Hank Williams

Turn Back the Years: The Essential Hank Williams Collection

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There have been countless Hank Williams compilations issued over the years, ranging from cheap budget-line discs to box sets of his complete recordings, but the idea for the triple-disc 2005 set Turn Back the Years: The Essential Hank Williams Collection is a fresh one: instead of following the traditional chronological approach, or mixing up his greatest hits in random order, this borrows a cue from Columbia/Legacy's 2000 set Love, God, Murder and arranges Hank's work thematically. Each of the three discs is titled after one of his songs, each bearing a clear thematic imprint: the first is "Honky Tonkin'," and contains his barroom anthems; the second is "Cold, Cold Heart" and has his high, lonesome heartbreak songs; the third is "I Saw the Light" and is devoted to gospel and religious tunes. This is an effective way to present his catalog, since each of the discs plays as a cohesive album and, taken together, they give a good indication of the range and depth of Williams' music. That said, this shouldn't be seen as a definitive collection, containing all of his great songs -- indeed, such classics as "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)," "Mind Your Own Business," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," "Half as Much," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive," and "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)" are all absent. But that's the curse of a catalog as rich as Hank Williams' -- there's no way that one collection can contain all of his great songs. Turn Back the Years doesn't, but it does offer a different way of looking at his catalog that functions both as a thoroughly enjoyable listen for longtime fans and as an excellent introduction for neophytes who want thematic, cohesive albums instead of the usual greatest hits.

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