Containing 22 tracks with a running time over 78 minutes, the European compilation The Legendary Years was the most extensive single-disc collection of Kris Kristofferson's recordings upon its release in 1990. The album was drawn from his 1970-1982 tenure on Monument Records, and it selected tracks from 11 of the 12 albums he recorded for the label (the exception being Who's to Bless...and Who's to Blame). That should have made it the album to own for casual fans and people who want the best of an artist on one record, but the selection is too idiosyncratic. Specifically, three of Kristofferson's major songs, "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "For the Good Times," and "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)," are missing. That aside, the collection makes a strong case for the artist, including his versions of some of the major hits he wrote for others ("Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," and "I'd Rather Be Sorry"), several of his own chart singles ("Josie," "Jesus Was a Capricorn," "Why Me," "Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore," and the Grammy-winning duet with Rita Coolidge, "Lover Please"), and a bunch of worthy album tracks, demonstrating that he wrote many more good songs than the handful he's known for. But a compilation must begin by including those well-known songs, and the inexplicable omissions prevent this from being a definitive summation of Kristofferson's Monument recordings.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann