The Good: Good vocals, Generally decent sound/lyrics
The Bad: Short, Monotonously mellow
The Basics: A good album, Have I Got A Deal For You stretches Reba McEntire's creativity, though its short duration is problematic even for fans of Country-pop.
One of the nice aspects of immersing myself in a musical artist (or performer) each month has to be the fact that if I get enough albums from an artist in, I can easily see a progression within that artist's work as they become more confident and skilled. In the case of Reba McEntire, whose works have generally left me unimpressed because she is largely just a performer, I've finally found a turning point where I see her true potential revealed. That moment came on her 1985 album Have I Got A Deal For You.
This album, McEntire's ninth and one that was made well after she was already considered a reliable performer in the Country music, represents the first time listening to the album revealed to me - as an otherwise ignorant listener - a superlative track that McEntire actually created. I listened to Have I Got A Deal For You eight times before I looked up production information on the disc and it did not surprise me to learn that "Only In My Mind" was the album's most successful single. What did pleasantly surprise me was to learn that the song was written by Reba McEntire.
With ten songs clocking out at 31:16, Have I Got A Deal For You represents a point in Reba McEntire's musical career where she began to take more creative control over what was being released in her name. She wrote "Only In My Mind" and co-wrote another song in addition to providing the primary vocals on each and every song. While she still does not play any musical instruments on the album, Reba McEntire is credited as a co-producer on the album. Thus, it does seem like this is exactly the album she wanted to (or could) release at the time.
Have I Got A Deal For You is very poppy Country. Without creating an album of line-dancing anthems, Reba McEntire managed to help create an album where the ballads do not sound quite so mellow because of more prominent percussion. The entire album is fairly up-tempo, despite having songs that employ keyboards for a classic, slower ballad sound. But the use of fiddles on songs like "She's The One Loving You Now" give the listener a strong dose of classic Country sound. The guitars are generally energetic and even when the lyrics are somewhat more melancholy, the album is one that is consistently up-tempo.
Part of the energy certainly comes from the vocals of Reba McEntire. Playing vocally entirely in the alto range, Reba McEntire becomes the embodiment of Country sass with her lilting voice on songs like "She's The One Loving You Now." She is emotionally earnest with her vocals on "Red Roses (Won't Work Now)" and "I Don't Need Nothin' You Ain't Got." Vocally, this is an album where McEntire's musical persona is homogeneously declarative. This is one of her stronger narrators who doesn't take any crap, even when she gets hurt. As a result, her vocal clarity on songs like "Whose Heartache Is This Anyway" give her the presence of being a very strong musical storyteller.
On Have I Got A Deal For You, the real pleasure is hearing that McEntire herself does have something she wants to say and she says it quite eloquently. She explores the insecurity of a relationship remarkably when she penned the lines "He said have you ever cheated on me / Has there been someone else / Is there someone you love more than me / Someone you can't forget / If his memory is opened again / Let it be chased away by time / He said have you ever cheated on me / I said only in my mind" ("Only In My Mind"). In this way, McEntire avoids the obvious and passe love and love loss songs. On this album, she manages to put in some songs which explore the richness of the struggles lovers go through.
This does not mean the album is without a sense of humor. Indeed, the McEntire has a great sense of irony when she sings "Is this number 4 / Is this number 5 / How many husbands has she buried alive / She uses the favors that the good Lord gave her / With the devil's desire / Well I bet she's thinking / She's on top of the world / And I've seen her working / So I'm warning you girls / She's single again" ("She's Single Again"). She makes the manhunter image funny with that song and plays with the concept of "The Great Divide" with a very literate sense of the tongue-in-cheek on that song. In fact, on Have I Got A Deal For You, Reba McEntire finally seems confident enough in her status as a celebrity to sing outside the traditional ballad topics.
Even so, she does not abandon the classics which made her a star and songs like "Don't Forget Your Way Home" reflect her desire to retain her core audience. This works generally well throughout the album, but some of her lines, like "You’ve been gone and here you stand / With a dozen I’m sorry’s in your hand / Victim of your potent charms / I took you back with open arms" ("Red Roses (Won't Work Now)") still employ rather predictable rhyme schemes. That said, none of the lyrics stand out as truly terrible and the album has a general resonance which is fun and decent.
Given the popularity of pop-Country, Have I Got A Deal For You is likely to still make listeners very happy, despite it's ridiculously short duration. As one not generally predisposed toward the genre, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the album, despite it becoming a little annoying on high replay. Those looking for a pop-Country album with sass and a sense of humor will find this compliments their collection wonderfully.
The best track is "Only In My Mind" and while there are no real duds on the album, "Don't Forget Your Way Home" closes the album less memorably than some of McEntire's others.
For other Reba McEntire works, please check out my reviews of:
Feel The Fire
Heart To Heart
Just A Little Love
The Best Of Reba McEntire
Whoever’s In New England
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 by clicking here for an organized listing!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.