Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard and George Jones

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This is one strange compilation. Billed as Merle Haggard and George Jones, one would think that this is an album of duets. Hardly. The only thing these two do together here is have songs placed one after another in alternate order. Not only is this strange, but also strange are the versions of the songs included on this King Records compilation (actually Highland Music in Dearborn, MI, hardly the label that recorded James Brown and so many other R&B and rockabilly greats). Of the Hag tunes, which include "Fightin' Side of Me," "Branded Man," "Old Man from the Mountain," "Turning Off a Memory," and "I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink," none are the versions that appeared on the albums they seem to be drawn from. The same goes for the Jones tunes, such as "Brothers of a Bottle," "Wrong Side of the World," "Hello Darlin'," and "Almost Persuaded," with one or two others. Where did these versions come from? With Haggard, the material is from both his Capitol and MCA periods, and virtually every one of these cuts sounds like an alternate take or polished demo. In Jones' case, this is certainly true; the balances are all off, the vocals are pronounced and in some cases even worded differently, and the mix is terrible. Where did the "producers" of this compilation crib this material? There are no songwriting credits here, either. In Haggard's case they are accurate, as he wrote what he sings here, but Jones didn't write one of these tunes and yet is "credited" with them. This is obviously a hack job meant to litter the bins of truck stops, Wal-Marts, and the like, but nonetheless, for serious Hag and Jones fans, the apocryphal origins of the songs here may be suitable for investigation.

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