Written by Floyd Dickson
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
August 26, 1983
Johnny Lee’s best known for his hits from earlier in the decade, but “Hey Bartender” blows all of them out of the water.
My primary criticism of his earlier work was how lethargic those records were. He sounded disconnected from the lyrics he was singing, and the production seemed designed to lull listeners into a coma just mild enough to keep them from changing the radio station.
“Hey Bartender” is a shot of adrenaline, with Lee sounding fully present and even enthusiastic as he asks the bartender to keep the beers coming. Brass instrumentation is used effectively to create a bit more drama, but it all would have been for naught if Lee himself wasn’t so energetic on the record.
Once again, the decade’s most underrated MVP is behind the console. Jimmy Bowen’s ability to properly arrange and mix records shouldn’t have made him stand out as much as he did during this era in Nashville, but it did. Johnny Lee certainly never sounded better than he does here.
“Hey Bartender” gets a B+.
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