Behind Closed Doors
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #8
Weeks Charted: 105
Certified Platinum: 11/21/86
Hot off a smash single (the title song), Charlie Rich puts together some of his finest and bluesiest material, and he'll add all sorts of new devotees to those who have followed him from the '50s. Best cuts: "A Sunday Kind of Woman," "I'm Not Going Hungry Anymore," "Nothing in the World."
- Billboard, 1973.
I welcome the title track hit not just because it's richly deserved but because it makes love and marriage seem exciting enough to break out of Nashville. But the album is a typical Music Row mediocrity. Love and marriage is Rich's natural subject at this stage of his career (life, I mean), but to limit him to it is counterproductive -- part of the excitement of the bond is what happens outside its circle, and I don't mean cheating. B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
- Mark A. Humphrey, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The "Silver Fox" finally hit bigtime in 1973 with the lush countrypolitan smash Behind Closed Doors. Critics panned his work as bland and safe and certainly the album does little credit to Rich's versatility as a singer and talented pianist. Indeed, legendary producer Sam Phillips, who signed Rich to Sun Records in 1957, was moved to make the now astonishing claim that the artist had the talent to be the only serious rival to Elvis.
Again working with heavy-weight producer Billy Sherrill, Behind Closed Doors was string-heavy, slick and unashamed in its commercial ambitions. The title track made Number One on the country charts and crossed into the mainstream with a Top Twenty place on the pop charts. Country purists may have objected, but the album made Rich a superstar, with a slew of awards including Country Music Association (CMA) honours for album, single, male vocalist of the year and entertainer of the year. The following year, rather than announce the new winner, Rich burned the envelope containing the name (John Denver). The Academy of Country Music (ACM) pitched in with a similar set of awards and he received a Grammy for the title track.
Rich had made better music, but never more popular, and he set the template for early-1970s commercial country. His "closed doors" opened the door for adult, romantic confessional songwriting -- even if Opry regulars did not like it.
As of 2004, Behind Closed Doors was the #59 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
The setting might be intentionally middle of the road, but that doesn't stop Rich from treating the songs, which mostly avoid Nashville's cheating hearts story line, like lost classics of bedroom soul. Rich projects an air of gruff cool. Like Ray Charles, whom he emulates, he escapes the velvet handcuff of posh tracks by singing with almost no affection, emphasizing the weary realness of his voice. Also like Charles, Rich has no problem handling different styles: While the live songs (notably the title track and "The Most Beautiful Girl") make the soul influence clear, Rich is equally convincing interpreting sedate gospel hymns and an anything-but-sedate Neil Diamond-style production number ("Peace on You").
This album represents Rich's commercial peak -- the title track and "The Most Beautiful Girl" both hit the upper reaches of the pop and country charts. It's perhaps more important as a template for the country crooner music of the '90s, though few imitators have matched Rich's gift for easygoing and sneakily compelling expression. Sam Phillips, the founder of Sun Records, put it this way: "I don't know anyone who has ever written or sung in a way that depicted the humanity of man, with greater melodic beauty, than Charlie Rich."
- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.
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