Marty Robbins

Pieces of Your Heart

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This is a wrapping up of loose ends in Bear Family's terrific series of Marty Robbins LP reissues, gathering together four stray singles and no less than eight unreleased tracks from the mid-'60s. Side one leads off with a classic, rolling take on Gordon Lightfoot's "Ribbon of Darkness" -- a number one country hit that helped put Lightfoot on the map in 1965 -- but the side soon trails off into a collection of standard country weepers and routine honky tonk. Side two, all unreleased, is where the real action is. A hardcore Goldwater Republican, Robbins evidently woke up one morning in 1966 and decided to get some political views off his chest at the studio. So in "Ain't I Right," to the groove of a cooking Nashville rhythm section, Robbins baits civil rights workers, anti-Vietnam war protesters, religious pacifists, and ultimately all "two-faced" left-wing politicians, accusing them of taking part in a "Communistic game." "Now ain't I right?," he asks. Yeah, far right. Funny thing is, though, it's a good tune and a beautifully performed piece of work. So is "My Own Native Land," a gentler calypso-flavored tune that comes out against foreign aid to countries that allegedly bite the hand that feeds them. Yet cooler heads prevailed, and these inflammatory songs were prudently left in the can until 1985 -- and then released only by this German collectors label. Three great apolitical calypsos follow -- two alternate takes of the attractive minor hit "Girl From Spanish Town" and an alternate take of "Kingston Girl" decorated with goofy jungle sound effects. Obviously, Marty Robbins buffs are going to have fun with this collection -- and they'll find some facets of him that maybe some of them will not want to know.