Few people know it, but songwriter Kris Kristofferson issued one of the greatest divorce recordings of all time with To the Bone. It also served as a creative renaissance for a man who seemed to have lost his way as a recording artist, as an actor (due to the commercial debacle that was director Michael Cimino's film, Heaven's Gate), and as a married man.

Kristofferson's five previous solo albums were almost all commercial failures, and his immediate predecessor, Shake Hands with the Devil from 1979, felt like he phoned it in. Add to this the coming shift in country music at the dawn of the Urban Cowboy era, and Kristofferson seemed to be down for the count. This set proved to be his final offering for Monument, his label throughout the 1970s. But To the Bone-- issued only briefly on CD by the now-defunct One Way label in the 1990s -- is one of Kristofferson's least heard, yet greatest recordings ever (second only to his self-titled debut from 1970). It is an angry, bewildered and bitter album; a harsh assessment of both love and life that's filled with self-recrimination and a ravenous hunger for redemption.

To the Bone belongs next to Leon Payne's self-titled album on Starday from 1963, Willie Nelson's Phases and Stages, Steve Young's Seven Bridges Road, Dwight Yoakam's Buenos Noches from a Lonely Room and Townes Van Zandt's self-titled 1969 offering as an unromantic meditation on personal darkness that holds on by the skin of its teeth.

This baby goes for a ton on CD if you can even find it, so it'd be nice if Sony's Legacy imprint would make this part of their generous reissue program for 2009 and let the punters discover this rarely heard country-rock classic. Check the original AMG review here, and the samples below.

  • Magdalene

  • Star-Crossed

  • Blessing in Disguise

  • Devil to Pay

  • Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore

  • Last Time

  • I'll Take Any Chance I Can with You