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Pam Tillis “Sweetheart’s Dance” Classic Album Review

Pam Tillis' 1995 hit album, "Sweetheart's Dance"Greetings from Asheville, where there’s good music a-flowing through the speakers.  Today’s good music is a Classic Album Review that takes you back to 1994.  Sweetheart’s Dance from Pam Tillis, hit the store shelves in April, 1994.  Containing five singles, including her two biggest hits, this Arista release would also be her biggest album, peaking at six on the charts (fifty-one on the pop side) and selling over a million copies.

The biggest hit of her career opens this collection.  “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life)” was her only number one single, spending two weeks on top in early 1995.  You have to love the blend of country with some good spicy Tex-Mex sound, and then, throw in an irresistibly infectious melody and it’s not difficult to see why this turned out to be her biggest hit single.

The title cut may not be the album’s strongest track, but it’s still a nice, pure country piece containing a bouncy two-step style that is enjoyable to hear.

One of the album’s best tracks may well be “Calico Plains”.  A Hidden Gem contender, it’s the separation of two life-long friends, as one leaves the homeland to pursue dreams, though, it turns out the one leaving is not the one who had desired to leave.  While not an overtly sad song, the ripples of disappointment can still be felt in the lyrics.  A great performance by Pam Tillis, here.

Chart-wise, Pam’s second biggest hit would be her take on Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk In The Room”.  A minor pop chart entry for DeShannon in 1964, it did briefly appear on the Pop top 40 that same year for The Searchers.  Pam Tillis’ version is nothing short of stellar; simply put, one of her best recordings; a perfect mix of 1990’s country and 1960’s pop.  Pam’s version peaked at number two.

A top ten hit during the Summer of 1994, and the album’s first single, “Spilled Perfume” is a song, perfectly suited for Pam Tillis.  The song perfectly displays her ability to belt out a vocal, yet still retain that softness in her vocal.

“I Was Blown Away” was the album’s third single and would have likely been a top ten hit, had it not been for the Oklahoma City bombing in early 1995.  Because of that tragedy, Arista pulled the single because of it’s title, just as it had broken into the Country 20.  It wasn’t the first time that a song was adversely affected by a tragedy.  In 1986, a similar instance happened to Billy Joe Royal’s “Burned Like A Rocket”, which had just entered the Country top ten, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded upon takeoff.  As for Pam’s track, it was a fine composition that has a lite, airy feel to it.

There is another album track that really stands out on this album, and that’s “I Guess They Don’t Break ‘Em Like They Used To”.  This is pure country music at it’s absolute finest.  Bouncy, twangy, and a sound that rivals any hard country piece from the last 40 years.  Possible missed single, here.  Definite Hidden Gem contender.

The single releases from this album were stellar, including “In Between Dances”, the album’s final hit, from the Summer of 1995.  This one is much like “Spilled Perfume” in how it really shows off Pam Tillis’ outstanding vocal abilities.

“Better Off Blue” isn’t anything fancy, just good, solid music with a really enjoyable melody that continues an amazingly consistent lineup of strong tracks.

I have a feeling that fifty years from now, songwriters will still be evoking the memory of Hank Williams in various compositions.  The album’s final track is yet another that does just that, though he’s not necessarily the focus of “Til All The Lonely’s Gone”, just the first verse (Jesus Christ is also used, here).  The track is an up tempo, Gospel-ish, driver.  And as an added bonus, there’s a guest appearance by Pam’s father, Mel Tillis, plus background vocals handled by her siblings.  A rather cool end to this disc.

This album is easy to get; it’s still available in both CD and MP3 forms, plus I found numerous used CD copies, as well, mostly under $5.  The album was released on cassette, as well, so you might be able to find a used cassette version, if you’re a tape collector.

This is one of those rare albums where it really is difficult to pick a Standout Track and a Hidden Gem, and for that matter, a Weakest Track.  The ten cuts, here, are amazingly similar in quality, each track strong enough to show off it’s own strength.  I will go with “When You Walk In The Room” as my Standout Track, though I admit, it’s hard not to go with “In Between Dances”.  I have to give the Hidden Gem to “They Don’t Break ‘Em Like They Used To”.  “Sweetheart’s Dance” may be the Weakest Track, here, but not because it’s bad (it’s not, it’s a fine track), it’s because the other nine are so strong.

Overall, this is a winner.  If I were to list what I think are the twenty best albums of the 1990’s, basing the decision purely on listening enjoyment, this would be solidly on the list, perhaps even in the top ten.  Some of Pam Tillis’ best work is found, here, as you’re treated to some great singing on some great tunes.  And the album has held up extremely well; sounding just as fresh in 2012, as it did in 1995.  I give it a 5 out of 5.

Your thoughts?

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