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Ricky Van Shelton “Wild-Eyed Dream” – Classic Album Review

Ricky Van Shelton "Wild Eyed Dream" debut album.Greetings from Asheville, where the good music continues flowing, and so do the good albums, as you will soon find out.  Today’s Classic Album Review is the 1987 debut from Ricky Van Shelton.  Wild-Eyed Dream was a successful debut into the Country music field for Van Shelton, as it would peak at number one on the album charts, and sell over a million copies.  Released in May, by Columbia, the album yielded five singles, including three number one hits.  As mentioned, the album topped the charts, spending two weeks on top, a week in March, then returning in April after a five-week run by K. T. Oslin’s 80’s Ladies.

The album gets a great opening with the rockabilly styles of “Ultimately Fine”.  It’s a relatively strong album track that is pure throwback to 1950’s Memphis.

“Crime Of Passion” was Ricky Van Shelton’s second single from the album, and his first to hit the top ten.  Not so much rockabilly, as more of a Country-rocker.  While not one of my Ricky Van Shelton faves, it’s main strength is a refrain that will stick with you, which I believe, along with the track’s overall sound, helped it to stick out on the radio.

I am of the opinion that Ricky Van Shelton, as good as he is with the Country-rockers, is at his very best with the pure country ballads like “Life Turned Her That Way”.  Apparently fans agree, because seven of his number one hits, were of this vein, including this remake of Mel Tillis’ 1967 hit.  Outstanding recording that I would argue is his best-ever work.

Ricky Van Shelton gives a good performance on the Buck Owens classic “I Don’t Care”.  Bouncy and quick, yet it doesn’t quite have the drive or edginess of the Owens original.  Still, not a bad remake, though.

“Life Turned Her That Way” gets my vote for his best-ever track, but “Don’t We All Have The Right”, a 1970 Roger Miller hit,  would have to be somewhere in the top five.  Great vocal work, and the arrangement is perfect. This was the album’s final single and the third number one hit for Ricky Van Shelton.

The title cut was also Van Shelton’s debut single, cracking the Country 30 in early 1987.  This is Country-Rock or Rockabilly at it’s best, right here.  Listen to it and tell me, couldn’t you just hear the 1954-55 era Elvis singing this one?

“Baby I’m Ready” isn’t quite as strong of a composition as most of the other tracks (then again, there is some very strong titles, here), but the performance is stellar, and the song, itself, is far from simply being filler material.  An up-tempo track, but not really rockabilly, it’s more straight country.

The first number one single for Ricky Van Shelton was “Somebody Lied”.  Topping the charts toward the end of 1987, it’s a strong track that is as good as the other two number ones on the album.

You’ll very likely remember the song “Crazy Over You”, for it’s 1987 top ten success for Foster & Lloyd.  Another great example of the Country-Rock/Rockabilly sound of that era, and the Ricky Van Shelton version strays little from their cut.  As good as the original, in fact, had their version not been a hit, it’s easy to see the Van Shelton version being one.

The album wraps with one more cover, this time the Merle Haggard classic “Workin’ Man Blues”.  A bit more rocking than the original, but I like it.  It feels like he’s not trying to copy it, but rather put his own stamp on it.  A risky move for a newcomer with such an iconic track, but he pulls it off, really well.

Initially released on vinyl and cassette, by 1990, the album was also available on CD.  Today, it continues to be on the market, as part of a “two-fer” package with his Loving Proof album, as well as separately.  Plus, it’s available as an MP3 download.  As for used copies, I found numerous used CD, cassettes, and vinyl, almost all under $10.  Very reasonable.

My Standout Track goes to “Life Turned Her That Way”, while the Hidden Gem nod goes to “Crazy Over You”.  Even though I think “Baby I’m Ready” isn’t quite as strong, it’s still a high quality album cut, so I really don’t think there is a Weakest Track, here.

Overall, a stellar collection, especially for a debut effort.  Though full of covers, they are performed in such a way that they don’t feel like simple impersonations of the originals, plus most of them were old enough, that, by the time of this album’s release, many fans who were discovering Ricky Van Shelton, were also discovering these songs for the first time, too.  A true classic release for that era of Country music, I give it a 5 out of 5.

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