Willie Nelson – Stardust (1978)

AllMusic Review: At the height of outlaw country, Willie Nelson pulled off perhaps the riskiest move of the entire bunch. He set aside originals, country, and folk and recorded Stardust, a collection of pop standards produced by Booker T. Jones. Well, it’s not entirely accurate to say that he put away country and folk, since these are highly idiosyncratic interpretations of “Georgia on My Mind,” “All of Me,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” blending pop, country, jazz, and folk in equal measures. It’s not that Willie makes these songs his own, it’s that he reimagines these songs in a way that nobody else could, and with his trusty touring band, he makes these versions indelible. It may be strange to think that this album, containing no originals from one of America’s greatest songwriters, is what made him a star, and it continues to be one of his most beloved records, but it’s appropriate, actually. Stardust showcases Nelson’s skills as a musician and his entire aesthetic — where there is nothing separating classic American musical forms, it can all be played together — perhaps better than any other album, which is why it was a sensation upon its release and grows stronger with each passing year. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Stardust”
  • Hoagy Carmichael
  • Mitchell Parish
3:53
2. “Georgia on My Mind”
  • Carmichael
  • Stuart Gorrell
4:20
3. “Blue Skies” Irving Berlin 3:34
4. “All of Me”
  • Seymour Simons
  • Gerald Marks
3:54
5. “Unchained Melody”
  • Alex North
  • Hy Zaret
3:50
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “September Song”
  • Kurt Weill
  • Maxwell Anderson
4:35
2. “On the Sunny Side of the Street”
  • Jimmy McHugh
  • Dorothy Fields
2:36
3. “Moonlight in Vermont”
  • Karl Suessdorf
  • John Blackburn
3:25
4. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”
  • Duke Ellington
  • Bob Russell
2:33
5. “Someone to Watch Over Me”
  • George Gershwin
  • Ira Gershwin
4:03

 

Schill Score: 8.5/10

 

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Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger (1975)

AllMusic Review: Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger perhaps is the strangest blockbuster country produced, a concept album about a preacher on the run after murdering his departed wife and her new lover, told entirely with brief song-poems and utterly minimal backing. It’s defiantly anticommercial and it demands intense concentration — all reasons why nobody thought it would be a hit, a story related in Chet Flippo’s liner notes to the 2000 reissue. It was a phenomenal blockbuster, though, selling millions of copies, establishing Nelson as a superstar recording artist in its own right. For all its success, it still remains a prickly, difficult album, though, making the interspersed concept of Phases and Stages sound shiny in comparison. It’s difficult because it’s old-fashioned, sounding like a tale told around a cowboy campfire. Now, this all reads well on paper, and there’s much to admire in Nelson’s intimate gamble, but it’s really elusive, as the themes get a little muddled and the tunes themselves are a bit bare. It’s undoubtedly distinctive — and it sounds more distinctive with each passing year — but it’s strictly an intellectual triumph and, after a pair of albums that were musically and intellectually sound, it’s a bit of a letdown, no matter how successful it was. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Time of the Preacher” Willie Nelson 2:26
2. “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True” Eddy Arnold, Wally Fowler 1:32
3. “Time of the Preacher Theme” Nelson 1:13
4. “Blue Rock Montana” / “Red Headed Stranger” (medley) Nelson / Carl Stutz, Edith Lindeman 1:36
5. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” Fred Rose 2:18
6. “Red Headed Stranger” Carl Stutz, Lindeman 4:00
7. “Time of the Preacher Theme” Nelson 0:25
8. “Just As I Am” Charlotte Elliott, William B. Bradbury 1:45
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Denver” Nelson 0:53
2. “O’er the Waves” Juventino Rosas, arranged by Willie Nelson 0:47
3. “Down Yonder” (played by Bobbie Nelson) L. Wolfe Gilbert 1:56
4. “Can I Sleep in Your Arms” Hank Cochran 5:24
5. “Remember Me (When the Candle Lights Are Gleaming)” Scotty Wiseman 2:52
6. “Hands on the Wheel” Bill Callery 4:22
7. “Bandera” Nelson 2:19

 

 

Schill Score: 8.5/10

 

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