Well, what can ya say about good, old Clint Black? One of the biggest and most dependable top country stars of the 1990s, with a strong mix of roots-ish honky tonk with plenty of romantic ballads as well... Here's a quick look at his work...
Clint Black "Killin' Time" (RCA, 1989)
(Produced by James Stroud & Mark Wright)
A great debut! Relatively rootsy, with dips into western swing and a strong backdrop of honkytonk, mixed in with the more Nashville-y stuff. He loses me on a few of the cheesier ballads, but compared to many of his contemporaries, he was a regular hard-country throwback. In some ways, the dated, rinkydink quality of some of the '80s production actually makes it kinda more fun to listen to now; what was onerous at the time now sounds somehow charming and nostalgic. For the most part, though, he sounded pretty good, and relatively down to earth. Be nice if BMG would remaster this disc and make the digital mix a bit richer than in the original late-'80s edition.
Clint Black "Put Yourself In My Shoes" (BMG/Lone Wolf, 1990)
(Produced by James Stroud)
A very listenable record, with pretty straightforward hard-country arrangements. Even where it starts to drag (as on "Runnin' Blind"), it still sounds like something that could plausibly have been carried over in the '70s countrypolitan era, by someone like Conway Twitty... Another nice neotrad salvo; worth checking out!
Clint Black "The Hard Way" (RCA, 1992)
(Produced by James Stroud & Clint Black)
Too croony and bland for me, and the uptempo numbers are too jittery and guitar-ed up. It feels like he was starting to phone 'em in by the time this one came out... Maybe Black's label felt that way too: the 10-song album is dominated by non-single tracks, and while some of these flirt with success, but most are pretty leaden. "A Woman Has Her Way" works, and the hits "Burn One Down" and "When My Ship Comes In" are still kinda fun... Otherwise, though... ehh. Not a classic; not by a longshot.
Clint Black "No Time To Kill" (RCA, 1993)
The title track, which opens this album, is a thoroughly likeable bit of seamlessly crafted, super-melodic country-rock anthem, with some zippy dobro work by studio pro Jerry Douglas adding a bit of bluegrassy roots to the proceedings. Generally speaking, the rest of the album is okay; a bit on the slick side, but it could be way worse. The dobro comes back to the fore on the last track -- all in all the talent assembled is put to pretty good use.
Clint Black "One Emotion" (RCA, 1994)
(Produced by Clint Black & James Stroud)
Black and his band continue their collaborative ways, with half the songs on here co-written with electric guitarist Hayden Nicholas, who certainly helps define the album's sound. There are some over-the-top moments, and even a bit of John Denver-esque drabness ("A Change In The Air") and pop-tinged excess (Nicholas going a little overboard on the note-heavy, chicken-pickin' "Summer's Comin' ") Some of this stuff is nice, some of it is fluff, some of it -- like the glib "Life Gets Away" -- is pretty vapid. Actually, the more I listen, the more the John Denver comparison seems to fit, at least in terms of Black's lighter vocal turns... He can still nail those true-country moments, but here he's kinda giving himself wholeheartedly to a path of least resistance brand of commercialism, not putting a lot of thought or emotion into it. Not his greatest effort, but it has its moments.
Clint Black "Looking For Christmas" (RCA, 1995)
Aw, what a bummer... Clint plays it corny on this glossy pop-orchestral outing. There are a few tunes -- "The Coolest Pair," " 'Til Santa's Gone," "Slow At Christmas" -- that show a little twang, but for the most part this is a sadly drippy, bombastic holiday album, packed with cheesy orchestral arrangements and ole Clint crooning away like a real cornball. If you're a diehard fan, or don't actually like country music that much, this might be an album you'll like... But otherwise, it just ain't that much fun. Skippable. (By the way, if you want more country Christmas music, check out my Hillbilly Holiday section.)
Clint Black "Nothin' But The Taillights" (RCA, 1997)
(Produced by Clint Black & James Stroud)
When he sticks to the hard stuff, Black is a neotrad godsend, but when he gets sappy and soft, he's as bad as any other Nashville hack. The first few songs on here are pretty vigorous and back-to-basics (the title track's definitely a winner), but midway through, an overblown, soul-tinged power-ballad duet with Martina McBride throws everything off track, and the tough stuff that comes towards the end simply seem like rearguard actions. The winsome acoustic ditty, "Ode To Chet" is also kinda nice, but sadly, the album as a whole is pretty wimpy. I wish Clint'd stay away from the cheesy overproduced stuff, but I guess the guy's gotta make a living. He does a better job balancing between the two styles than many others... But the pop stuff is still pretty dreary.
