The Good: A couple of truly wonderful songs, Good voice, Some good lyrics
The Bad: Instrumental accompaniment is fairly predictable and bland, SHORT!
The Basics: A fair album, Read My Mind is a very pop-oriented Reba McEntire album that has musical storysongs that save this one from not being worth the listener's time.
As January races to a close, so too, does my exploration of the musical works of Reba McEntire. It has been a while since I had an Artist Of The Month who offered me such a consistent influx of material as Reba McEntire has and I'm actually quite excited about that and the eight other discs I have to get through in the next week. As the same time, though, I've come to feel many of these reviews are rather repetitive. This comes from the fact that Reba McEntire is a musical performer and less of an artist. As a result, most all of her albums have a produced instrumental accompaniment sound and feel to them. Read My Mind is no exception to that, but the songs on it are some of Reba McEntire's better ones and as a result, there is enough for fans to enjoy.
Even so, it will ultimately come down to a cointoss for the "recommend" advice on this album. The reason for that is quite simple: from the moment I started listening to this album, I realized that I had heard all of the best songs on it. Read My Mind is an album which is heavily culled from for Reba McEntire's greatest hits and "best of" albums. And, as it turns out, in this case the A&R people got it right: the songs from Read My Mind which are generally considered McEntire's best from the album are and if one only hears those and not the others, they are missing nothing truly essential to the Reba McEntire musical experience.
With ten songs taking up 38:19 on a single c.d., Read My Mind is very much a typical Reba McEntire album. As such, McEntire was not involved in the writing or co-writing of any of the songs. As well, McEntire is not involved with playing any of the musical instruments on the album. Instead, she appears as the album's lead vocalist and she contributed to the production efforts as a co-producer of the album. The production is the closest she comes to taking creative control of the work: otherwise, she is a performer, much like Celine Dion or Tina Turner; the only difference is that she is working in the Country-pop genre.
And Read My Mind is very much a Country-pop album. The album employs the steel guitar opposite heavy drums on "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter," which makes the song sound more "pop" than Country. The album trades the tradition Country fiddles for a saxophone and McEntire seems committed to the pop nature of the album by opening with the sax on "Everything That You Want," the first song on the album. As a result, the album sounds more like a traditional guitar, keyboard, and drum pop album than it does a down-home Country album. Indeed, instrumentally this album has more in common with pop acts than Country ones.
Vocally, McEntire lets in a little Country twang on "Why Haven't I Heard From You" and "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter." But her vocals are very direct, clear and pop-like on "I Wouldn't Wanna Be You" and the very traditional-sounding ballad "And Still." McEntire has a great alto voice and on Read My Mind, she uses it as well as she does on any of her other albums. There is nothing aurally new or spectacular from McEntire's vocals on this album that listeners haven't heard before. Even so, it is hard to argue that the clarity and vocal force of McEntire's voice does not contribute to the poignancy of "She Thinks His Name Was John."
That song, as it turns out, is considered the first Country song to address or reference AIDS, though there is nothing specific which makes the song "Country." Lyrically, it is similar to a folk song with a musical storysong including a protagonist, events and a theme. In fact, it is a very direct storysong where there is "A chance meeting, a party a few years back / Broad shoulders and blue eyes, his hair was so black / He was a friend of a friend you could say / She let his smile just sweep her away / And in her heart she knew it was wrong / But too much wine and she left his bed at dawn / And she thinks his name was John" ("She Thinks His Name Was John"). McEntire, who even on earlier albums was tackling social injustices and current events issues that were considered controversial handles the topic well with "She Thinks His Name Was John."
Outside that song, the songs do tend to be about love or loss, though McEntire sings with decent irony on "Why Haven't I Heard From You," which is about not getting telephone calls from a partner. She also has a decent sense of Country sass on "I Won't Stand In Line" where her musical protagonist demands to be put first. Unfortunately, some of the songs that are traditional pop ballads come across that way with predictable rhymes like "I looked in your eyes, so bright and so blue . . . Well, I guess I can wait if that's what I have to do / Oh, it's worth it for you" ("Till You Love Me"). Songs like "Till You Love Me" and "Read My Mind" replay poorly because of the obvious rhymes.
Even so, McEntire sometimes is able to overcome lyrical limitations, most notably on the musical storysong "And Still." On that song of love lost, McEntire breathes life into the simple lines "And still / The world stood still / I couldn't move / And all I could feel / Was this aching in my heart / Saying I loved him still" ("And Still") with her powerful, forthright voice. As it is, there is just enough to recommend this album, average as it is. The musical storysongs are good enough to make up for the more mundane instrumental accompaniment that backs them.
The best song is "And Still," the low point is either "Everything That You Want" or "Till You Love Me."
For other Reba McEntire works, please check out my reviews of:
Feel The Fire
Heart To Heart
Just A Little Love
Have I Got A Deal For You
The Best Of Reba McEntire
Whoever’s In New England
What Am I Gonna Do About You
It's Your Call
Greatest Hits Volume Two
Greatest Hits Volume III: I'm A Survivor
Room To Breathe
20th Century Masters: Christmas Collection - Best Of Reba
For other album or singles reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.