Retro Single Reviews: George Strait, 1990-1991

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March 24, 2013

As the nineties began, George Strait was the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year, a title noted on the belt buckle he wore on the cover of Livin’ it Up.

Around this time, Billboard switched to monitoring radio stations in real time, revealing just how often songs were really being played.  So while all of his eighties #1 singles spent only a week at the top, all four of the #1 singles listed here spent multiple weeks in the penthouse, including two five-week runs at the top.

   George Strait Love Without End Amen

“Love Without End, Amen”
1990
Peak: #1

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One of Strait’s most enduring hits, “Love Without End, Amen” foreshadowed the understated religiousness of future hits like “I Saw God Today.” A classic three act story song, it makes its point subtly and endearingly.

Written by Aaron Barker

Grade: A

George Strait Drinking Champagne

“Drinking Champagne”
1990
Peak: #4

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A minor hit for Cal Smith in 1968, Strait continues his tradition of reviving the country songs that inspired his style. It’s easy to see how this flew over the heads of many listeners when Smith first released it, but Strait’s smooth delivery helped get it some wider exposure 22 years later.

Written by Bill Mack

Grade: B+

George Strait Livin' it Up

“I’ve Come to Expect it From You”
1990
Peak: #1

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Nervy, nervous and a little unnerving, there’s a tension present here that is a bit jarring from the genre’s Sinatra. Sometimes bitter is just better, making this one of Strait’s most compelling singles to date.

Written by Buddy Cannon and Dean Dillon

Grade: A

George Strait If I Know Me

“If I Know Me”
1991
Peak: #1

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Ever imagine what K.T. Oslin’s “Hold Me” would’ve sounded like if it had the same theme with a traditional song structure? Here’s your answer. It still sounds great today, though a bit more punch in the production would’ve helped a bit.

Written by Pam Belford and Dean Dillon

Grade: A-

George Strait You Know Me Better Than That

“You Know Me Better Than That”
1991
Peak: #1

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Western swing and wily wit, Strait shines on this comedic number. He plays it just straight enough to keep it on the right side of the line between good humor and silliness, never losing the self-awareness necessary to make it work.

Written by Anna Lisa Graham and Tony Haselden

Grade: A

George Strait The Chill of An Early Fall

“The Chill of an Early Fall”
1991
Peak: #3

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As exciting as the prospect of George Strait singing a Gretchen Peters song might seem, she was definitely still honing her craft on this single that was co-written by Green Daniel. The concept is solid, and the imagery is vivid, but the parallels between the changing of the seasons and the impending changing of lovers aren’t drawn sharply enough.

Written by Green Daniel and Gretchen Peters

Grade: B-

Next: 1992-1993

Previous: “Overnight Success”

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  1. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    “Love Without End, Amen” and “You Know Me Better Than That” are some of my favorite George Strait songs. I do like “The Chill of an Early Fall” a bit better than you do, though I may be a bit biased when it comes to Gretchen Peters.

  2. the_trouble_with_the_truthNo Gravatar says:

    I love “the chill of an early fall”. I’d give it an A for sure.

  3. Motown MikeNo Gravatar says:

    If I made a top 25 list for King George songs I’m certain that “Love Without End, Amen” would fall in the 8-12 range. “You Know Me Better” might crack a spot at 24-25 as well, but with George Strait there are soooo many solid song choices that one would feel bad leaving a song out. Love Without End definitely makes my list though.

  4. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Three of my very favorite Strait songs are in this time period: “I’ve Come to Expect it from You”, “If I Know Me”, and “You Know Me Better than That.” I used to love “A Love Without End, Amen” and still like it, but it doesn’t pack the same punch as it once did with me. I notice that story songs tend to be that way for me. Fun, Guilty Confession: I once loved “Don’t Take the Girl” when it first came out.

  5. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Ha, I used to love “Don’t Take the Girl” too, though now I’m not even sure I could say why.

  6. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Yup, same for me. I totally remember how it made me feel at the time, but I can’t conjure up those feelings for it now.

  7. By any standards, that’s a hell of a run. If I had to rank them in my personal order of preference, it’d be:

    “Love Without End, Amen”
    “I’ve Come to Expect It from You”
    “You Know Me Better Than That”
    “If I Know Me”
    “Drinking Champagne”
    “The Chill of an Early Fall”

    Though “Chill” is last on this list, I really do like the song quite a bit. I agree that the writing isn’t fully developed but it’s still vivid and there’s something specific about the tone of the song that conveys the right mood. It’s a song that I don’t often think of in my all-time favorite Strait recordings, but whenever I hear it I get lost in it.

  8. Mike J.No Gravatar says:

    Agree with the grades for most of these with just one exception. I’ve never been able to get into “You Know Me Better Than That.” I think it’s the line about loving the cat that just makes me go, “Meh.” I do like the music set to that song, just not enamored with the lyrics.

  9. Leeann WardNo Gravatar says:

    Oops. The cat line is one of my faves of the song. It’s the “lazy and fat” line that makes me cringe just a tiny bit.

  10. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    I love the cat line too – it always makes me smile. I actually like the “lazy and fat” bit because I think it works well to contrast being “in love with an image time is bound to see through” with the familiarity of married life.

  11. “You Know Me Better Than That” is easily one of Strait’s most unique and clever singles. He’s basically setting the standard for all those ‘country vs. city life’ type songs that came after it, only his song does it in a much subtler way.

    Justin Moore’s horrid “Bait A Hook” covers much the same ground as “You Know Me Better Than That” only without the sophistication of the Strait single. Anna and Tony should be teachers in the art of writing details into a story song that say just enough to get the point across without going overboard.

    It’s just a fantastic song all around.

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