What You Leave Behind

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It's been a long, tortuous road to a third album for Ricochet. After scoring a gold-selling hit and three Top Ten country singles with its self-titled debut in 1996, the group returned in 1997 with Blink of an Eye, which spawned three country chart entries, none of which got higher than the Top 20. They seemed poised for a third album in the fall of 1998 that even acquired a title, What a Ride, and a Columbia Records catalog number, 69198, but as a series of singles intended as advance tracks, "Honky Tonk Baby," "Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That," and "Seven Bridges Road," failed to break into the Top 40, the release date somehow never arrived. Meanwhile, drummer Jeff Bryant and steel guitarist Teddy Carr were replaced. Finally, in the summer of 2000, a new single, "She's Gone," emerged and began climbing the country charts, and Columbia 69198, now called What You Leave Behind, got a firm release date, hitting record stores in the second week of September.

As such a complicated history suggests it might, What You Leave Behind sounds like a collection assembled to find the band a hit single and stem its career decline. Ricochet's cover of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," performed in a vocal harmony arrangement similar to the Eagles' 1981 hit version, has been retained, along with many of the Ron and Blake Chancey-produced tracks probably intended for What a Ride. ("Honky Tonk Baby" and "Can't Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That" are not included.) But a new producer, David Malloy, was brought in for a trio of songs, "She's Gone," "Do I Love You Enough," and "I Can't Believe (You Let Her Go)," which are sequenced first, second, and fourth, respectively, on the album. All three are light pop-country tunes with lyrics intended to please female listeners. Not that that constitutes a big change of direction for Ricochet, but it does put them squarely in the Lonestar mold, and it's striking that the closest thing to an aggressive, honky tonk tune on the album, the cover of Mickey Newbury's "Why You Been Gone So Long" (which was a 1969 country hit for Johnny Darrell), doesn't turn up until the seventh slot in the track listing. The overall result is a sweet, but fairly toothless effort. You can only hope that Ricochet will make a less bland, homogenous album next time; this time, their challenge was that if they didn't come up with a hit, there wasn't going to be a next time.

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