Clint Black "D'lectrified" (BMG, 1999)
(Produced by Clint Black)
Black stretches out and enjoys the luxury super-stardom has brought... The opening numbers are downright goofy, in a relaxed, whimsical Leon Redbone-ish way, with a backhanded cover of Waylon Jennings' outlaw classic, "Are You Sure Hank Did It This Way," and the frivolity hitting its apex in a cover of Monty Python's "Galaxy Song," complete with a new intro by Eric Idle (!) Then Clint settles down a little bit and gets more serious about the radio hits end of things. The tinkly ballads are predictably yawnworthy, but the swing-flavored tunes are fun, and he seems to be putting his heart into it again... Worth checking out!
Clint Black "Spend My Time" (Equity, 2004)
(Produced by Clint Black)
Clint's decision to start up his own indie label (Equity Records) was more about economics than about creative control: there's no radical change of direction or back-to-basics honkytonk traditionalism here, just the same old, finely polished Clint Black blend of roots-tinged pop ballads, a mixed bag that will satisfy some and leave others cold. But Black does have full control over his own royalties and marketing, a bonus that he promises to offer other Nashvillers who are looking for an alternative to the tightly controlled confines of Music City's major labels. How much this will throw him into conflict with the powers that be remains to be seen, but for now, Black's fans will be happy to hear something new from their hat-clad idol. As solid as any of his recent records, with rich, poetic lyrics and a familiar undercurrent of his old honkytonk roots.
Clint Black "Christmas With You" (Equity, 2004)
A reissue of the 1994 album, Looking For Christmas, with a couple of new tracks added on. Well, maybe I'm getting soft in my old age, but here's a revised opinion of that album (which I panned a long time ago...) Although I'm not really that into the modern, ornate Nashville pop arrangements, I'd still say this is a superior country Christmas record. For one thing, it's not another set of cheesy standards -- Black wrote or cowrote all the songs on here, and anyone who adds some new songs to the Christmas canon gets extra points straight out the gate, as far as I'm concerned. Also, his heart really seems in it here: Clint sings with conviction and warmth, and his lyrics are generally about the more spiritual, human side of the holiday. For him, the season is about companionship, family and inner warmth, not fancy gifts and getting drunk. The songs are willfully sentimental and gooey, but Black has the sincerity to pull it off... If you're looking for a nice new holiday disc to trim the tree to, this one's a mighty fine option.
Clint Black "Drinkin' Songs And Other Logic" (Equity, 2005)
(Produced by Clint Black)
This is kind of a mixed bag -- Clint does seem to be getting twangier, to match the back-to-basics mood of the times, but he reins in the production in order to keep the focus on the wordplay and his vocals, so some songs that should have had a more thumping, propulsive feel wind up sounding too delicate and deliberate. The title track, in particular, could have been a lot rowdier, devolving into dense wordiness when it should've just gone for the gusto. Later on in the album, though, he scores a run with "A Big One," which is a pretty swell barroom ballad. Most of the songs on here will make Clint's fans happy (even if he lays an egg or two, like on "Undercover Cowboy," which is an embarassingly weak novelty song...) The standard Clint Black balance is in place: there are flowery ballads and western swing tunes, a plaintive, religious-themed song ("Back Home In Heaven") and some welcome nods to his honkytonk roots... This album's not as wild as the title promises, but you could still hoist a brew or two while humming along... It's worth checking out, though it's not quite as rollicking as the old stuff.
Clint Black "On Purpose" (Black Top Records, 2015)
Clint Black "The Greatest Hits" (RCA, 1996)
Clint Black "The Greatest Hits, v.2" (RCA, 2001)
Clint Black "Ultimate Clint Black" (RCA, 2003)
Clint Black "16 Biggest Hits" (RCA, 2006)
Clint Black "Love Songs" (RCA, 2007)
Clint Black "16 Biggest Hits" (Sony Legacy, 2009)
Clint Black "Video Hits" (DVD) (BMG, 2004)