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LeAnn Rimes

Unchained Melody/The Early Years – 1997 (Curb)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by LeAnn Rimes

Recorded before "Blue," this is the second major label release of superstar LeAnn Rimes, and it sounds like it was recorded first. Seven songs were from her indie debut, "All That" at 11. The other three were done a year later.

Like "Blue," the biggest problem is the material. Some works quite well - the opener "Cowboy's Sweetheart," the huge hit six decades ago for the late Patsy Montana, which Rimes treats with respect, but infuses with energy. She does credibly on Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky" with a brassy, very full sounding delivery in a rockabilly version, although the instrumentation is far too studied and undermiked. The hit single, "Unchained Melody" shows Rimes' ability to tackle a difficult song. As always, the highlight is Rimes' voice. She can infuse a song with emotion without oversinging. She proves that on "I Will Always Love You," though another version of the song was superfluous, especially given its adult pop feel strings and all. Many songs, ("Yesterday") are devoid of a country feel.

The musicianship throughout is wooden and uninspired. Look at this as giving an early glimpse to a star in the making. Rimes proves once again her voice is a thing of beauty even at a younger age. Now, if she could only find songs to match.