Classic Album Review-“I’m Jessi Colter”
Greetings from Asheville, where a wonderful holiday weekend awaits us. Here there’s always good music on the turntable, in the CD, or on the MP3. Our week-ending review takes us all the way back to 1975 for a January release from Jessi Colter. I’m Jessi Colter is the album that brought Jessi to the masses. Prior to this album, her name was somewhat known in Country music, mainly as Waylon Jennings’ wife as she had recorded some sides with him, including two top forty singles, “Suspicious Minds” and “Under Your Spell Again”. She had also released one previous album, 1970’s A Country Star Is Born, which made virtually no impact on the market. But it was a completely different story when Capitol Records issued I’m Jessi Colter, her second album. It’s first single, “I’m Not Lisa”, became a massive hit, peaking at number one on the Country charts in May, while climbing into the Pop top five and even hitting sixteen on the Adult Contemporary side. That song was so huge that it seemed like whenever you turned on the radio, there it was. So huge was that song, that it’s often overlooked that the follow-up, “What’s Happened To Blue Eyes” didn’t do too shabby, peaking at number five on the Country side in the Fall of 1975. As for the album, it would peak at number four on the Country bestseller lists, while hitting a high of fifty on the Pop side. An interesting side note, this was the first of three solo top ten albums for Jessi, all peaking at number four.
“Is There Any Way (You’d Stay Forever)” opens things for this disc. More of a Bluesy-Rock sound, here, with a strong R & B-like rhythm. This song smokes, like the salsa I’m enjoying while writing this. That’s a good thing. I like the sound of this track, and maybe the best singing I’ve ever heard from Jessi.
Jessi gets back to a more Country sound with “I Hear A Song”. She does a good job of showing the emotion that the lyrics have, really capturing the feel of the composition on this mid tempo.
“Come On In” has an overall sound similar to the opening track, but with a little more Country added to the mix. Still, a smokin’ song, just as the opening track. She has a moderate sultriness in her sound that really shows itself on this track. Another good piece of music, right here.
You get that sultriness, also, on “You Ain’t Never Been Loved (Like I’m Gonna Love You)”. A really catching mid tempo track featuring some good lyrics, and the arrangement is primo. Not quite minimal, but not overly produced, a great producing job (Waylon was co-producer on the disc), on this track. As the B-side to “What’s Happened To Blue Eyes”, this track made a brief Pop chart appearance.
The Country-Blues-Rock mix heard throughout the first side is featured, again, on the side’s final track, “Love’s The Only Chain”. Not as strong of a song as the other two similarly styled tracks, in fact, the repeated lyrics get a bit monotonous. I would like a little more, lyrically. That great sound and Jessi’s very good singing make up for the song’s weakness, though.
Side two opens with the previously mentioned monster hit, “I’m Not Lisa”. One of the classics of the 1970’s, a pure classic. While we may have gotten burned out on the song when it was a hit, thirty-six years later, it’s great piece of work. I say it’s a song that’s ripe for a remake. Who, amongst today’s crop of artists could pull it off?
“For The First Time” is a piece of pure Country enjoyment. It’s not the strongest track on the disc, but it has a fun, lite, and airy feel to it, what you might call a “feel-good” feel to it.
That sound remains with “Who Walks Thru Your Memory (Billy Jo)”, though the song is a little weak, but still with an enjoyable melody and fine singing from Jessi Colter.
“What’s Happened To Blue Eyes”, as previously mentioned, was the follow-up single, peaking at number five in the Fall of 1975. Mid tempo, I’ve always thought it to be a really good record, deserving of more acclaim than it gets. Really an underrated hit, in my book.
The album wraps with one more well-known Jessi Colter song, “Storms Never Last”. In 1981, it would be a top twenty hit for Jessi and her husband, Waylon Jennings. This solo version is as good as the duet, perhaps a little better, even. I really like it and it’s good end to what is really a good collection. Now, if you are wondering why this version didn’t get released as a single, I don’t have the definitive answer and I certainly have no way of knowing whether there was any intention to release it. That said, “I’m Not Lisa” was the first single and it’s run of popularity ran from Spring through most of the Summer. And during that time, a version from Dottsy was released as a single, and did become a top twenty Country hit.
This album is not available on CD….yet. According to some sources, it will be on CD in the near future, as part of a two-fer package with her 1976 release Diamond In The Rough. In the meantime, used copies are plentiful, I found both vinyl and 8-track copies for sale, ranging from $5 to $15.
I’m tempted to go with “What’s Happened To Blue Eyes” for my Standout Track; it’s a really good track, but because of it’s enormity, I have to go with “I’m Not Lisa”. Hidden Gem? Several good contenders, but my choice is “Come On In”. For a Weakest Track, I would pick “Love’s The Only Chain”. The song, itself, is a little weak. But again, the performance of it has nothing to complain about.
Overall, I find this album to be a really nice blend of a large amount of Country mixed with a good dose of Rock and Blues. There are some very good songs, here, and Jessi Colter is in peak vocal form. I like this album and would have no problem recommending it to someone who is wanting to become more familiar with Classic Country music. I give it a 4 out of 5.
REVIEWS OF GOOD 1970’s COUNTRY
Click image below to get Jessi’s hits.