“Learning as You Go“
Written by Larry Boone and Billy Lawson
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
September 6, 1996
A talented and charismatic singer has his edges sanded down by the Music Row machine.
The Road to No. 1
After “She Can’t Say I Didn’t Cry” went to No. 1, Rick Trevino’s first English-language album produced an additional top five hit with “Doctor Time,” enough to power Rick Trevino to gold-selling status. His next album, Looking For the Light, produced three singles. The first and third missed the top forty, but “Bobbie Ann Mason” went top ten. His third English-language album, Learning as You Go, was his most successful at radio, kicking things off with two consecutive No. 1 singles.
The No. 1
“Learning as You Go” is a decent song with an interesting concept. A man has never been hurt before, having only been in a secure, stable, and loving relationship with his partner. So as she’s leaving him, he asks her to go easy on him, as he’s “learning as you go.”
The production couldn’t be more generic if it tried, and Trevino’s vocal performance reminds me of Reba McEntire’s records for Mercury, where her producers insisted that she flatten out the distinctive vocal trills that would make her a superstar once she hooked up with Jimmy Bowen and MCA Records.
Trevino sounded less like himself on each successive Columbia album. Listening to this alongside “Just Enough Rope” is startling. It’s like his confidence actually eroded as a vocalist, likely because the label was simply incapable of cultivating him as an artist.
Doug Johnson was brought in to co-produce this project, a name that I don’t remember at all from the nineties, but just typed yesterday as the writer and producer of James Bonamy’s “I Don’t Think I Will.” He was at the helm of Doug Stone’s first three albums, which this feature tracked over time as Stone descended from honky tonk greatness to sappy pablum over the course of those three releases. He gets credit for bringing Patty Loveless over to Epic, and discovered much of the nineties Sony roster, so he had an ear for talent.
Just thinking of Johnson producing Loveless instead of Emory Gordy Jr. gives me the dry heaves. She likely would’ve gone the way of Stone and Trevino, two of the best male vocalists to come along in the nineties. What a waste of prodigious talent.
The Road From No. 1
Trevino’s next single also went No. 1, his final visit to the penthouse to date. We’ll cover it in early 1997.
“Learning as You Go” gets a B-.
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