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The Essential Willie Nelson

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Audio CD, April 1, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This double-disc set is cross-licensed to include key tracks from 40 years of recording! Includes Night Life; Hello Walls; Me and Paul; Bloody Mary Morning; Funny How Time Slips Away; Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain; On the Road Again; If You've Got the Money I've Got the Time; Georgia on My Mind; My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys; Always on My Mind; Pancho and Lefty; Highwayman , and more. 41 tracks!

With 41 tracks drawn from nine record labels, the two-disc Essential Willie Nelson is impressive in its breadth. Disc one is simply superb; it begins with 1961's "Night Life," recorded for the obscure Bellaire label, and moves on to several of Nelson's early 1960s Liberty recordings, an overlooked gem recorded for Monument in 1964 ("I Never Cared for You"), a cherry-picked selection of his RCA and Atlantic sides, and finally his mid-1970s hits for Columbia (where he found his greatest chart success, beginning, in 1975, with the No. 1 single "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"). Disc two, however, is hit-or-miss. Classics like "On the Road Again," "Pancho & Lefty," and "Nothing I Can Do About It Now" are offset by such lesser material as "To All The Girls I've Loved Before" (recorded with Latin pop star Julio Iglesias), the phoned-in "City of New Orleans," and the sounds-better-on-paper "Highwayman" collaboration with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. (Just because they all made it to No. 1 doesn't make them "essential.") Nelson's two best albums of the 1990s, Across the Borderline and Teatro, are represented by a paltry two songs. The disc ends with collaborations with U2, Lee Ann Womack, and Steven Tyler and Aerosmith (the previously unreleased "One Time Too Many"). None is particularly worthy of a best-of collection. Still, while it doesn't quite live up to its billing, the Essential Willie Nelson offers an excellent career overview of one of country music's true legends. --David Hill

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Disc 1:

Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. Night LifeWillie Nelson 2:30Album Only
listen  2. Hello WallsWillie Nelson 2:22Album Only
listen  3. CrazyWillie Nelson 2:50Album Only
listen  4. Funny How Time Slips Away (1962 Version)Willie Nelson 3:00Album Only
listen  5. I Never Cared for YouWillie Nelson 2:30$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  6. The Party's OverWillie Nelson 2:27$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Good TimesWillie Nelson 2:25$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Me and PaulWillie Nelson 3:47$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Shotgun WillieWillie Nelson 2:37Album Only
listen10. Bloody Mary MorningWillie Nelson 2:47Album Only
listen11. Blue Eyes Crying in the RainWillie Nelson 2:18$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen12. Good Hearted WomanWillie Nelson 2:56$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen13. If You've Got the Money I've Got the TimeWillie Nelson 2:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen14. Uncloudy DayWillie Nelson 4:39$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen15. Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys (Remastered)Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson 2:31$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen16. Georgia on My MindWillie Nelson 4:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen17. Blue SkiesWillie Nelson 3:33$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen18. All of MeWillie Nelson 3:53$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen19. Heartbreak HotelWillie Nelson and Leon Russell 3:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen20. Help Me Make It Through the NightWillie Nelson 3:59$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen21. Whiskey River (Live)Willie Nelson 3:31$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen22. Stay a Little Longer (Live)Willie Nelson 3:25$0.99  Buy MP3 

Disc 2:

Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys (Album Version)Willie Nelson 3:04$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Faded LoveWillie Nelson 3:49$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  3. On the Road AgainWillie Nelson 2:32$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. Angel Flying Too Close to the GroundWillie Nelson 4:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Always on My MindWillie Nelson 3:30$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Last Thing I Needed First Thing This MorningWillie Nelson 4:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Pancho and LeftyMerle Haggard & Willie Nelson 4:46$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  8. To All the Girls I've Loved BeforeJulio Iglesias & Willie Nelson 3:32$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  9. City of New OrleansWillie Nelson 4:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen10. Seven Spanish AngelsWillie Nelson with Ray Charles 3:50$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen11. Forgiving You Was EasyWillie Nelson 2:47$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen12. HighwaymanThe Highwaymen 3:02$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen13. Living in the PromiselandWillie Nelson 3:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen14. Nothing I Can Do About It NowWillie Nelson 3:17$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen15. GracelandWillie Nelson 4:44$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen16. Everywhere I Go (with Emmylou Harris)Willie Nelson 3:49Album Only
listen17. Slow Dancing (U2 featuring Willie Nelson - Mickey Rapael on Harmonica)U2;Willie Nelson;Mickey Raphael 4:00Album Only
listen18. Mendocino County Line (with Lee Ann Womack)Willie Nelson;Lee Ann Womack 4:31$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen19. One Time Too Many (with Steven Tyler and Aerosmith)(Previously Unreleased)Willie Nelson;Steven Tyler;Aerosmith 5:23Album Only

