Rita Coolidge

Satisfied/Heartbreak Radio/Never Let You Go

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Raven's 2012 set combines three Rita Coolidge albums from the dawn of the '80s on a double-disc set: 1979's Satisfied, 1981's Andrew Gold-produced Heartbreak Radio, and 1983's Never Let You Go; as an extra incentive, "Fool That I Am" from the soundtrack to the 1980 film Coast to Coast is added for good measure. Produced by noted Memphis soul man Booker T. Jones, Satisfied does indeed bear traces of smoky Southern soul, particularly in its rhythms -- rhythms that remain supple and tight even when the song is planted quite firmly in the middle of the road. The exception is the hit single "I'd Rather Leave While I'm in Love." This bit of Carole Bayer Sager/Peter Allen melodrama actually is overblown, sounding as if it is the love song to an Irwin Allen disaster flick -- an appealing sound that's somewhat out of place on a record that's otherwise richer, as it ably flirts with disco ("Let's Go Dancin'") and straight-ahead pop ("Crime of Passion"). Heartbreak Radio is a different beast, thanks in large part to producer Gold. He steers Coolidge toward a mainstream created in equal parts from Hollywood and Nashville, balancing Alabama's "The Closer You Get" next to a reggae cover of Bacharach/David's "Wishin' and Hopin'." The former evokes 1981 as much as the arrangement does on the latter and they're fine period curios, but the record is better than that, particularly when the production roars (as it does on "Heartbreak Radio" and "I Did My Part") or slides into a hot tub (as it does on "Hold On [I Feel Our Love Is Changing]" or "Take It Home"). New wave starts to surface on Never Let You Go, thanks to the punchy percussion and jangle of the opening "I'll Never Let You Go," but Coolidge embraces the new wave, covering Squeeze ("Tempted"), Ian Dury ("Stop Wasting Your Time"), Culture Club ("Do You Really Want to Hurt Me"), and Joe Jackson ("Fools in Love"). This is hardly a full-on skinny-tie record, though -- there are also covers of Al Green and Bob Seger, plus straight-ahead adult contemporary in the form of "Shadow in the Night" -- but this new wave predilection not only is fascinating, it's also fun. Certainly, the production -- all by David Anderle, half co-produced by Bernie Worrell -- dilutes the quirkiness and dulls the edge of new wave, but it's a happy balance of futurism and class and a wonderful little new wave anomaly that deserves to be heard.

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