Saturday, August 8, 2009

485. The Definitive Loretta Lynn- one of about a million Lynn Best ofs.



Album: The Definitive Loretta Lynn
Artist: Loretta Lynn
Year: 1968
Genre: Country.

Tracks.
1. Wine, Women And Song
2. Happy Birthday
3. Blue Kentucky Girl
4. You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man Loretta Lynn
5. Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)
6. Fist City
7. You've Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out On Me)
8. Woman Of The World (Leave My World Alone)
9. Coal Miner's Daughter
10. After The Fire Is Gone
11. You're Lookin' At Country
12. Lead Me On
13. One's On The Way
14. Rated "X"
15. The Pill
16. Love Is The Foundation
17. Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man
18. As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone
19. Trouble In Paradise Loretta Lynn
20. When The Tingle Becomes A Chill
21. Feelins'
22. Out Of My Head And Back In My Bed
23. Somebody Somewhere (Don't Know What He's Missin' Tonight)
24. She's Got You
25. I Can't Feel You Anymore


Sadly I couldn’t get my hands on the album I was supposed to be reviewing here because I think it’s out of print. For some reason Rolling Stone magazine decided to deviate from including album releases at this point and instead threw in a compilation. The problem with allowing best-of’s into their list is that they go out of print and get superseded by a new best of. So instead of All Time Greatest Hits I’m reviewing The Definitive Lorretta Lynn, which has the same tracks on it with three more added for good an extra hit of Loretta.

I’ve got concept albums on my mind having recently spent eight hours listening to one (that’s four compete listens to Melon Collie). Consequently I’m looking at almost every album that I see with a concept in mind. In the spirit of this somewhat demented worldview can I present to you the reworking of the Definitive Loretta Lynn into a narrative concept album called... I don’t know... “Loretta gets better” or “A win for Lynn” or something. All it takes is a few omissions and a reworking of the track order and you can turn this set of songs into a coherent story complete with compelling characters and a happy ending.

The first thing you would do is drop the duets. All the men who crop up on this album should bugger off and bother someone else, this is about Loretta so go and do your duetting on your own, I know that’s impossible but that’s how strongly I feel about it. With the men out of the way we’ve only got Ms Lynn telling us her story, which with a bit of a twisting around we can make as follows...

Start with Coal Miner’s Daughter, A factually accurate tale of Loretta’s harsh but happy upbringing as one of eight children in a poor southern household in which she was cared for by hard-working, loving parents. Track two would be You’re Looking at Country in which Lynn tell us that she is country and gives us a golden piece of sexual innuendo which is both raunchy but still morally upright: “This here country is a little green/And there's a lot of country that a you ain't seen/I'll show you around if you'll show me a weddin' band”

Continuing with our narrative: let’s assume the allure of Lynn’s undiscovered country is enough to snare her a man. But he’s not really all that our Coal miner’s daughter deserves. Songs like Wine Women and Song, Don’t Come Home a Drinking With Loving On Your Mind, and You’ve just Stepped in From Stepping Out On Me suggest he’s more interested in carousing than keeping his Southern girl happy. The good news is that Loretta isn’t prepared to take this lying down. She’s not moaning she’s taking control over her life and making it clear that if he’s going out getting merry then he’s not going to come home and get busy with her. She’s also not going to stand aside and let any woman steal her man away. You Aint Woman Enough to Steal My Man lays down the Loretta Lynn Law that says she’s not going to give him up without a fight, and when I say fight I mean it. Fist City is a fantastic song in which Loretta actually threatens physical violence. “If you don't wanna go to Fist City you'd better detour round my town/Cause I'll grab you by the hair of the head and I'll lift you off of the ground.” How cool is that? You go girl! You have to love Loretta by this point.

Sadly her man doesn’t shape up so Loretta gives him the big A. In Happy Birthday Lynn packs her bags and heads off into the sunset. She’s not gonna put up with his cheating ways anymore. And the crowd says hooray! Go Loretta go, find another man and make yourself happy.

All good narratives have to have the slump before the finale and the middle of this concept album doesn’t spell good news for our heroine. She’s lonely and tells us so in Somebody Somewhere Don’t Know What They’re Missing. And then finally the isolation gets too much to bear. Out of My Head and Back in My Bed tells us how she’s prepared to relent and let that no-good man back into her life. So he moves back in and the fight in Loretta moves out. She’s no longer prepared to threaten her rivals with a visit to Fist City, instead she resorts to begging (Woman of the world leave my world alone) and being the dutiful but world-weary housewife (One’s on the way). She’s even resigned to putting up with his cheating ways. There’s Trouble in Paradise is a disheartening song in which Loretta tells us that her man is cheating but that’s okay because he’ll be back by morning and she can put up with it. It’s really sad and self defeating and totally out of step with the rest of the album.

So is that how it ends? Is that the story? Woman ditches unfaithful man but then takes him back and lives with his philandering because she can’t bear to live without him? Is that the tragic narrative we’re left with? Thankfully no. In I Can’t Feel You Anymore she drops this bombshell on the bastard: “When he touches me, I can’t feel you anymore, He touches me with so much love, I never felt before.” So she finds happiness with another man and leaves the cheater to his women of the world. What a great concept album.

Of course that’s all just a construction that I put together from some of the songs on the Definitive Loretta Lynn but I felt compelled to do it because I found myself really liking the feisty, Fist City Loretta and so feeling incredibly disappointed with the gil who resigned herself to her fate with all the fight beaten out of her. When she’s not gonna take it she’s great, when she takes it then frankly I can do without her. Someone should put together an album called Loretta Lynn Takes No Shit- Just the Cranky Songs. Now there’s a compilation that would never go out of print.

Highlight: All the Grrrr songs.
Lowlight: The duets with Conway Twitty.
Influenced by: A genuinely unfaithful husband.
Influenced: Every woman who’s ever gone and sung country.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: This is actually from a review of her autobiography but it’s too bizarre to let pass: “I really enjoyed reading this great book.And I am moved
by her devotion to nursing her husband for years who
had been ill with heart and diabetes related problems and
died in 1996.
It's a pity that they had not known about a herbal formula
that was discovered in 1994 and can cure diabetes. I really
wish Ms.Loretta Lynn could be informed about this message
and be happy to know that a cure for diabetes has been
found.”

-Huh?

So did Lynn score a win or could Loretta be better? Let me know below.

2 comments:

  1. Actually it's "All Time Greatest Hits," a 2002 compilation, that was on the list

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  2. I couldn't get my hands on All Time Greatest Hits but I checked out the track listing and they're basically identical. Lynn has an incredible number of best-ofs which come out and get rendered obsolete and deleted within a year.

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