Diablo's 2005 two-fer The Silver Fox/Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High) combines two mid-'70s highlights from Charlie Rich. Rich's runaway success with "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl" prompted media attention he could never have anticipated. Given that by the early '70s Rich had been in the business almost 20 years and had sold some records, nothing could have prepared him for what happened. The Silver Fox is an unprecedented album by a country and pop singer. Issued in 1974, it features a side-long medley of Rich talking about his musical development and playing -- along with a host of Nashville's finest and producer Billy Sherrill -- examples indicative of his journey: a classical rondo, a steaming version of "Don't Put No Headstone on My Grave," a swing instrumental, a stomping version of his Sun Records classic "Break Up," the previously released version of "Behind Closed Doors," and one of his most undeniable classics, "I Feel Like Going Home." Not as stirring as the version on Pictures and Paintings with the Memphis gospel choir, but with the Nashville Edition he pulls off a stunner that raises goosebumps; it can bring tears to the most hardened eyes. The second half of The Silver Fox is filled with inspired covers of songs written by Sherrill and others, but the most notable tracks are Rich's own "Your Place Is Here with Me," with its Ray Charles-inspired gospel and blues swing, and "Whatever Happened," composed by Rich's wife, Margaret Ann. A sweet and lilting country ballad, it evokes nostalgia, bittersweet regret, and glimpses of time's passage. Laden with Sherrill's trademark string arrangements, a backing chorus, and Hargus "Pig" Robbins' honky tonk piano, in Rich's baritone the tune becomes a gentle elegy of disappearance of innocence and first love. The Silver Fox is one of the finest -- if not the finest -- of Rich's '70s recordings.
Then again, the 1970s were a magical time for Rich and Sherrill. Sherrill was the first producer who not only understood how gifted Rich was musically -- he knew virtually no bounds when it came to popular music styles -- but could comprehend and deliver Rich's vision to record buyers. On the title track on Every Time You Touch Me (I Get High), restrained bass notes and minimal, jazzy pianism coast into a space where strings glide into Rich's verse. Shimmering trills in the piano's midrange accent the end of each line, as do the female vocalists of the Nashville Edition. It's dreamy and ethereal and the listener encounters quite literally what the song's protagonist is describing. And "All Over Me" is a country tune with Rich's honky tonk accents caressed by Sherrill's strings and Pete Drake's pedal steel in a broken paean to love gone awry. This is the album that pointed to all the various directions Rich wanted to explore musically. Like Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Rich extended it to include new textures and sounds in pop and country. A stunning example is "Since I Fell for You," where Rich treats the melody like an R&B crooner and takes it to the breaking point of its country root. The remainder of Every Time You Touch Me holds a surprise in the dark, film noir-ish beauty of Margaret Ann's "Pass on By." Again, the deep R&B strains meet doo wop, soul, and early rock in a setting provided by Sherrill that could have been in a 1950s thriller sung in a smoky lounge. And while the remainder is terrific as well, Rich's own "Midnight Blues" walks the edge of rock and soul à la the Memphis sound. Shimmering strings in glissandi, stinging lead guitar, a trio of female verses echoing Rich's lines, and Robbins' honky tonk piano make the track swagger and shimmy, carrying the listener out on a rough and rowdy, darkly tinted note. Whew!