Johnny Duncan Thinkin' of a Rendezvous: Columbia Country Hits 1969-1980 * CD

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Johnny Duncan Thinkin' of a Rendezvous: Columbia Country Hits 1969-1980 * CD. Yes, this 2012 release has the exact same 23 tracks as the 2003 anthology titled It Couldn't Have Been Any Better, the songs even playing in the same chronological order. But since the 2003 collection wasn't easy to find almost a decade after it was issued, this differently titled compilation serves the purpose of making Johnny Duncan's most popular work easily available again. The very qualities that helped Duncan achieve considerable chart success during this period -- lush production, affable easygoing tunes, and easy-on-the-ear country-pop singing -- are the same ones that have relegated him to a footnote in serious critical assessments of the era. Many mainstream country fans are not bothered by where critics place hitmakers, though, and for those who remember the era in general and Duncan in particular, this is a neat summary of his biggest hits. Though he wasn't the most famous client of Billy Sherrill, who produced most of the tracks (and almost everything from 1973 onward), the arrangements (sometimes with a mariachi flavor) share the countrypolitan feel that Sherrill polished with more famous clients like Charlie Rich. Duncan isn't nearly in Rich's league as a vocalist, but ably projected a good-hearted persona on hits that struck a laid-back mood more often than not, though they occasionally had hints of upbeat honky tonk. Some of the early tracks were co-produced by Bobby Goldsboro, who wrote Duncan's minor 1970 hit "You're Gonna Need a Man." But it wasn't until the last half of the 1970s that Johnny Duncan's stardom peaked with nine Top Ten country charters (all here), some of them duets with Janie Fricke. ~ Richie Unterberger


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