George Jones / Merle Haggard / Johnny Paycheck

Double Trouble/Taste of Yesterday's Wine

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This set pairs two duet albums that George Jones issued in the early 1980s. After "Bartender's Blues" with James Taylor became a crossover hit, producer Billy Sherrill decided to make a run at rock and pop audiences. Double Trouble, released in 1980, pairs Jones with Johnny Paycheck in a series of rock & roll cover versions. The tracks include the Chuck Berry standards "Maybellene" and "Roll Over Beethoven," Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Leiber & Stoller's "Kansas City," and even John Fogerty's "Proud Mary." While the pair are in fine, informal, rowdy form and full of well-meaning braggadocio, Sherrill misses the point of the record completely by adding so many layers of production as to almost obscure the performances -- the female backing chorus sounds especially out of place here. While "Maybellene" is fairly solid, the only true gem on the album is the closer, a solid reading of Arthur Alexander's "You Better Move On." The latter date, A Taste of Yesterday's Wine with Merle Haggard, fares far better. In 1982 Jones was still riding his resurgence and Hag was working with Sherrill at Epic, releasing critically and commercially excellent albums. This record was released during the same year he and Willie Nelson released the smash Pancho & Lefty. The contrast between the two titles here couldn't be more pronounced. The pairing of these two baritones -- with Jones leaning toward bass in some places -- is seamless and complementary. As a producer, Sherrill's production leans toward the harder country side of the fence (though it's still quite polished), allowing fiddles, Telecasters, and pedal steels to rise to the top in the mix. With the exception of two excellent honky tonk strutters -- "C.C. Waterback" and the notorious "No Show Jones" -- these are all slow to midtempo songs. They include a few extraordinary ballads in the title track, "I Think I've Found a Way," and the hard hobo's tale "Mobile Bay."

Track Listing

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