Monday, April 2, 2012

John Conlee vintage recordings...

I was looking through Amazon and came across the news that a John Conlee CD will be released this coming May 8th. This particular CD will feature two of John's studio albums from his Columbia Records days (1986-1987). Upon leaving MCA after Greatest Hits, Volume Two and the big success of his single, "Old School", in 1985 John joined the Columbia label sometime later and his first release, Harmony, hit in 1986. The album contains three Top-10 hits: the socially aware title track, "Harmony", the wonderful life-lesson-in-song tale of "The Carpenter" which hit the Top-10 here in America but reached #1 in Canada, and the America #1 hit "Got My Heart Set On You". The second album on the CD is 1987's American Faces which builds on the socially aware sentiments heard in "Harmony" a year earlier. The socially aware theme would also visit John's following album in 1989, Fellow Travelers, but that release was on the 16th Avenue label and has no relevance to what will be on the upcoming CD in May but I figured I'd mention it because it fit the pattern of his album's using socially aware recordings as titles.

Like the 1986 album, the follow-up from 1987 also features three songs released as singles. "Domestic Life" became his last really big radio hit (hitting the Top-5) but a close second would be "Mama's Rockin' Chair" which had a nostalgic feel to it as John told the story of how imaginations develop while listening to stories. The rocking chair song reached the Top-20 in 1987 (almost making the Top-10).

The previously mentioned "Domestic Life" is still performed in his concert's to this day and it tells the story of a couple who are proud of their low-key, average lifestyle in spite of living next door to people with money and the trappings that go along with wealth. "Living Like There's No Tomorrow" was the third single from American Faces. It hit early in 1988 but it didn't reach the Top-40 country chart...a strange occurrence at that point in time for one of John's singles. What was happening was country radio was amidst their slow but certain airplay ban of practically every singer that didn't appeal to a specific age group. Some artists, even a few that had been in the business longer than John, were able to continue having Top-10 hits into the early 1990's but then they, too, saw their chart placement's sliding and airplay spots vanishing as country radio began playing more and more newer singers just for the sake of the singers being new (whether or not these new artists could sustain a career or develop a following apparently wasn't a priority).

But anyway...like a lot of his peers, John Conlee continued making music and touring throughout the late '80s and the '90s. He wasn't as active in the recording studio in the 1990's, unfortunately, but he was still on the road and becoming a semi-regular on the Grand Ole Opry (he became a member in 1981). By the late '90s he'd become what's known as a regular at the Opry...hosting his own 30 minute segments each Friday and Saturday night. He's still highly visible at the Opry and he continues to do show dates to this day...and sometimes he'll put out a new song or two. A religious CD from 2004, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, was his first studio album in 15 years and it featured the topical hit, "They Also Serve", which didn't get much radio airplay but it became a hit with the public through on-line exposure and repeated performances at the Opry.

Harmony and American Faces represent two of John's classic studio albums and I say it's about time those two albums were brought back into circulation again!

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