Each are quality recordings worlds apart as far as style and
attitude is concerned. Together, they represent early examples
of the fracturing and blurring of pop and country that began
to appear in the early 1970s with the ascension of the "duet"
album, the sensation that gave us Tammy Wynette & George
Jones, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers, Glenn Campbell &
Tanya Tucker, Clint Eastwood and Clyde the Orangutan.
Despite the immaculate production, spot-on musicianship by
the studio band, and a mellow, lovey-dovey, touchy-feeliness,
Full Moon pales when compared to Conway and Loretta. As boisterous,
loose and haphazard-sounding as the Hollywood album is calm
and calculated for mellow vibes, Nashville classic Louisiana
Woman, Mississippi Man is somehow the ugly duckling who comes
Perhaps it's the anonymous studio musicians who supply the
foundation for its undeniable charm. Or maybe it's the ancient
country clichés presented
at face value throughout the album. Or maybe it's there mere
presence of good ol' Conway Twitty, that reliable anchorman
of Country Music, whose "Hello, Darling" captured
the hearts of millions throughout the world, leading to the
inauguration of his own theme park, Twitty City, shortly before
he passed on in June of 1993.
Nope. This is Loretta Lynn's album, and this much is abundantly
clear: this is Loretta at her peak, with her instantly recognizable,
energetic and vulnerable voice a blessing telegraphed to your
auditory nerve. To be fair, Conway does an fine job as well,
but it's apparent to listener that he wisely lets himself
slide squarely into the number two position so Loretta can
Do Her Thing. In fact, it's only on a few tracks, like the
title one, that Conway gives his vocal chords a real workout.
And Loretta shines. She tackles every song like it's the
last one she'll ever sing. Imagine "For Heaven's Sakes."
You'll never find a more maudlin,
sappy, squarely by-the-numbers heartbreaker of hillbilly pathos
than this ditty. You know the drill; a man and woman, no longer
in love with each other, stay together solely for the good
of their baby girl, an adorable moppet aptly named "Heaven."
Awww. Cue the violins and steel guitar as Conway and Loretta
croon about skinned knees, puppy-dog tails, and just about
every other hoary old romantic groaner about parenthood. All
in all, it's a horrible, horrible song which, done by lesser
artists, would be a regular feature on Doctor Demento.
Except for one thing. Conway and Loretta sell it and sell
it convincingly. These are two seasoned pros of the Nashville
circuit, and even the filler material between hits (every
duet single released from Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn hit
the top ten of the Country Billboard charts - five of them
went to number one) gets treated with a care and professionalism
that is sorely lacking in the digital age. "Release Me"
is as fine an example of country at its best than anything
this side of Willie Nelson or Patsy Cline. And Elvis would
have been proud to cover the gospel-flavored "You Lay
So Easy on my Mind."
There's even more fun to be had; some semi-Cajun country
pops up that predates
the immortal Jerry Reed by a few years, and tons of the classic
heartbreakers. All in all, Mississippi Woman, Louisiana
Man is an album with a song to fit all moods and seasons,
a prime showcase of two country legends at their best.
Meanwhile, ex-Rhodes Scholar, movie actor and drunken helicopter
pilot Kris Kristofferson was probably sipping Earl Gray Tea
and blowing smoke rings of Acapulco Gold whilst gazing at
seagulls as they slowly wheeled by in the misty morning Malibu
sky when he dreamed up Full Moon with his duet queen
Rita Coolidge. It's a laid-back, Stonesy, faux-country kind
of album, the kind that pointed the way to so many "E-Z,"
"Adult Contemporary" or "Lite" Rock hits
that, in a desperate gamble, the nation embraced disco as
But whereas Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man was geared
as a hit single-generating golden goose, Full Moon
is a mellow, pop-a-half-a-Quaalude with your sweetheart and
the reality of Watergate, Vietnam and the death of Flower
Power sort of affair. Viewers of television in the mid-'80s
will recall witnessing the seemingly endless string of TV
ads for the All-Time Greatest Country Hits, Big Hits of the
50's, and the most nauseating genre of all, the Ultimate
Love Ballad Collection. These spots invariably featured couples
enraptured by each others presence; moony-eyed gazes across
candlelit tables, wine glasses clinking together next to a
roaring fire and hippies walking hand in hand across a beach
during sunset whilst the heavily-gauzed camera lens drinks
in the afterglow.
