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"No Nonsense" Stands By Its Title
T. Yap | Sydney, NSW, Australia | 03/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prime Cuts: I'll Leave Something Good Behind, Men and Trains, Where Are the Pieces of My Heart"No Nonsense" was released in September of 1990 by Capitol Nashville Records--a glabrous time for the Jimmy Bowen-fronted label. With an array of over 60 artists on the label's roster, Mandrell, like the majority of her label mates, fell through the cracks. The lone survivor out of this morass was the monumentally successful Garth Brooks. Hence, it was no surprise that "No Nonsense" was only able to nest, for a single week, at the paltry 72 position on the Billboard's Country Album chart, making this Mandrell lowest charting album.
Despite its lukewarm commercial response, "No Nonsense" is a stellar effort from this two time CMA Entertainer of the Year. There's a cornucopia of songs on this 10-cut CD to appease her fans. The album starts off in a pop-country slanted direction that we have come to expect from Mandrell. "Where Are the Pieces of My Heart," the first of two Hugh Prestwood composition, is a pacey number driven by a mesmeric chatting guitar with some clever lines here and there. Not sonically inferior by any means is Prestwood's other offering, "More Fun Than the Law Allows." Though it's not spit n' dust country, it's one of those small town story songs you can only find in the country genre. "More Fun" tells the story of an officer interrupting the partying Ms. Mandrell and her partner for having too much fun in a frigid little town. It is winsome and cute; though I could live without "pa pa pow pow" refrain in the chorus.
While some of Mandrell's repertoire had been over daubed with synth work, "Feed the Fire" is a breath of fresh air. "Feed the Fire" has an organic, earthy feel with some tasty strumming of the guitar that complements rather than overwhelms. While Mike Reid's bluesy waltz "Too Soon to Tell" is remindful of Bonnie Riatt at her finest. "Men and Train," the debut single, is a charm. Comparing men with the moving caboose, "Men and Train" is exuberant and as the title suggests it roams along at a bullet train speed. "Men and Train" rocks merrily and it is a delightful ditty. R.C. Bannon (Mandrell's brother-in-law) displays his wares to his advantage here with three cuts. The best of which is the duet with sister Louise Mandrell "I'd Rather Be Used (Than Not Needed At All)." "I'd Rather Be Used," a popish flavored ballad, overhears Barbara (playing the role of a housewife) interacting with Louise (playing the role of a single lady) about the advantages and disadvantages of marriage. Kudos to both Mandrells, as both played their roles convincingly. Equally delightful is the gentle love ballad "You Gave It to Me," while "We Can't Go Back" sings home the all-important message of forgetting the past and pressing on to the future with hope.
The highlight of the album comes at its tail end. "I'll Leave Something Good Behind" is the sophomore single released from this album (after "Men and Trains") but it is also the final charting single by Ms. Mandrell. Though it failed to placate radio, it's the best legacy Mandrell has had left behind. Culled from the first-rate catalog of songsmith Hilary Kanter, "I'll Leave Something Good Behind," is a moving tribute from a mother to a child. Elegantly accompanied by John Jarvis on piano, deftly produced by Jimmy Bowen and James Stroud, Mandrell has never sounded better--her raspy vocals caressing the lyrics as she exudes her maternal sentiments over every note on this masterpiece. Truly, one of those unforgettable moments captured on CD. Overall, "No Nonsense" stands by its album title: there are no fillers or throwaways, just 10 well crafted songs with individualities. To me, "No Nonsense" will always be remembered as my favorite Barbara Mandrell CD. To paraphrase Mandrell herself, she has indeed left something good behind."