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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