Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Lack Of Passion Makes Feel The Fire A More Disappointing Reba McEntire Album.

The Good: Decent vocals
The Bad: Short, Monotonous in the instrumental accompaniment, Thematically bland, Indistinct.
The Basics: Early on, Reba McEntire presented a remarkably dull album with Feel The Fire.

I feel like I've been listening to Reba McEntire’s Feel The Fire quite a bit. And while usually I try to review albums only after I have listened to them eight times each, I’m currently on the seventh spinning of this disc as I write this review. Ironically, though, the album is so short that I’ve been replaying it so many times today that I’m almost up to my own standard.

Either way, I have serious doubts that the next time and a half will change my perceptions of Feel The Fire, a particularly passionless Reba McEntire album which is so indistinct that it has rapidly become background noise as I’ve worked today. Also astonishing about the album is the Lawrence Welk monotony to the presentation of each and every song on the album. This is arguably one of the most boring-to-the-ears albums I have heard in quite some time and if it wasn’t for the quality of McEntire’s vocals, this would be a complete dud. Even so, I cannot find any good reason to recommend the album and have little good I can muster up about the experience.

With only ten songs occupying just over half an hour on c.d., Feel The Fire is another album that illustrates little or no creativity from Reba McEntire. Reba McEntire was not involved in writing any of the songs on the album. She provides all of the lead vocals on the album, but plays none of the instruments. She is also not involved in the production at any level. As a result, this is hardly considered the musical vision of Reba McEntire. Instead, this is a very generic Country-Gospel album which is in no way remarkable to the ear.

Instrumentally, the songs on Feel The Fire are slow and bland. The instrumental accompaniment here is just that; they are used to highlight the vocals with little melody of their own. So, for example, for the first fifty seconds of “My Turn” the instrumental accompaniment is little more than snare drums keeping a beat for Reba McEntire to sing to. The guitar and piano that come in after that merely keep the melody she has established. Sadly, this is the rule, not the exception on Feel The Fire. The songs do not have rich, exciting or remotely memorable melodies.

As well, there is little instrumental diversity on this album. Feel The Fire is not just Country music, it is a classic Country sound which is reminiscent of Lawrence Welk and elevator music, but not anything more interesting. The album is driven by guitar and piano with use of the steel guitar. But the bass, steel guitar and percussion do not get the type of attention they do in other Country works. This is not a line-dancing Country album, though songs like “Look At The One (Who’s Been Lookin’ At You)” are very poppy and danceable as a result. Still, most of the album is comprised of Country ballads and the slow sound of the songs becomes monotonous, even with the swells of the string sections on “Suddenly There’s a Valley.” Songs like “Tears On My Pillow” sound like twisted Christmas carols from their musical simplicity.

The sense of being aurally uninteresting is prevalent throughout the entire work, unfortunately. Reba McEntire’s vocals, alas, do not help with this problem. While McEntire has an amazing alto voice, Feel The Fire utilizes it poorly, presenting songs which have similar emotional resonances. While she has a sense of inspirational force on the album opener, “(You Lift Me) Up To Heaven,” that quickly is transformed into a mediocre monotone of lullaby-like vocals which demurely present the romantic ballads she has to sing about. In addition to the album being short, the lack of real vocal diversity – on the album opener, backing vocals illustrate all of the work in the higher registers while McEntire stays safely in her lower, alto, range – replays poorly as almost all the vocals are soft, slow and have the same predictable sense of passion (which begins to sound more expected than actually emotive).

Lyrically, the album is unremarkable outside “Long Distance Lover” and “My Turn.” Songs like “I Don’t Think Love Ought To Be That Way” and “I Can See Forever In Your Eyes” are dreadfully repetitive and most of the songs have terribly obvious rhyme schemes. So, even the simple lines of “Long Distance Lover” stand out with its musical storysong: “So don't call me again in the morning / Cause I won't be changing my mind / And the phone will be ringing in my empty room / I ain't leaving nothing behind / I've been your long distance lover / For far too long / The nights are so lonely / Can't keep holding on / And the miles are like mountains / That hide you from me / And it's all a part of a dream.” That song is emotive and McEntire presents it with a sense of longing in her voice that beautifully captures a sense of genuine passion that most of the other songs miss out on.

Similarly, “My Turn” is a feisty song about turning one’s partner on and it works nicely as a playful song that catches the ear. The rest of the songs blend together in a strangely atonal blend that is indistinct and utterly uninteresting to fans of any type of music, including Country. Those not already predisposed toward this slower, Classic Country sound will find nothing that gets them going on this album. As well, because “My Turn” is on other anthologies, it is hard to recommend this album just for “Long Distance Lover.” It is, however, very easy to pass this by.

Outside “My Turn” and “Long Distance Lover,” there are no worthwhile songs on “Feel The Heat.”

For other Reba McEntire works, please check out my reviews of:
Just A Little Love
The Best Of Reba McEntire
Whoever’s In New England
Sweet Sixteen
It's Your Call
Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm A Survivor
Room To Breathe
20th Century Masters: Christmas Collection - Best Of Reba


For other music reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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