Willie Nelson

The Early Years: The Complete Liberty Recordings Plus More

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Not only a fine compilation, it was a gutsy move. Nelson's 1962-1964 sessions for Liberty Records, the first label to sign him as an artist, have never been held in high regard by his fans. On many cuts, the strings were poured on so thick even Eddy Arnold would have protested. But if one dispenses with prejudice and gives this two-CD box set an open-minded listen, there's a wealth of fine work to appreciate among the 61 singles, album cuts, and alternate takes. And no matter the production -- lush or spare -- his songwriting is a continual joy. Besides the familiar (including a riveting, pre-Liberty version of "Night Life" that opens the set) are any number of near-forgotten songs that would have been another writer's best work. Excellent liner notes are provided by Joseph F. Laredo, who deserves credit for not pretending the strings aren't there.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:29
2 3:01
3 2:11
4 2:48
5 2:22
6 3:01
7 2:50
8 2:18
9 2:44
10 2:57
11 2:24
12 2:32
13 2:31
14 2:19
15 2:28
16 2:43
17 2:11
18 2:23
19 2:44
20 2:11
21 1:54
22 2:30
23 2:16
24 2:39
25 2:42
26 2:07
27 2:14
28 2:20
29
2:22
30 1:58

Track Listing - Disc 2

Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:49
2 2:28
3 1:50
4 2:25
5 2:24
6 2:55
7 2:22
8 1:48
9 2:10
10 2:33
11 2:19
12 2:56
13 2:19
14 2:24
15 2:29
16 2:29
17 2:29
18 2:27
19
2:25
20 2:39
21 2:32
22
2:10
23 2:49
24 2:15
25 2:32
26 2:39
27 2:22
28 2:44
29 2:29
30 2:31
31
2:23
blue highlight denotes track pick