Barbara Mandrell

This Time I Almost Made It

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Although This Time I Almost Made It generated a genuine hit in its title track, the album does bear signs of both indifference and indirection. According to Joe Marchese's liner notes, Sherrill knocked out "This Time I Almost Made It" -- by far the best non-cover song on the record -- only when he realized they were running short of material and his other original, "A Very Special Love Song," feels like a throwaway. Sometimes, it seems as if Sherrill isn't quite sure what to do with Mandrell. He keeps her away from anything that could be construed as a good fit for Tammy Wynette, and when the country does turn toward the straight-ahead, it's still soft; Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again" doesn't carry resignation in Barbara's hands, only reassurance. Sherrill usually steers Mandrell toward pop, having her cover the Beatles ("Something") and Bee Gees ("Words"), but perhaps the most intriguing cover here is a slinky take on Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's "You're All I Need to Get By," a country-soul hybrid that suits her well. It's a ringer, though: the rest of the record is country-pop with an emphasis on pop, a sound that's soothing but in this case a little transient.

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