Kris Kristofferson is pictured smiling in sunglasses on the cover of Jesus Was a Capricorn, accompanied by his girlfriend and soon-to-be-wife Rita Coolidge. The album followed his previous LP, Border Lord, by only nine months and was his fourth album to be released within two-and-a-half years, which meant that a man who had struggled for half a decade to get anybody to listen to his songs was now writing and recording them as fast as he could. Not surprisingly, he was having trouble filling the pipeline; he borrowed the melody of John Prine's "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" for the title song and even recorded a cover song for the first time, performing a duet with Larry Gatlin on Gatlin's "Help Me." There was nothing here that matched his best songs, but the overall quality of the material was quite good, as Kristofferson went back over familiar ground, singing about religion, romance, and roughhousing with equal fervor. Especially impressive were the two duets with Coolidge, "It Sure Was (Love)" and "Give It Time to Be Tender," which looked forward to their duo albums. Commercially, Jesus Was a Capricorn can be seen either as a case of record company ineptitude or perseverance, or both. Border Lord had marked a falloff in sales from Kristofferson's first two albums, and initially Jesus Was a Capricorn looked like it was going to do even worse, as Monument Records couldn't seem to figure out what the right single was. The label started by releasing a single version of the title track, in which Kristofferson described Christ as a sandals-wearing hippie, and, despite the subject matter, pop radio gave it enough play to get it into the bottom of the charts for a few weeks. But the LP quickly peaked in the charts and started to fade, not helped by the second single, the medium-tempo rocker "Jesse Younger," which made no impression. (Meanwhile, Brenda Lee had no trouble locating the album's best song; she covered "Nobody Wins" and established herself in country music by taking it into the country top five.) Finally, four months after the album's release, Monument issued a third single, the slow-paced statement of faith that closed the LP, "Why Me." (Actually, a disc jockey had started playing the song, which Monument hadn't even wanted on the album. Though sometimes described as a spoof, "Why Me" sincerely reflects a religious experience, according to Kristofferson.) It quickly entered the country and pop charts, hitting number one in country in July 1973, and peaking in the pop Top 20 after a slow climb in November. That turned around the fortunes of Jesus Was a Capricorn, which marched back up the charts and reached number one on the country charts a full year after it had been released. Both album and single went gold, giving Kristofferson his greatest success as a recording artist.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann