Kris Kristofferson / Rita Coolidge

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Breakaway Review

by William Ruhlmann

The success of Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge's first duo album, Full Moon, which topped the country charts, went gold, and won a Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the track "From the Bottle to the Bottom," whetted appetites for its follow-up, Breakaway. But just as Kristofferson's solo album Spooky Lady's Sideshow, released earlier in 1974, had been a commercial disappointment following the popularity of its predecessor, Jesus Was a Capricorn, so Breakaway failed to match the impression Full Moon had made. That may have been in part because Monument Records, which released the album (Full Moon had been on Coolidge's label, A&M), was treating Kristofferson as an established artist who didn't need a lot of promotion, and in part because Breakaway was the seventh new Kristofferson album released within four-and-a-half years, too much product for the market to absorb. In any case, the album was a worthy successor to Full Moon. The Kristofferson/Coolidge albums were very different from each artist's solo albums, though somewhat closer to Coolidge's because they consisted largely of cover songs and the keys were set to her voice, with Kristofferson singing at the upper edge of his narrow range. This forced him to work harder and sing more, which made him a better vocalist than he usually was on his own albums. He tended to take brief vacations from songwriting for their sessions of love songs, but this album was sparked by two of his old songs, neither of which he had previously recorded, though they had been hits for others. "I'd Rather Be Sorry" was a country hit for Ray Price in 1971 and "I've Got to Have You" for Sammi Smith in 1972. (There is also an effective version of the latter on Carly Simon's second album, 1971's Anticipation.) The husband-and-wife team handled these songs well, making you wish they would tackle an entire album of Kristofferson love songs. But the tracks that garnered the most attention were their revival of the old Clyde McPhatter hit "Lover Please" (written by Kristofferson sideman Billy Swan), which reached the easy listening charts as a single and won the duo a second Grammy, and their version of Larry Gatlin's "Rain," a country and easy listening chart entry. Those semi-hits were enough to get the album into the country top five and the Top 100 of the pop charts, but like Kristofferson's solo recording career, his teaming with his wife had passed its commercial peak.

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