Charlie Rich

Set Me Free

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Set Me Free Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Set Me Free was Charlie Rich's first album for Epic Records and the first record he ever cut with Nashville producer Billy Sherrill. Previously, Rich's producers hadn't known what to do with his eclectic style, although his sessions for Smash came close to capturing all sides of his personality. With Sherrill, Rich had a producer whose musical tastes were nearly as eclectic as his own, and that is captured on the freewheeling, diverse sounds of Set Me Free. Purists may be uncomfortable with Sherrill's lush production -- he sets Rich's voice in a bed of strings, keyboards, horns, and backing vocals. Consequently, the sound of Set Me Free is laid-back and relaxed; occasionally, Rich sounds too relaxed, as if he didn't connect with the material. Although there are a handful of poor songs and half-hearted performances on the record, Set Me Free has an overall tone lacking on Rich's previous records that makes up for its assorted weaknesses. The songs come from a variety of sources, ranging from country and blues to jazz and pop, but they're all given a cohesive Nashville production by Sherrill, which is what makes Set Me Free one of Rich's best, most consistent albums.

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