Producer Denny Diante had hit with Maxine Nightingale the year before this effort, and the thought of bringing back the gal who sang "Angel of the Morning" was certainly a noble idea. The self-titled album, Merrilee Rush, opens with "Save Me," sounding very much like the melody of Air Supply's 1980 hit "Lost in Love," making one wonder which was written first. Tom Snow's "You" was a hit for Rita Coolidge in 1978, so Diante and Rush had the right concept, and though the performance and sound is pretty good, Coolidge's production and spirit were deserving of the Top 25 status this song eventually garnered. Rush sounds as mature on this outing as Marianne Faithfull does in the passage of time between "As Tears Go By" and her comeback, Broken English. Rush's voice is a bit tattered but charming on "Easy, Soft and Slow," one of the album's finest and most majestic moments. The star looks pretty on this album cover, perhaps a bit more seductive than she appears on her Turnabouts debut nine years prior. It's too bad she didn't cover Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon's "Bette Davis Eyes" instead of releasing a carbon copy of her 1968 Top Ten hit "Angel of the Morning." Weiss had written for the original Rush album on Bell nine years earlier, as had Mark Lindsay, Joe South, and John Phillips. There were also multiple Chip Taylor songs on her debut, and maybe a cover of Taylor's composition for Janis Joplin, "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," would have been what the doctor ordered for this. Instead they seek redemption and almost get it by opting for a beautiful Christine McVie ballad from the sublime Bare Trees album by Fleetwood Mac. "Spare Me a Little of Your Love" should have been a hit for McVie prior to 1975's "Over My Head," and though the choice of material is fine, the hard rock guitar strips away the elegance of the original version. The gospel voices give this a Southern rock feel, not conducive to the chart success enjoyed by Helen Reddy and the aforementioned Rita Coolidge, and too drawn out to reach the market that embraced Linda Ronstadt's version of "Heatwave," although this tries to go in that direction. Because her voice changed so, as did the times, a more energized "Angel of the Morning" could have given this arty record a chance on FM radio. "Love Birds" borrows heavily from Tony Orlando & Dawn's "Candida," posing the question, did Diante and the record label know where they were taking Rush with this outing? "Could It Be Love I Found Tonight" is a big '70s ballad that would fit perfectly on a Melissa Manchester disc, but the production doesn't hit it out of the park. An endearing "Be True to You" starts country and goes back into the Manchester feel-good preaching that "Bridge Over Troubled Water" kicked the decade off with. An important work that needed just a bit more support to see it through.
AllMusic Review by Joe Viglione