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Shush, whisper it carefully, this is a concept album, not only that it is that rarest of beasts a country concept album a genre not normally associated with the pretentions of an area that was predominately dominated by progressive rock bands. By the mid 1970's Willie Nelson had moved away from Nashville where despite writing the wonderful Crazy for Patsy Cline he had grown disillusioned with the sound of mainstream country known as countrypolitan. He found a spiritual home in Austin Texas and a place to play called The Armadillo a concert venue that catered to all sorts from B.B. King and Alabama to Alice Cooper and Taj Mahal, he also renegotiated his record deal along the same lines as his friend Waylon Jennings giving him the freedom of what and where to record. The result of this new deal was The Red Headed Stranger an album that told the story of a man who kills his girl and her lover in a fit of jealousy he then rides of to find redemption the album is therefore essentially a musical John Ford western. The album uses a very small intimate group of musicians which if you believe Willie was as much financially inspired as musically [ the less musicians you use the smaller the upfront costs and the greater return to the artist] but the sound these musicians produce along with Willies vocals which thrive in a quiet intimate setting make this a gentle album to listen to, an atmosphere probably best exemplified by the albums most famous track the beautiful Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain . So this beautiful gentle album, an album that the record company thought would fail was a massive success and gave us the Willie Nelson we know and love the maverick country troubadour.
I've always been a big Johnny Cash fan, and this extended to Kris Kristofferson, Waylon and Willie when they formed The Highwaymen. I purchased this album, amongst others, after reading all about the Outlaw movement in the February issue of a new magazine called 'Country'. All four superstars rebelled in some way against the set up of recording country in Nashville. You did only what the recording executives of the label told you to, and the A&R men picked both the songs and even chose the musicians too. Willie and Waylon, and to a certain extent Johnny became the bad boy rebels by saying 'Up yours!' to this non-creative officialdom and made every effort to change all that, even finally becoming their own producers. This is a typical example of what came out as a result -- and to prove a point, it was pretty commercially successful too. I was never too keen on Willie's 'nasal' singing, but what he gets out of that battered old guitar is always brilliant, and it's further well demonstrated on this collection. There's even a bit of Bach included here, far from a country sound would you believe, but that's the unpredictability of the man. Great stuff ... just buy it!
This is most definately a great Willie Nelson Album. Unfortunately the vinyl copy I have just received is a very bad pressing. There are marks, smears and scratches over 90% of the vinyl. When playing the record there is crackling almost all the way through. Turning up the volume (which you may need to do as some parts are very quite) makes this album unlistenable. Amazon, on the other hand, have been extremely helpful and have already issued a refund. Wellm done Amazon. Poor job Sony Music.
Beautiful pressing on vinyl, warm yet crystal clear. The album, of course, is Willie Nelson's masterpiece. The tale of a murderer on the lam, the songs are sparsely produced and allow the world weariness of the vocals to take centre stage. His guitar BN playing had never been better and "Time of the Preacher" is simply one of the greatest pieces of Americana ever recorded.