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Non-Prog CD Reviews

George Strait

22 More Hits

Review by Gary Hill

Best of compilations are always a tough bet. On the one hand you can be pretty sure they’ll have a number of songs you like. The thing is, there can also be a bit of a tendency towards sameyness cause many “hits” tend to sound similar. This CD only suffers so much from that problem. In fact, had they arranged things a little differently it wouldn’t really be an issue. Yes, there are quite a few ballads, but there’s only one place where they really seem to drag. Moving a faster song into the middle of them would have done wonders for the overall pacing of this CD. If you like real country music delivered with conviction and talent, you won’t go wrong with this set. It’s a great place to start if you want to try out the music of George Strait. One song here was reviewed previously, so I've used the track by track description from that review for the sake of consistency.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
How 'Bout Them Cowgirls
This is a mid-tempo track. I have to say that the music on this one seems to suffer a bit from the modern country sound. Still Strait’s vocal performance is legit enough to keep it real. I’d have to say that this is one of the weaker tracks on show here, but the chorus is still pretty strong. It just seems like the producer (although since this is co-produced by Tony Brown and Strait it might be Strait’s idea) should have left well enough alone on this one. It would have made for a stronger track. The strings later in the song are over the top, really putting a nail in the coffin for this one from my point of view.
Amarillo By Morning
This ballad has an old school country twang to it. It’s almost in the “country western” vein. It’s well delivered and the story is touching. The up-tempo section feels a little silly in terms of overproduction, but the folky country nature keeps it real.
The Fireman
A hoedown texture permeates this cut. It’s down home fun. It’s a little too twangy for my tastes, but it still has a cool rock and rollin’ blues groove to it.
Gone As A Girl Can Get
This is definitely better. It’s got a serious country swagger, but it’s also a good twangy blues track. I like this one a lot. It doesn’t suffer from the overproduction that plagues some of the other material here. It’s raw, but still quite solid in terms of musicianship. No one tries to take off the edge on this one and “pretty it up.” The result is stronger for its convictions.
When Did You Stop Loving Me
Here we have an old school country ballad. It’s good and doesn’t experience the poppification that is so prevalent in country music these days. It’s a little too far off the country edge of the spectrum for my tastes, though. So, I applaud it’s nature and performance, but it won’t be on my mp3 player.

Marina Del Rey
This ballad is more in keeping with my tastes. It’s still got plenty of real country spirit, but it just doesn’t sit so far off the twang end between my ears. While there is a string section on this one, it still manages to avoid falling into “sappy” territory, too. I’d have to say that Strait’s performance is what really elevates this song as far as it is above some of the rest. He sings with conviction and emotion and it pays off.
Desperately
We get another balladic piece here. That’s kind of a bad thing because by this point we could really use a more up-tempo number. This is good, but doesn’t rise to the level of “Marina Del Rey.” It’s fairly old school in its approach.
The Cowboy Rides Again
Another ballad, this one is very much in a down home tradition. It’s stronger than the one that preceded it, but by here the ballad after ballad program is getting a bit old. This one is potent enough to keep it from becoming a let down, but we really need some faster music soon or this disc is going to start to drag.

Lovebug
We don’t fall into the realm of further balladland. Instead we get a boot-stomping, old school rock and roll romp. This is fun if a bit silly.

Cowboys Like Us
After the bouncing number that preceded it we’re back into the ballads. Extremely slow and sedate this is also one of the best tracks on the disc. The previous power-up puts us in the right state of mind to really appreciate this track. It’s got a cowboy mentality and that rugged individualism in its lyrical expression. The thing is, any of us can relate to this slice of life. I’m glad they put this song in a slot where it could really breathe because it deserves fine treatment. This song by itself is worth the ticket price for this ride. Yes, it’s that good.
She Let Herself Go
This mellow balled is pretty. It pales in comparison to the previous number, though. As strong as that one was, what else can you expect, though?
You'll Be There
Taken by itself, this folky ballad is a potent piece. It’s very emotional and quite pretty. The thing is, in a string that feels like unending ballads by this point, it can’t really stand by itself. They are all starting to blend together. That’s a shame because this number deserves more space to stand alone.

Don't Make Me Come Over There And Love You
If only this track had been placed one slot earlier. Then “You’ll Be There” would have been able to stand as a highlight of the disc. This is a fast paced, honky tonk number that’s fun. It’s got an old school rockabilly feel to it. It does a nice of job of creating some variety from all the ballads. Some of the instrumental work is strong, but overall I wouldn’t consider this track a standout. It is definitely a nice piece of well needed variety, though.
What Do You Say To That
Strait delivers another ballad, but after a break we’re ready for that. This one isn’t one of the strongest pieces here. It’s just sort of average.
Drinking Champagne
This is slow-tempoed, but not really a ballad. It almost feels like the type of music that one things of when you consider the traditional Christmas songs from the 1930’s and 1940’s. It’s a good tune but feels dated. Still, it serves up a nice piece of variety.
You're Something Special To Me
This is a bouncy old school country tune that feels like it could have come from some old country record.
Meanwhile
This potent ballad is pretty and evocative. It’s one of the better numbers on show here and the powered up chorus section is a bonus.
Adalida
An up-tempo number is the perfect medicine here. This is a fun little romp and one of the standout tracks on show here.  I like this one a lot.

If You Can Do Anything Else
 This ballad seems like something Gordon Lightfoot would do, if he played country music. It’s got a definite folk sort of texture to it. You might also hear a couple hints of Jimmy Buffett on this.
Unwound
This is a down home stomper with a slow tempo and a horn presence. It’s old school swinging country with plenty of blues in the mix. It’s a great touch, but might have served the disc better if it had broken up a couple ballads earlier on the CD. It’s one of the heartfelt highlights of the show.

If You're Thinking You Want A Stranger (There's One Coming Home)
I don’t often like to hear a more mainstream approach on country music. I think that’s because it’s normally delivered with a generic pop tendency. This song really feels a lot like something for a ‘70’s soft rock outfit. It still has some twang, but it’s quite mainstream. It’s also a great song that works quite well.
Overnight Success
This slow twanger is an old school love gone wrong number. It’s a crying in your beer sort of approach. It’s not a bad track, but seems like a great way to end with a whimper rather than a stomp.
 
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