Merle Haggard

Sing Me Back Home: Greatest Hits [Golden Stars]

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There are dozens, if not one hundred Merle Haggard compilations out there, and most of them aren't worth spit. This one, however, on Golden Stars, is a budget-priced three-disc collection that covers his Capitol and MCA periods, and is the one to snag for those who can't afford the big whopper Rhino set issued in the '90s entitled Down Every Road. It contains every hit single and B-side, as well as a slew of duet tracks with Bonnie Owens. While it's true that the Epic-era hits are missing, they can easily be had on Legacy's Essential Merle Haggard collection. The sound here is as good as on the Rhino collection, and while it's not in the same long box format, isn't four discs, and isn't accompanied by a big booklet with a definitive biographical essay, what's here is more than sufficient, and it doesn't have some of the excess that the Rhino collection does. Along with hits like "Sing Me Back Home," "Mama Tried," and "Tonight, The Bottle Let Me Down," are wonderful MCA-era songs such as "Ramblin' Fever," "It's Been a Great Afternoon," and "Misery and Gin." About the only cut from this part of Hag's career that's missing is the classic honky tonk anthem "Back to the Barrooms," but that's a small complaint. For the money, this collection is unbeatable. One can pick this and the Essential Merle Haggard up and still spend less than one would on the Rhino box set.

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