David Allan Coe

The Illustrated David Allan Coe: 4 Classic Albums 1977-1979

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Raven's second volume in its David Allan Coe retrospective series, The Illustrated David Allan Coe: Four Classic Albums 1977-1979, compiles some of the lesser-known titles in his Columbia catalog. This period in Coe's career is perhaps his most poignant. Of the 39 songs from this era, he wrote 32, co-wrote six more, and covered one -- Mickey Newbury's "San Francisco Mabel Joy." For Tattoo (1977) and Family Album (1978), Coe had entered a period of brief transition. These two sets offer excellent love songs -- "Just to Prove My Love for You," "Just in Time (To Watch Love Die"), "Whole Lot of Lonesome" (co-authored with George Jones), "Maria Is a Mystery" -- and bits and pieces of his story apart from the braggadocio that created his myth. Because of their depth and soulful presentation, they add a complex dimension to both man and artist. Family Album also offers Coe's own excellent version of the massive hit he wrote for Johnny Paycheck in "Take This Job and Shove It," as well as "Divers Do It Deeper" and "Houston, Dallas, San Antone." Human Emotions is Coe's darkest record. It's a concept offering about the journey from first love through marriage and divorce. Its candor is uncomfortable. The first half is subtitled Happy Side; it reprises "Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone)" and offers the bright "You Can Count on Me," embellished by a wonderful female backing chorus. The latter half, subtitled Su-i-cide, offers the heartbroken lament in the title track, underscored by bluesy guitars and vibraphone. After the wide-open honky tonk waltz "She Finally Crossed Over (Love's Cheatin' Line)," it compensates with the outlaw barroom stomper "Whiskey and Women," countered by the wrecked drinking song "Jack Daniels, If You Please." The final record in this set, Spectrum VII, is also a concept record. Its two halves, divided into Land Side and Ocean Side, detail the aftermath of divorce and relocation to South Florida. While the record didn't chart, it offers some excellent songs. Coe doubled down on outlaw country with "Rollin' with the Punches" and "On My Feet Again." Traces of Jimmy Buffett's indulgence of Caribbean rhythms dotted songs like "Fall in Love with You" and "Now's the Time (To Fall in Love)" -- and they work. There are two excellent ballads in "Seven Mile Bridge" and "Fairytale Morning," and a killer love song (with a dumb title) in "Love Is Just a Porpoise (Playing in the Tropical Sun)." The only dud is "Sudden Death," a ham-fisted attempt at a hard boogie rocker dedicated to Meat Loaf. This period in Coe's career deserves a real reconsideration. Raven's compilation reveals that underneath all the BS in the self-cultivated image beat the heart of a country music poet.

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