ALBUM REVIEW: GEORGE JONES 50 YEARS OF HITS

12/26/04

Written By: Larry Wayne Clark

How do you write a critique about the man many claim to be the greatest country singer ever to draw breath? Answer: you don’t. You simply marvel at the dozens of hits and the unforgettable artistry that turned so many of them to classics, finally adding a few more drops to the ocean of ink describing the half-century career of George Glenn Jones. All the hits are here, starting with mid-’50s honky-tonkers like “Why Baby Why” and “Tall Tall Trees” (which make us wonder sadly why Jones the songwriter laid down his pen so early).

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The ’60s gave us gems like “Window Up Above,” “She Thinks I Still Care,” “You Comb Her Hair” and “The Race Is On,” while the hell-raising ’70s—a decade that Jones is lucky to have survived at all—yielded “A Picture Of Me Without You,” “The Grand Tour,” “Bartender’s Blues” and all those great Tammy Wynette duets. The ’80s begin with that crown jewel of the Jones canon, the haunting “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and include the jazzy “I Always Get Lucky With You” and “I’m A One Woman Man.” The ’90s, the decade that saw Jones all but disappear from radio, brought its share of stellar, mature offerings, including “Choices,” “The Cold Hard Truth” and the brilliant “50,000 Names.” Throughout we hear that one-of-a-kind voice in all its manifestations—at times playful (Jones seems drawn toward novelty material), but more often nakedly revealing the bruised soul behind it. The sound quality, even on the earliest recordings, is consistently excellent, and the booklet included with the three-CD package is highly informative (although it’s disappointing that songwriter/publisher information is not listed anywhere). Now in his 70s, clean and sober and seemingly at home in his own skin at last, The Possum still sings with enough fire to let us forget that his instrument is not all that it used to be, while begging the question: who indeed—borrowing from a 1985 hit—is gonna fill those shoes?

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