When you stop to think about it, Reba McEntire has had an amazing streak of success. Granted, it's been marred by several unplanned events along the way, but that turmoil is all overshadowed when you hear her sparkling vocal work. In the tradition of the great Patsy Cline, Reba offered her interpretations of songs that have run the gamut of emotions straight from the heart and directly to their target. Chart-making hits from this album - a rollercoaster ride of sentimentality in song from beginning to end - were the brokenhearted tale, the No. 5 "Today All Over Again" and the classic pop song once popularized by the Platters, "Only You (And You Alone)," that reached No. 13 for Reba (comparisons to Patsy are inevitable). Accordingly, "Love By Love" provided the appropriate lyric from its verses that ended up as the title of this heartwarming and pleasant down-home treat of an album - courtesy of a fiery-haired superstar in the world of entertainment.
Personnel: Reba McEntire (vocals, background vocals); Ricky Skaggs (vocals, background vocals); Connie Ellisor, Sheldon Kurland, Martin Katahn, Dennis Molchan, Martha McCrory, Samuel Terranova, John David Boyle, George Binkley III, Roy Christensen, Carl Gorodetzky, Stephanie Woolf, Marvin Chantry, Gary VanOsdale (strings); Thomas Brannon, D. Bergen White, Susie McEntire, Louis Dean Nunley, Trish Williams, Ricky Page, Dennis Wilson , Yvonne Hodges (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: D. Bergen White; Brent King.
Recording information: Sound Stage Studios, Nashville, TN.
Photographer: Dennis Carney.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Chip Young; Gordon Kennedy; Ray Christensen; Jerry Kennedy; Mike Leech; Pete Wade; Ray Edenton; Weldon Myrick; Hargus "Pig" Robbins; Jerry Carrigan.
Arranger: D. Bergen White.
Reba McEntire's gradually developing career marked another milestone with the honky tonk ballad "Today All Over Again," which was her first single to peak in the Top Five of the country charts. Mercury Records naturally included it on her next album, Heart to Heart, released as the single was on its way up, and that connection enabled the LP to be McEntire's first to reach the country album chart after her previous three albums had failed. The ten-song collection with a running time under 30 minutes (standard for country LPs) demonstrated that McEntire remained a promising, but not yet accomplished country artist. "Today All Over Again" was the most traditional sounding track, but producer Jerry Kennedy was able to take some stylistic risks with McEntire because her distinct Oklahoma accent and personable, throaty delivery made everything she sang sound country, no matter what arrangement was backing her. Thus, the string-filled "There Ain't No Love," essentially a soft pop ballad, seemed as authentically country as "How Does It Feel to Be Free," which McEntire sang with only a piano as accompaniment. And while she definitely put emotion into her voice, McEntire was able to give a relatively understated reading to the sad story-song "Small Two-Bedroom Starter" that prevented it from becoming overly sentimental. But all of this meant that the artist was triumphing over the material; most country artists, as non-writers, are at the mercy of what they or their producers can find from the publishing houses, and McEntire wasn't getting the pick of the best new songs in Nashville at this point in her career. No wonder that Mercury chose as the album's second single a cover of the Platters' 1955 pop hit "Only You (And You Alone)," going for something familiar over the mediocre new compositions. That the single rose into the Top 20 was an indication that country fans were starting to be interested in anything McEntire chose to record, which boded well for her future. ~ William Ruhlmann