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All Around Cowboy / Everything I've Always Wanted
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  • Morello's 2016 two-fer pairs two of Marty Robbins' last records onto a single CD: 1979's All Around Cowboy and 1981's Everything I've Always Wanted. Neither of the LPs were blockbusters, but both did generate some modest hits and they function as something of a coda to Robbins' career. This is especially true of All Around Cowboy, which is his final collection of Western tunes, functioning as a sequel of sorts to his 1959 classic Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. Produced by Billy Sherrill, All Around Cowboy is much softer than Gunfighter Ballads, both in sound and intention. Sherrill doesn't drape the album with excessive strings but keeps things lush, adding echoes to the acoustic guitars and vocals, threading in mariachi horns and choirs. There are tips of the hat to Robbins' past -- "San Angelo" can be seen as a sequel to "El Paso," the cowboy standard "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" is revisited -- and that only adds to the sweet, hazy nostalgia of the project and complements Robbins' easy charm. There's no grand concept here, no conscious revisiting of Robbins' roots, but that's what's good about All Around Cowboy: it reveals an old cowpoke casually returning to what he loves most, and it's hard not to find that endearing. Comparatively, Everything I've Always Wanted existed in the mainstream of 1981, playing off the softer sounds of the era, but it feels slightly old-fashioned in its sensibility. Some of this is due to the traditional aesthetics of the writing -- this material is proudly made in Music City, following formulas for both ballads and uptempo numbers, not to mention a couple of nods to cowboy tunes -- but the whole feel of Everything I've Always Wanted is a bit stuffy, emphasizing Robbins' crooning. By many measures, this is as much an adult contemporary soft rock record as it is a country-pop one, designed to appeal to mature audiences left behind by modern music. Appropriately, Everything I've Always Wanted didn't chart -- "An Occasional Rose" scraped the Billboard charts at 28, "Completely Out of Love" stalled at 47 -- but it's a pleasant enough record, notable for how it exists at a crossroads between both styles and eras, a soft pop album with the songs of the '50s and the sounds of the '70s released in the '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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