Michael Martin Murphey

Tonight We Ride

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Michael Martin Murphey and producer Jim Ed Norman enlisted a stellar cast for the singer/songwriter's Warner Bros. debut. Tonight We Ride hosted such luminaries as Pam Tillis, Sonny Throckmorton, J.D. Souther, Buddy Emmons, Reggie Young, Charlie McCoy, Barry Beckett, Mark O'Connor, and Josh Leo. Too bad it's all for naught. If ever a Nash Vegas record suffered from the excesses of 1980s production, this is it. Murphey still had some of his excellent writing chops, but his tunes are utterly crushed under the weight of synthesizers, synth strings, drum machines, and horribly layered vocals. The title track and the album's first single sounds like the union of Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Pat Benatar. Ugh. "Rollin' Nowhere" is an early attempt at Western swing and Emmons shines on the track, but everything is so separate that the musicians might as well have been in different rooms. "Innocent Hearts" is one of those utterly sappy and syrupy Murphey ballads that it hurts to listen to. "Close to My Heart"'s melody apes that of "Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir" and is the album's best track, a classic slice of Murphey's particular writing talent. But next is "Face to Face With the Night," with an overblown sense of drama and so many keyboard, vocal, and guitar overdubs it's hard to find the song. "Building Bridges" is a decent duet with Pam Tillis, and her performance is stellar. The rest, other than the album's fine closer, "Ghost Town" (an honest to goodness country song), is utterly forgettable.

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