At the time of his debut, it seemed as if Rodney Crowell would be the one to truly fill the void left in the wake of Gram Parsons' death -- from his soulful hybrid of country, rock and pop to Emmylou Harris' backing vocals. But by the time of his second recording, he was working with Ramones producer Craig Leon on 1980's But What Will the Neighbors Think, which put a much heavier emphasis on the rock and pop aspects of his music, and less on the country. With his self-titled third album -- the first to be self-produced -- the country began to get a little slicker (as it did industry wide), while the rock & roll became a bit more straightforward. It also contains some stelar talent: Memphis soul organist Booker T. Jones, guitarists Vince Gill and Albert Lee, and Rosanne Cash on harmony vocals. The record starts on a strong note with one of Crowell's finest, the impressionistic honky tonk of "Stars on the Water," before a Keith Sykes rocker, followed by a Guy Clark ballad, sets the up-and-down pace that would carry things the rest of the way. And while alternating lighthearted rock & roll numbers with more somber tracks such as Clark's "She Ain't Going Nowhere" or his own "Victim or a Fool" isn't necessarily a bad move, here it never really allows the record to settle into a steady flow -- especially when some of the up-tempo cuts feel like filler. On the other hand, new songs like "Shame on the Moon" or the aforementioned "Stars on the Water" and "Victim or a Fool" show that Crowell is still at the top of his game. Elsewhere, he gives the beautiful "'Til I Gain Control Again," one of the many terrific tunes from his back catalog (recorded prior to this by both Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings), a tasteful country-pop treatment that fits nicely with the best of his new material. As was the case with his previous two records, Crowell failed to make much headway for himself in the marketplace with this record, though it did continue his streak of spawning at least one major hit for another artist -- Bob Seger's cover of "Shame on the Moon," which went to number two on the charts.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach