The Urban Cowboy Soundtrack Holds Up Pretty Well
"Do you like Joe Walsh?"
Have you watched Urban Cowboy lately? It's actually on Netflix right now if you never have. But the movie that in many ways put Houston on the map in the world's eyes — how come nobody ever brings up Terms of Endearment, though? — frankly hasn't aged all that well.
Pulpish B-movie fare to begin with, the plot largely centers on dim-bulb John Travolta putting Debra Winger through some Grade-A pouting, in the process all but squandering fine character acting by Barry Corbin, Scott Glenn and of course that scene-stealing Gilley's mechanical bull. Winger's steamy dance on top of that bull about halfway through the film will never get old, but overall Urban Cowboy is about as outdated as the Houston skyline (beautiful as it is) in that tracking shot down Memorial Drive during the opening credits.
That's why, because two of its main stars are bringing their "Urban Cowboy Reunion" tour to Stafford Centre this evening, we were pleasantly surprised that the soundtrack by and large holds up pretty well. Somehow the producers resisted the urge to toss in some disco, but otherwise the 18-song album is prime late-'70s mainstream pop, balanced with enough redneck rock to still play in Pasadena. Just don't mistake it for country music until the very, very end.
"Hello Texas," Jimmy Buffett The Parrothead In Chief kicks things off in style with this outlaw-country romp that's a long way from Margaritaville.
"All Night Long," Joe Walsh Nothing says "one more round" like Joe Walsh and his deliciously louche guitar playing. He can still teach us all a thing or two about not giving a damn.
"Times Like These," Dan Fogelberg The smooth "Same Auld Lang Syne" singer-songwriter comes on more like prime REO Speedwagon on this soaring, angsty pop-rocker.
"Nine Tonight," Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band Underestimated then and now, the Motor City legend knows how to show a girl a good time — with plenty of Memphis soul.
"Stand By Me," Mickey Gilley Gilley logged plenty of stage time at his namesake honky-tonk in the film, including on this Ben E. King standard that wisely shuns schmaltz in favor of last-call melancholy.
"Cherokee Fiddle," Johnny Lee Arguably the most country song here, Lee's shuffle disguises a sad song about a dying breed of musician with twin rails of fiddle and steel and the universal refrain "good whiskey never let him lose his place."
"Can I Have This Dance," Anne Murray Inconsequential but sweet, there is no more perfect first-dance tune for a Pasadena wedding reception in 1980.
"Lyin' Eyes," the Eagles Knowing and warmly forgiving, Glenn Frey's easygoing trip to the cheatin' side of town spells out the '70s in six long minutes.
Photo courtesy of Stafford Centre
"Lookin' For Love," Johnny Lee Urban Cowboy's signature song and the Texas City-born singer's finest hour, even Eddie Murphy's Buckwheat couldn't resist this world-weary ballad.
"Don't It Make You Want to Dance," Bonnie Raitt A decade before her late-blooming 1989 breakthrough Nick of Time, Raitt scored with a beaming cover of late South Austin great Rusty Weir's cosmic-cowboy tune.
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia," Charlie Daniels Band Charlie, Johnny and that band of demons launched a million redneck caricatures with this extended fiddle jam, but the original is still tough to beat.
"Here Comes the Hurt Again," Mickey Gilley Behind Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty, Gilley was the greatest country balladeer of the '70s, and he lays it on thick here.
"Orange Blossom Special/Hoedown," Gilley's Urban Cowboy Band Tip your bartenders and waitresses, please.
"Love the World Away," Kenny Rogers This artificially sweetened suite of string-laden sap is instant transportation to the nearest elevator or dentist's chair.
"Falling In Love For the Night," Charlie Daniels Band The long-haired outlaws head south of the border for a lively tale of love and other forms of high-stakes gambling.
"Darlin," Bonnie Raitt The soundtrack is nearing last call by now, and it shows, but the pretty steel work on Raitt's can't-get-over-you ballad is worth staying up late for.
"Look What You've Done to Me," Boz Scaggs ...and just in case you hadn't been lulled to sleep by Kenny Rogers a little earlier, this one should finish you off.
"Hearts Against the Wind," Linda Ronstadt & J.D. Souther This lovelorn, harmony-rich, bluegrassy tune is totally out of step with the rest of the soundtrack (and the film). Unusual way to close out, but beautiful all the same.
Mickey Gilley & Johnny Lee bring their "Urban Cowboy Reunion Tour" to Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd. in Stafford, tonight at 8 p.m.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.