The Old Dogs

Old Dogs

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Old Dogs, indeed: At the time of this album's release, the combined ages of its principals -- Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Jerry Reed -- exceeded 250 years, and to these sixtysomethings really should have been added the disc's true auteur, Shel Silverstein, who wrote all the songs.

Beginning with the title track, Silverstein's theme, naturally enough, was aging, and being Silverstein, his take on it was expressed in pointed, usually humorous novelty songs with titles like "I Don't Do It No More," "Cut the Mustard," and "Still Gonna Die." The singers took turns singing lead on successive songs, with one or more sometimes joining in for asides or choruses. The album was recorded live in the studio before a raucously enthusiastic audience that sang along, and producer Bare gave it a heavily echoed, trebly sound. The songs could be touching, especially "Me and Jimmie Rodgers," which mixed false reminiscences about real people and movie stars, and the album-closing "Time." But more often Silverstein affected a gallows humor, for example, on "I Never Expected," in which he complained about having lived so long, and "Still Gonna Die," a list song that described the ultimately futile things you can do for your health. Of course, Silverstein was right; he died five months after the album's release. But that only made it a final monument to his unique, irrepressible worldview.

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