Tuesday, January 22, 2008

George Jones - Complete United Artists Recordings

It's about time George Jones got the Bear Family box set treatment. I have literally been waiting for the release of She Thinks I Still Care: The Complete United Artists Recordings 1962-1964 for the past 15 years.

This box set documents a transitional period for Jones, between the hardcore honky-tonk of the Mercury/Starday years and the Countrypolitan leanings of the Musicor and Epic years. As was common practice in Country music during the 60s, many of Jones' albums from this period--Sings The Hits Of His Country Cousins, The New Favorites of George Jones, Trouble in Mind, as well as tributes to Bob Wills, Little Jimmie Dickens and Hank Williams--contained a lot of repeated tracks across albums. These things were meant to be product, not art. Which makes a concise 5 CD box set like this extremely useful. I own around 10 Jones CDs and LPs from this era, but when I get my copy of this box 30% of the material on it will still be new to me.

Jones was with UA for a mere 2 years, but recored 150 songs (and he would be even more prolific during his Musicor years). There are lots of Country weepers here, the best of which is the title-track, "She Thinks I Still Care," along with novelties like "Root Beer," and "The Race Is On," re-recordings of old-hits and covers of others' hits. But mostly what you get is the sound of the best male country singer ever really coming into his own as a singer. As great as the raw honky-tonk of the Mercury years is, it was during the United Artists period that Jones really figured out what his remarkable instrument was capable of--and it was capable of a lot.

Those less obsessed with Jones than myself might be better off tracking down a copy of the 2 CD United Artists "best of" Razor & Tie released in the 90s (it's currently out-of-print, but I suspect a few people will be dumping their copies once they get their hands on this box set). Although if you settle for a compilation you'll miss out on such classics as "Brown To Blue" and who knows what else.

Despite being memorably covered by Jones fan Elvis Costello on Almost Blue, "Brown To Blue" rarely shows up on Jones anthologies. This version was transcribed from a pretty beat up LP called Trouble In Mind. I'm looking forward to finally hearing Jones' version of this song without a lot of distortion (I suspect the previous owner of this album wasn't familiar with the idea of replacing worn-out needles).

Now bring on that sure to be massive Complete Musicor box set!


dan said...

Is anyone else disturbed by the size of his head? It looks like some sort of photoshop atrocity

Pete Bilderback said...

Dan, I did do a little Photoshoping on this photo, but nothing to manipulate the size of his head--that's all 'Possum.