Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Album of the Day - "Rhythm & Romance," Rosanne Cash

I imagine that when Rosanne Cash looks at this album cover, she has a good chuckle.  The look – hair color, hair style, and outfit – just screams “1986!”  But since that’s when the album came out, I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Rosanne Cash has been a favorite of mine since her very first record, 1979’s “Right or Wrong.”  And although she released one of the great singles of all time (“Seven Year Ache,” just a magnificent, magnificent song) in 1981, it was on “Rhythm & Romance” that she really found herself.  This was her first great album – after this one, “Johnny Cash’s daughter” was no longer the first thing someone said in trying to describe her.

And although there were even greater albums to come, there are times when I miss the rocking nature of “Rhythm & Romance.”  About the only criticism I’ve directed towards her later work is that there are times when producer John Leventhal gets a little too pristine with his production.  On “Rhythm & Romance,” Rodney Crowell has the band go full rock & roll mode, and with players like Waddy Wachtel, Larry Crane, Bob Glaub and Anton Fig, that’s not much of a problem.

And Cash’s songwriting really blossomed, with tunes like “Hold On,” Halfway House,” “My Old Man” and “Never Gonna Hurt” (which sounds just as new wave as much of what was being played on the radio at the time).  But the album’s highlight may be her cover of John Hiatt’s “Pink Bedroom,” where she pretty much takes the song away from Hiatt and makes it her own.

This, folks, is a great one.

Christgau: A-.  “Nobody’s going to mistake this one for a country record, not with Waddy Wachtel’s hooks bobbing by like bull’s eyes in a shooting gallery. But it’s not just another compulsorily catchy stab at immortality either. Cash may have her eye on MTV, but she’s a child of Nashville nevertheless--when she cheats she knows it’s wrong even if she’s got a right, and when she sings she hurts.”

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