Patsy Cline

Live at the Opry

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In 1988 -- 25 years after Patsy Cline's untimely death at the age of 30 -- MCA released this collection of previously unreleased Grand Ole Opry broadcasts, which span 1956-1962. Even if Live at the Opry had been extremely disappointing, there would have been an audience for this 28-minute CD. Cline, after all, went down in history as one of country's all-time greats (despite having a much too short career), and her more obsessive fans would have welcomed the arrival of this release regardless of the quality. But Live at the Opry is a generally rewarding, if imperfect and brief, document of Cline's performances at Nashville's most prestigious venue. The sound quality isn't always first-rate; at times, the sound is a bit scratchy for late-'50s and early-'60s recordings. But the sound is never bad -- only imperfect -- and Cline is in fine form on inspired performances of hits like "Crazy," "I Fall to Pieces," "She's Got You," and "Walkin' After Midnight." Cline was never a country purist, but to people who appreciate a broader, more expansive view of country, she was an impressive example of someone who truly pushed the genre's boundaries. A wide variety of influences assert themselves on Live at the Opry, including rock & roll, jazz, torch singing, traditional pop, and Tin Pan Alley. Country was Cline's foundation, but that didn't prevent her from being affected (either directly or indirectly) by the contributions of Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford, and Ella Fitzgerald. Those with a casual interest in Cline's legacy would be better off with a collection of her best-known studio recordings, but for the seasoned Cline enthusiast, Live at the Opry has a lot to offer -- imperfections and all.

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