Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Earl Thomas Conley, “Angel in Disguise”

“Angel in Disguise”

Earl Thomas Conley

Written by Earl Thomas Conley and Randy Scruggs


#1 (1 week)

July 28, 1984

Earl Thomas Conley has been one of this feature’s most satisfying discoveries, but this one is a mess. 

Nothing about “Angel in Disguise” works.  One poor choice is stacked atop another. 

The synthesizer arrangement is cold and tinny.  The vocal is nasal and strained. The tempo is agonizingly slow.

This record lacks charm, substance, and purpose.  It’s an unmitigated disaster.

Oh, and the video is going to haunt my dreams this evening.  

Next, please.

“Angel in Disguise” gets an F .

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Wow, I completely disagree with this rating. This is a great song and is one of ETC most recognizable songs.

    It’s also a very important release. With this song, Earl became the first artist – IN ANY GENRE OF MUSIC – to have four number one songs from the same album. He did it before Michael Jackson, before Whitney Houston, before anybody. (you can look it up).

    I had a friend who remembered liking ETC but couldn’t remember how any of his songs sounded. I played her the intro to Angel In Disguise and she immediately smiled and said it all came back to her that quickly. Then proceeded to tell me how much she loved this song.

    A definite A for me.

  2. While I wouldn’t give it a F, I do think this is a weak single during his run. I don’t know the production is just so dated now and enjoy many more of his songs besides this one. I would give it a C if pressed. I remember the chorus but that’s about it.

  3. Why do folks hate synthesizers so much? This is is my second favorite ETC song. Honestly I thought it was novel in how they were able to mix in some really great synth work with pedal steel. Different strokes I guess.

  4. This is the risk of being “in the moment” musically. The synth work in 1984 can be pilloried the same way production values of the early decade have been called out, but the sound here is an that of an artist using the available resources and tools in the recording process to full effect.

    The confidence to do this experimentation within country music can be interpreted as a shot across the bow of traditionalism.

    Or just bad judgement.

    The sound is the antithesis of timeless, yet, it stands as a great trail marker on country’s path through the decade.

    Conley’s vocals are clear and strong to my ears. The subdued tempo matches the dawning realization that he has turned up something unexpectedly wonderful in the least likely of places, he has found an angel where no angels should be.

    An angel in disguise.

    Conley wasn’t expecting what he found on his night out on the town and we as listeners were not expecting this sound from Conley.

    It’s hazy, unexpected and odd, but it works.

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