Any song on Full Moon could easily lead off the Greatest
Love Ballad album. The back cover alone, featuring Kris and
Rita photographed in a backlit embrace, gives no illusions
as to the nature of this album. Each song effortlessly flows
from one to the next, with nary a change in key or tempo.
And while the intended effect was probably intended to be
soothing, the real result is quite the opposite; the quality
of sameness in almost every song becomes oddly distracting
instead of relaxing.
As a whole, the album comes across as too lackadaisical and
mellow for even the most devout early morning beach-walking
couples. Don't get me wrong; the backup musicians, featuring
all-time greats like Herb Alpert and Booker T. Jones, do a
terrific job. They are certainly light years better than their
Nashville counterparts backing
Conway and Loretta. Kris Kristofferson sings quite well, and
his then-wife Rita Coolidge possesses a remarkably velvety,
sensitive, alluring voice. To be fair, the songs themselves
aren't that bad. There's just something that seems to be missing
from Full Moon as a whole, a mystifying achievement
for the guy who wrote both "Bobby McGee" and "Sunday
Morning Coming Down" (covered by country alt-rock legend
Johnny Cash), a tune voted Best Song of 1970.
But then again, Full Moon isn't really country per se: It's
more of a make-out album for the burgeoning New Mexico yuppie
set. And I'll wager in that department it still holds water.
But if you ask me, it's that ever-so-precious musical seriousness
that screws the pooch every time.
Plus there's no heartbreak here, no real sadness. No wisdom
imparted from foolish mistakes, getting sent to prison, or
untimely deaths of a spouse or loved one. And no spazzy, inbred,
retard goofiness the humanistic cornerstone that anchors
the most maligned of America's native musical styles. That
would be "not cool" and dangerously close to "uptight."
To compensate, there's loads of Jimmy Buffet-style bongos
and xylophones, Hawaiian slide guitars and Hammond organs,
and warm choruses of overly-rehearsed crooning.
In short, whether one chooses Louisiana Woman, Mississippi
Man or Full Moon could be summed up by one's drug
problem. Alcoholics and speed junkies will probably enjoy
attempting to remove hallucinatory spiders from their
sweating bodies or plowing their 18-wheeler through an old
folks home to the rollicking tunes of Conway and Loretta.
Barbiturate-bingers and bong-huffers will definitely prefer
Kris and Rita's mellow vibes as they peruse back issues of
Mother Jones or wander through the fog inside the local Pottery
It breaks down this way. Whereas the LA sex symbols each
appeared on "Saturday Night Live" in its ultra-hip
'70s NYC prime, their Nashville counterparts, on the other
hand, went nowhere near Rockefeller Center but instead each
graced the stage on "Hee Haw."
Still, give Conway & Loretta credit for doing the groundwork.
Would Kris have been able to effortlessly make the leap from
Air Force Colonel to Country Star to Movie Idol ("Cisco
Pike," Rubber Duck in "Convoy," toe-to-toe
with Steven Seagal in "Fire Down Below") had Conway
Twitty not appeared in and composed the songs for 1960's "Sex
Kittens Go to College" aka "Teacher Versus Sexpot"?
The answer is yes, but you gotta love Conway for trying!
Anyway, the other three stars made up the difference by each
appearing on the "The Muppet Show." Loretta Lynn
and Gonzo. Rita Coolidge and Beaker. Kris and Miss Piggy.
They may not be the standard country duets, but compared to
whatever the hell Shania is cooking up these days, I'll take
the frog to block.