it. Power Of Love has “Missin’ Mississippi” and rockin’ “Stagger Lee” to its credit, but the pull of either Country Classics or lesser brother, Blake Mevis produced, eight-track 1986 album Back To The Country isn't present. The release has the feel that the label, in part, had bowed to the fact Charley Pride was at his best performing real country, and wasn’t suited to the watered down fare that abounded at the time. He was made of better stuff, and more crucially Charley needed material that best suited him. Like the songs the aforementioned Clement used to bring him, some from his own pen.
From the album (Back To The Country) you have him cover Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain”, and though welcome there was a time not too far gone and he would have nailed it (and not just covered it). It was time for Pride to move on, change labels, and get back to the basics. It wasn’t long it happened either because in a year after another 8-track record he was off and heading for greener country pastures.
Country Classics is loaded in delicious slices of fiddle (Buddy Spicher) and pedal steel guitar (Pete Drake, Sonny Garrish) plus lead guitar (Billy Sanford, Pete Wade), bass (Bob Moore, Michael Leech), piano (Hargus Pig Robbins) plus more Nashville session giants in Chip Young, Ray Edenton, Murrey Harman, David Briggs and Harold Bradley. Wilson’s tasteful production is likewise, first-class. Of the more recent creations Pride does Schweers’ songs “Radio Heroes” and the more pop country “Up To My Heart In Memories” full justice. On coupled with choice covers of old stalwart’s “Filipino Baby”, George Jones hit “Why Baby Why”, Webb Pierce ballad “More And More” plus Jimmie Rodgers’ jaunty (and much covered) “In The Jailhouse Now” and there’s others too - the recording, sounded better than I remember it.
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