Paul’s Top Ten Reissues & Compilations of 2006
Originally presented on www.countryuniverse.com
A Half Century of Hits
Jerry Lee Lewis
A nice, cross licensed compendium of all the aspects of Jerry Lee’s career: rock ‘n roller, country balladeer and certifiable lunatic. I personally like Jerry Lee the country balladeer best and this has a bunch of those tunes, although the omission of “Would You Take Another Chance On Me” is glaring.
Black Mountain Rag
Doc & Merle Watson
The worst albums Doc Watson ever made were very good; the rest were excellent. This is one of the excellent ones.
The Best of Shel Silverstein
Shel was never a great singer, but he had a sense of humor that ranged from wry to wild. If any artist can be described as a “Renaissance Man”, it would be cartoonist, songwriter, poet, writer, etc., Shel Silverstein.
The Complete Atlantic Sessions
After several frustrating years of being forced into the “Nashville Sound” mold by RCA, Willie found himself recording for a label not normally associated with country music. While not his best work, these recordings, stripped of Nashville Sound trappings, pointed the way for Willie’s eventual breakthrough with “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” . “Stay All Night”, “Bloody Mary Morning” and “Phases and Stages” all gather significant airplay and, for the first time, Willie’s Django-inspired guitar work is in evidence.
16 Biggest Hits
Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
Despite being married for 35+ years, Johnny and June made relatively few true duet studio recordings. This Sony Legacy CD picks up the best of them.
Steppin’ Out Kind
Grandpa Jones featuring Merle Travis
The folks at Ace, a British reissue label got it right with this collection of sides originally recorded for King during the 1940s and 1950s. A balanced set of novelties and old country ballads with lots of Grandpa’s excellent claw hammer banjo make for a tasty package.
16 Biggest Hits
“Little” Jimmy Dickens
While it could have been better, this collection gives a balanced look at Jimmy’s career. Best known for his diminutive size and novelty tunes, Jimmy was a superior ballad singer as tunes such as “My Heart’s Bouquet”, “Just When I Needed You”, “Take Me As I Am (Or Let Me Go)” , “We Could” and “Violet And A Rose” amply demonstrate. Yes, the novelties are here as well as a few of the jump tunes, but it’s the ballads that will enhance your appreciation of Little Jimmy Dickens. I would like to see a more encompassing collection, including more of his hillbilly boogie and his recordings on MCA /Decca, but until that happens this is a fine collection.
The Very Best of Nat Stuckey
Nat Stuckey was a second or third tier star for RCA during the 1970s. A terrific songwriter, I have never understood why Nat Stuckey didn’t become a huge star. He was handsome, had an excellent baritone voice and had great stage presence. Despite this, his success was marginal. His most famous songs, “Waitin’ In Your Welfare Line” (Buck Owens – seven weeks at #1) and “Pop A Top” (a hit for both Jim Ed Brown and Alan Jackson) were hits for others . His own biggest hit, the #4 “Sweet Thang”, was recorded on the Paula label and today is better remembered as a Loretta Lynn-Ernest Tubb duet. None of these three songs are on this collection.
This CD collects the best recordings of his 1968-1975 tenure with RCA. Several of the songs “She Wakes Me With A Kiss Every Morning*, “Only A Woman Like You” and “Is It Any Wonder That I Love You” were #1 hits in several regional markets but none of them cracked the top ten nationwide (finishing at 11,24 & 26 respectively, although “She Wakes Me…” hit #5 on Cashbox’s charts). The biggest RCA hits were “Plastic Saddle” at #8 and “Sweet Thang and Cisco” at #9.
Strangers / Swinging Doors
I’m A Lonesome Fugitive / Branded Man
Sing Me Back Home / The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde
Mama Tried / Pride In What I Am
Hag / Someday We’ll Look Back
The above were issued by Capitol Nashville. All five packages include some bonus cuts of either alternate takes or previously unreleased material, along with an informative booklet. The ten albums are among Hag’s best albums, priceless treasures all, except possibly The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde which is merely very good (but it does included “Today I Started Loving You Again” which was the B side of the single issued of the title cut). In case you are wondering about the gap between the dates of the 4th and 5th CD’s original recording dates, the Hag was indeed busy recording in late 1969 and in 1970 putting out a Jimmie Rodgers double album tribute, a Bob Wills tribute and two live albums Okie From Muskogee and Fighting Side of Me. Only the two live albums are similar enough that they would make a decent package.
It should be noted that the British BGO label has also issued many of these albums as two albums on one disc, but they lack bonus cuts and are paired up differently (BGO has a CD with Hag paired with Let Me Tell You About A Song)
At San Quentin
This is a boxed set from Sony Legacy comprised of two music CDs and a DVD. The two CDs present the complete concert including, for the first time, all of the performances by the Statler Brothers, Carl Perkins and the Carter Family. The DVD is the BBC documentary which televised in both the US and the UK and focuses more on what was going on around the concert than on the actual concert itself. The original LP was criminally short; the CD reissue from 2000 gave the complete Cash performance and this gives you everything.
There were a couple of questions posed to me at the time – here are my answers:
1) If we were doing a top 15, the Essential George Jones would have made my list as would have the Buck Owens Ultimate Collection. Both artists have a number of good collections available, particularly Jones so I didn’t consider these two reissues as crucial as some of the others. The Mattea and Jennings collections would also have been in my top 15.
There is one CD issued this year that I would have put in my top three if it wasn’t so difficult to find: THE CARTER SISTERS WITH MOTHER MAYBELLE AND CHET ATKINS. This disc is actually radio transcriptions from 1949 with some of the dialogue retained for flavor (June Carter does all almost all of the talking). The issuing company is out of the Czech Republic and it is distributed by a UK company. Terrific stuff if you can find it – and there are some other Carter Sisters volumes in the series
2) I received a question about the expanded version of Dwight Yoakam’s GUITARS, CADILLACS … album
I use several criteria in compiling a list such as this. Let’s take the Dwight Yoakam reissue:
1) Does the reissue fill a void in the marketplace ?
Dwight’s albums continuously have been available over the years
2) How recently has this material been available ?
The original album has been available in its original format & sequence until recently – you can occasionally find it new, and it is readily available used
3) How important is the artist ?
Dwight is a very important figure in country music history
Essentially, Dwight scores a checkmark in one of my three criteria – it would be a contender in my “honorable mention” category, had I made such a category.
My top ten receive at least two checkmarks, and usually all three. Nat Stuckey wasn’t particularly important as a recording artist, but he was a very good singer, and virtually no product has been available in the CD era