Released in 1982 to commemorate a decade at Epic Records, Anniversary is a double LP (later reissued as a single CD) spanning 22 tracks and containing all of George Jones' big hits, from 1972's "A Picture of Me (Without You)" to 1982's "Same Ole Me," all produced by Billy Sherrill. Broken down to the details, it's an impressive, weighty collection and would be essential just for having such exquisitely crafted and sang hits as "We Can Make It," "The Grand Tour," "The Door," "Once You've Had the Best," and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." What makes Anniversary transcendent, one of the best country albums of all time, is the context and subtext, how it reads like an autobiography of the most turbulent, heartbreaking decade in Jones' life. When this was released in 1982, he was hitting rock bottom after a decade of substance abuse and erratic behavior, much of it kick started by his rocky marriage with Tammy Wynette. Anniversary doesn't explicitly tackle any of this -- although some of the songs were written with these events in mind -- but it does something better: it dramatizes it, largely due to Sherrill's near-operatic productions and the song sequencing. The first half of the album starts with songs of devotion, and they slowly give way to songs about heartbreak and loss, ending with the remarkable second half of the record where the songs find Jones broken and alone, drinking and pining for his lost love, even from beyond the grave. It's a thrilling journey that doesn't just showcase his ballad style at its finest, it has a devastating emotional impact that eclipses his excellent '70s albums because of the scope of the narrative; each of the proper LPs were snapshots of a time, while this takes a long view of his troubled decade and the results are heartbreaking and unforgettable and, because of the narrative, utterly necessary even if you have all the actual albums. It's unquestionably one of the 25 greatest country albums of all time.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine