Classic Album Review-Tanya Tucker “Ridin’ Rainbows”
Greetings from Asheville, where the sunset’s beautiful, and there’s always good music on the turntable, in the CD, or on the MP3. Today’s golden nugget from the past, takes us to February, 1977, for a release from then-eighteen year old Tanya Tucker. Tanya Tucker was not the first teen (or younger) to have hit Country singles; Brenda Lee, Wanda Jackson, and Jimmy Boyd are three that immediately come to mind; however, what she did do, is become the first established Country star while still a teen. I know you are going to ask about Brenda Lee and Wanda Jackson; Brenda was twelve, when “One Step At A Time” appeared on the Country charts in 1957, but afterwards, she became strictly a Pop star, until returning to Country in the late 1960’s. As for Wanda, her first two charting singles (“You Can’t Have My Love” and “I Gotta Know”) both came in her late teens, yet she really wouldn’t enjoy sustained success, country music-wise, until 1961’s “Right Or Wrong”, at the ripe-old age of twenty-three. In between, she was appearing on the Pop charts, as well as International bestseller lists. As for Tanya, once she hit with “Delta Dawn”, in 1972, she was a chart regular for the rest of the decade, several years in the eighties, and most of the nineties. Not only a teen star, but was able to maintain a presence into adulthood, and even regain it after a couple of years away from the spotlight, during the latter 1980’s.
February, 1977, saw the release of “Ridin’ Rainbows”. It was Tanya’s eighth album, overall, and fourth since joining the MCA label. The album would enjoy moderate success, peaking at sixteen, while spawning three singles, of which one made the top ten, while the other two, top twenty.
One of those singles open the album, “Dancing The Night Away”. The album’s final single, it would climb to sixteen in the late fall of 1977. A moderately tempo track, it has a touch more Pop in the production than most of her previous singles, which, it turns out, was a preview of her future musical direction. Not her best single, I rate it more of an average track. The song was co-written by Russell Smith of The Amazing Rhythm Aces.
“Love Me Like You Never Will Again” is a slow love ballad that is slickly produced, but without going overboard on the arrangement. On this track, we are hearing some of that sultriness that Tanya could put in her vocals, so very well. She doesn’t give you an inordinate amount, but just enough to keep you interested and engaged in a song that otherwise is very average.
The beat picks up with “Wait Til Daddy Finds Out”. I’d call this a borderline Country-Rocker, as it’s a track with an arrangement and song structure that fits closely to what the Southern Rockers of the era were doing. The song was written by Dave Loggins, who’d had his own hit in 1974 with the top ten Pop classic, “Please Come To Boston”. Not a bad track, one that fits well with Tanya’s vocal style.
“Let’s Keep It That Way” is a song that found it’s way around a few times, before becoming a Mac Davis hit in 1980. Tanya’s version is somewhat slower than the Davis version, which causes it to drag, too much. Outside of that, it’s a good song, and Tanya gives a great performance.
Side one’s final cut, “White Rocket” is a pure Pop track that fits more in with the music of 1970’s Top Forty or AC genres, than it does with Country. Not only in the arrangement, but even the lyrical content, telling of a homeless man dealing with, and ultimately expiring from drug use. I can’t say it’s an outstanding, classic, or even memorable track, yet there’s something about the track that holds your attention, even to the point of going back and playing it, again.
Side two opens with the title cut, “Ridin’ Rainbows”. As the album’s debut single, it just missed the top ten, stopping at twelve in early 1977. Kind of a slower tempo ballad, quality-wise, it is a bit of a drop from her previous singles, to that point, which I think is indicated in the lower chart placing, compared to the three previous singles; “Here’s Some Love” #1, “You’ve Got Me To Hold On To” #3, and “Don’t Believe My Heart Can Stand Another You” #4.
The album’s only top ten hit was “It’s A Cowboy Lovin’ Night”, which made it to seven, during the late spring. A complete shift from the rest of the album, as this track is strongly traditional in it’s sound. A pretty decent track that in the overall list of Tanya Tucker hits, I’d rank about mid-pack or slightly above.
“It Was Always You” takes us back to a more Pop-leaning sound. A ballad written by Bob McDill, it’s another average-to-decent track on this album seemingly full of them.
By the end of the year, “Knee Deep In Loving You” would become one of the top hits of the year in Country Music, Unfortunately for Tanya, not her version, but that of Dave & Sugar. Tanya’s version is a little edgier than Dave & Sugar’s, with a little more Rock influence. Great track, easily the best one on the disc. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that had MCA released this version as a single, I think it would have been the bigger version. Ah, but it was not to be.
The album wraps with one more ballad, “Wings”. Again, like most of the tracks, it’s a “can-take-it-or-leave-it” type of song that falls mainly into the average category, despite some very good vocal work. One note of interest on this track, is how well Tanya handles a foreign tongue, singing the last part in French.
No longer in print, I did find some copies for sale with a wide variance from $4 to $25. I was a bit surprised at how many were priced towards the higher end of that range, as well.
As for my Standout Track, I have to go with “It’s A Cowboy Lovin’ Night”. My Hidden Gem is “Knee Deep In Loving You”, while the Weakest Track is really hard to say, because most of the tracks are about equally average.
Overall, you guessed it, an average album. I don’t think any of the tracks are bland, necessarily, but most of them are just…average. Not great, not awful, just there. There are a couple of exceptions, but really, this is a classic “take-it-or-leave-it” effort. It’s just there. 2.5 out of 5.
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