Picks and Pans Review: Signatures: a Songwriter's Album

06/27/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Various artists

Country music followers would probably be happy just to hear some of the performers on this album for novelty's sake. After all, Rhonda Fleming, Bob McDill, Mike Reid, Don Schlitz and Mark Wright are five of the most prolific songwriters around, and it's usually fun to hear people sing their own material. These 10 tracks, however, are much more than ego indulgences. They range from solid to powerhouse performances of first-rate country songs. In particular, Fleming (co-composer of such songs as Sylvia's Nobody and Barbara Mandrell's Sleeping Single in a Double Bed) demonstrates a gorgeous voice, as rich and warm as Judy Collins' or Anne Murray's. Fleming's style is ideally suited to She Must Be Beautiful and Every Love, two romance-oriented tunes she wrote with Janis Ian. McDill, who has written such tunes as I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can for Juice Newton and Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold) for Dan Seals, is as sophisticated and insightfully witty in his way as Cole Porter was. The Beaumont, Texas-born McDill sings, in an easy twang, Song of the South and Still Got You Baby a middle-age love song in which a man reflects, "Lost my wind/Lost my push/Lost my waistline/And I lost my looks/But I still got you, baby." Schlitz gets a background boost from collaborator Kathie Baillie on Life's Too Short, and Ronnie Milsap backs up Reid on Old Folks. Wright, who co-wrote Kenny Rogers' I Prefer the Moonlight, is at 31 the youngest of the five and demonstrates the album's closest thing to country rock on The Darkest Stretch of Road. The first in a projected series of composer-singer country albums, this is a most promising beginning. (RCA)

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