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 1, 2003)
  • Original Release Date: 1961
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00008BXK3
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #858 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

102 of 106 people found the following review helpful By B-MAN on August 20, 2003
Format: Audio CD
this is the one to have. Let's face it, all compilations have their weaknesses, but the 2 disc "The Essential Willie Nelson" (2003) is the first to cover all the labels Willie has recorded for and all the big hits in one set! Disc one kicks off with 7 early 60s recordings including "Night life", "Hello Walls", and "Crazy" (which Willie wrote & Patsy Cline made famous). Track 8, "Me and Paul" starts Willie's 70s recordings including "Blue eyes crying in the rain" and of course his classic duets with Waylon: "Good Hearted Woman" & "Mama's don't let your babies...". 3 songs are included from the 1978 album "Stardust": "Blue Skies", "Georgia on my mind", & "All of Me" and disc one closes with two live tracks: "Whiskey River" & "Stay a little longer" both from the '78 album "Willie & Family Live".
Disc 2 continues with late 70s and early 80s hits like "My Heroes have always been Cowboys", "Always on my mind", and of course "On the road again". More classic duets follow with "Pancho & Lefty" (a personal favorite) with Merle Haggard, "To all the girls..." with Julio Iglesias, and "Seven Spanish Angels" with Ray Charles. The 1984 gem "Highwayman" featuring Kristofferson, Waylon, and Cash is also here. The second disc is wrapped up with more duets: "Slow Dancing" with U2 (which surprisingly works because Bono is either MIA or extremely toned down), "Mendocino County Line" with Lee Ann Womack, and "One Time too Many" with Aerosmith.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Peter Durward Harris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on October 15, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Willie Nelson did not make any real impact as a singer until the mid seventies (and it was the eighties before Britain took him seriously) but this compilation attempts to cover the whole of his career to date. Inevitably, this means that a lot of great songs are omitted but if this is your first Willie Nelson album and you want to explore further, you will find plenty to choose from.

The set opens with Willie's versions of the four songs that established Willie as a songwriter in the sixties, these being Night life, Hello walls, Crazy and Funny how time slips away. Six further tracks cover the sixties and early seventies, a period during which Willie recorded plenty of interesting music but with only limited success.
In 1975, Willie recorded a cover of Blue eyes crying in the rain, an old Roy Acuff song, which became a major country and pop hit in America. Other hits followed including a lot of duets -so many that you could fill a boxed set with them. Just a few are included here, among them being Good hearted woman, Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys (both with Waylon Jennings), Faded love (with Ray Price - and Crystal Gayle singing backup harmony), To all the girls I've loved before (with Julio Iglesias) and Seven Spanish angels (with Ray Charles). Willie's classic solo country hits (some covers, some originals) are represented by If you've got the money I've got the time, Uncloudy day, Help me make it through the night, My heroes have always been cowboys, On the road again, Always on my mind, City of New Orleans and a few others.
Another aspect of Willie's career was the series of albums he recorded featuring songs from the Great American Songbook. The first and most famous of these albums was Stardust.
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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Jim Mitchell on July 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
While Willie's 3 disc box-set Revolutions of Time is ultimately a more thorough and "essential" collection, this set definitely hits all of the high (and one or two low) points in Willie's career. Just about every mainstream hit from the late 70s and early 80s is here. While some of this might sound dated and overproduced ("Always On My Mind" would be perfect if it weren't for those backup singers), these songs are as much a part of pop music as any rock and roll collection. In my opinion, Willie is only nominally a country artist anymore, and much more a pop singer, so don't use your dislike of country music as an excuse to ignore Willie.
This set, unlike the 3 CD box-set, includes songs from various points in his career- his rendition of "Crazy" and "Hello Walls" are here. While they are more in the mold of traditional late 60s Nashville country (even more overproduced than the early 80s stuff), it's wonderful to hear Willie sing some of his songs that others turned into massive hits. A few of his duets are here, including two with Waylon, the wonderful and haunting "Pancho and Lefty" with Merle, the Highwayman title song, "Faded Love" with Ray Price, and my favorite, "Seven Spanish Angels" with Ray Charles. Again, the box-set includes an entire disc of duets, so this offers only a sample. What a fine sample it is, though.
Willie's late 70s to mid 80s material speaks for itself- a few songs from "Stardust" and his live album, "On the Road Again" (one of my all time favorite songs from any artist), "City of New Orleans"- all essential classics.
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The Essential Willie Nelson
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