Janie Fricke was one of the pioneers of the bland pop-crossover sound which became dominant during the 1980s and '90s. She didn't have the same lasting power as Reba McEntire or others who followed in their footsteps, but it's hard to imagine stars such as Faith Hill and Martina McBride rising to the top had it not been for the stylistic moves by gals such as Ms. Fricke and her generation of pop-country singers. Here's a quick look at her career...
Janie Fricke "Greatest Hits" (Sony, 1990)
Janie Fricke "Super Hits" (Columbia, 1999)
This brief best-of opens on a hopeful note, Frickie's robust 1982 honkytonk hit, "Down To My Last Broken Heart," then tracks her inevitable plunge into poppier, slushier terrain. Frickie's biggest hit, the promisingly titled "He's A Heartache (Waiting To Happen)" is a jittery, New Waved-up pop tune, and doesn't hold up even as well as the slow, sappy, tinkly keyboard ballads that came in its wake. "Let's Stop Talking About It" was a more successful uptempo followup, but most of her '80s material seems like a misuse of her talents: the glossy arrangements bring out the flaws in her husky voice, rather than its strengths. If she'd stayed hard country, she might have had fewer hits (who knows? "She's Single Again" did fine in '85...) but she sure would have made much better music.
Janie Fricke "Now And Then" (Branson-Intersound, 1995)
Janie Fricke "Anthology" (Renaissance, 1999)
Janie Fricke "Golden Legends: New Stereo Recordings By The Original Artist" (Madacy, 2005)
Janie Fricke "The First Word In Memory/Black & White" (Collectables, 1999)
This twofer reissue gathers most of the material from two of Fricke's later albums, 1984's The First Word In Memory and Black & White, from 1986.
Janie Fricke "Singer Of Songs" (Columbia, 1977) (LP)
What a dumb album title. I guess it's meant to telegraph that she's not "just" singing country on here on her debut album, but rather that she's tackling "serious" material in a cheesy '70s pop-soul style. Hardly a twang to be heard on here... but if you listen really carefully, you can the back door slamming as I race down to the used record store to take this turkey back!
Janie Fricke "Love Notes" (Columbia, 1979) (LP)
Janie Fricke "From The Heart" (Columbia, 1979) (LP)
Janie Fricke & Johnny Duncan "Nice 'N' Easy" (Columbia, 1980) (LP)
Sheer fricke-in' torture. These pop-drenched duets are simply awful -- drenched in the worst, cheesiest, disco-era AOR arrangements imaginable. This disc gathers tunes recorded and released as singles between 1976-80, and it's all just goopy crap. Duncan indulges himself in his most louche, cornball tendencies, as if he were some sort of hillbilly Barry White, and as for Janie Fricke, I remain to be yet convinced that she really had much to offer to the true country crowd. She's like a sad, sad Toni Tennille wannabee.
Janie Fricke "I'll Need Someone To Hold Me When I Cry" (Columbia, 1980) (LP)
Janie Fricke "Sleeping With Your Memory" (Columbia, 1981) (LP)
Janie Fricke "It Ain't Easy" (Columbia, 1982) (LP)
Janie Fricke "Love Lies" (Columbia, 1983) (LP)
Janie Fricke "The First Word In Memory" (Columbia, 1984)
Janie Fricke "Somebody Else's Fire" (Columbia, 1985) (LP)
Janie Fricke "Black & White" (Columbia, 1986)
Janie Fricke "After Midnight" (Columbia, 1987) (LP)
Janie Fricke "Saddle In The Wind" (Columbia, 1988)
Janie Fricke "Labor Of Love" (Columbia, 1989)
Janie Fricke "Crossroads: Hymns Of Faith" (Branson, 1993)
Janie Fricke "Bouncin' Back" (JMF, 2000)
Janie Fricke "Live At Billy Bob's Texas" (Smith Music Group, 2002)
Janie Fricke "The Bluegrass Sessions" (DM Nashville, 2004)
Janie Fricke "The Country Side Of Bluegrass" (New Music Deals, 2012)
(Produced by Bil Vorndick)
One of the biggest head-turners this winter is this rootsy little record from '80s star Janie Fricke... I was never a big fan of her glossy, synthy stuff of yesteryear, but this twangy acoustic set is pretty sweet and I actually prefer her more mature voice, which has a light rural roughness that she had carefully pruned out back when she had all those hit singles. I think this is a record which may charm fans and skeptics alike; it's a followup to her 2004 Bluegrass Sessions set, and if anything, it's even better... I was pleasantly surprised!
Hick Music Index