Willie Nelson

Red Headed Stranger/To Lefty from Willie

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As far as Willie Nelson goes, it really doesn't get any better than this. This Sony two-fer pairs remastered versions of two of the singer/songwriter's best records in a single package. Red Headed Stranger, released in 1975, was Nelson's breakthrough recording on Columbia. Strangely enough, a concept album -- he'd recorded them before (see RCA's excellent if brief Phases and Stages) -- it contained Nelson's reading of Fred Rose's "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain," which went straight to the top and stayed there. Since it was an album-oriented time, other tracks from the platter got airplay as well, including Nelson's own "Just as I Am" and "O'er the Waves." Add to this the inclusion of eight bonus tracks. In addition in the same slipcase (the box is dodgy; recycle it), the latter album, To Lefty from Willie, is a loving and truly enduring tribute to one of Nelson's great influences both as a singer and writer, Lefty Frizzell. The set contains tracks either written or co-written by Frizzell, and a couple that perhaps should have been. That said, Nelson does these songs in his own inimitable fashion, and over 30 years later was placing them in his set lists on the road. This recording plays seamlessly from front to back, and includes "Mom and Dad's Waltz," "I Love You a Thousand Ways," "If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time," "Look What Thoughts Will Do," and the killer first -- and only -- collaborative effort between songwriters Jimmy Buffett and Jerry Jeff Walker, "Railroad Lady." A bonus on this disc -- since it couldn't be improved upon -- is the inclusion of a CD-R track with video footage that features Nelson talking about Frizzell and the making of the album.

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