Complete Atlantic Sessions

The Complete Atlantic Sessions

5.0 1
by Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson signed with Atlantic in 1973 and was off the label by 1975, but he stayed just long enough to produce two masterpieces showing how modern countrypolitan sounds could be seamlessly integrated into a rootsy approach. The albums in question are 1973's Shotgun Willie and 1974's monumental Phases and Stages, both of which are included in their


Willie Nelson signed with Atlantic in 1973 and was off the label by 1975, but he stayed just long enough to produce two masterpieces showing how modern countrypolitan sounds could be seamlessly integrated into a rootsy approach. The albums in question are 1973's Shotgun Willie and 1974's monumental Phases and Stages, both of which are included in their entirety in this remastered set, surfeited with enough outtakes and alternative versions to make up two more albums. The box is topped with the 1974 recording Live at the Texas Opry House, with Willie and band (when legendary Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble was on board) captured in a rousing performance before true believers in Austin. It was the nascence of the outlaw country movement. "You can't make a record/if you ain't got nothing to say," Willie points out on the title track, and those who have not been privy to Shotgun Willie's charms will be surprised to find "Whiskey River" in its original incarnation as a slightly melancholy, R&B-tinged honky-tonk lament (an alternate take of the song favors touches of southern soul- and gospel-based backing vocals). The stirring blend of songs includes Willie originals (including "Local Memory") mixed in with covers of a couple of Bob Wills classics ("Stay All Night" and the Cindy Walker-penned "Bubbles in My Beer") and two Leon Russell tunes, a Kristofferson-like cheatin' song, "You Look like the Devil," and a pared-down, bluesy treatment of "A Song for You." Phases and Stages is another animal: a devastating concept album detailing the end of a marriage, with one side written from the husband's point of view, the other from the wife's. A mix of up-tempo honky-tonk rousers are leavened by some of the most forlorn, lacerating songs any modern writer has offered, including the cold-hearted kiss-off "Pretend I Never Happened." Both Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins beat Willie to the punch with concept albums in the '60s, but only Willie dared to explore the complexities of a relationship in such an intimate but evenhanded way. Working with producers Arif Mardin (Shotgun Willie) and Jerry Wexler (Phases and Stages), Willie discreetly employed strings and horns in his straight-ahead country charts, the better to augment heartbreak and exultation, but always avoided laying it on thick. Willie's made more than a few great records since his Atlantic days, but his these sessions possess a grandeur and a soulfulness quite unlike anything else in his awe-inspiring catalog.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's easy to argue that Willie Nelson's two albums for Atlantic, 1973's Shotgun Willie and 1974's Phases and Stages, are his two best albums. Recorded between his 1972 departure from his longtime home RCA and before his star-making stint at Columbia, these two albums are the roots of Nelson's brand of outlaw country, where he casually fueled Nashville songwriting with Texan Western swing, pop melodies, folk storytelling, hard country, lazy blues, and a renegade sensibility borrowed from rock & roll, all spiked with a little bit of jazz. Add to this his increasing fascination with themes that played out over the course of a full album -- Shotgun Willie was an outlaw's record through and through, Phases and Stages was an explicit divorce album, with a strong narrative pull -- and it made for two near-perfect records that worked as a whole, but could stand as collections of perfect songs: these albums contained such Nelson standards as "Shotgun Willie," "Whiskey River," "Sad Songs and Waltzes," "Slow Down Old World," "Pretend I Never Happened," "Bloody Mary Morning," "It's Not Supposed to Be That Way," and "Pick Up the Tempo," after all. So, even if Nelson's time with Atlantic was brief, it was certainly pivotal, and ripe for a collection like Rhino's superb 2006 triple-disc set The Complete Atlantic Sessions. Over the course of these three discs, the two albums are presented in their entirety, adorned with outtakes -- some alternate takes, some early versions, some unreleased songs -- and then on the third disc the scrapped live album Live at the Texas Opry House is presented. This album was first released in truncated form on the 1995 box set A Classic & Unreleased Collection, along with a good chunk of the non-LP material here, so there are not any big revelations in terms of unheard music, but when music is this good (not to mention historic), it seems petty to complain that there isn't more here that's genuinely rare. Plus, this set is expertly assembled, with a disc devoted to each album, and the live set taking up the third. There are little gems sprinkled throughout -- an electric version of "Whiskey River," songs like "My Cricket & Me" and "Under the Double Eagle," which are good enough to have fit comfortably on the albums -- but the main draw are the three proper records. Shotgun Willie remains one of his very best albums, a highlight of songwriting and interpretation, as he pays tribute to Bob Wills ("Stay All Night [Stay a Little Longer]" and "Bubbles in My Beer") and lays claim to Leon Russell's "A Song for You." Phases and Stages is hurt slightly by the incessant title theme, which hammers its point way too hard, but the songs themselves are stellar, drawing an excellent picture of the end of a love affair. And then there's the live album, which may not have seen release at the time, but it's utterly fantastic, beginning with a version of "Whiskey River" that speeds up almost of its own will within the first verse, and there's no stopping the band from that point on. There's a beautiful medley of his early hits as a writer ("Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life"), a breakneck "Stay All Night," a medley of "Bloody Mary Morning" and "Take Me Back to Tulsa," and a rip-roaring "Truck Drivin' Man," where Nelson stops at a whorehouse instead of a roadhouse. Nelson has had plenty of great live shows over the years, but this is one of the best captured on record, and the vitality of this show -- it still sounds exciting decades after it was recorded -- acts as a wonderful counterpoint to the carefully considered studio albums. And all three discs together add up to an essential testament to Willie Nelson's most creative period.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joel Selvin
All of these recordings were made under a new dawn for Nelson, at the opening of his artistic vision and the beginning of his above-ground career as a country music landmark.

Product Details

Release Date:


Disc 1

  1. Shotgun Willie
  2. Whiskey River
  3. Sad Songs and Waltzes
  4. Local Memory
  5. Slow Down Old World
  6. Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)
  7. Devil in a Sleepin' Bag
  8. She's Not for You
  9. Bubbles in My Beer
  10. You Look Like the Devil
  11. So Much to Do
  12. A Song for You
  13. I Gotta Have Something I Ain't Got
  14. I'm So Ashamed
  15. My Cricket & Me
  16. Both Ends of the Candle
  17. Slow Down Old World
  18. Under the Double Eagle
  19. So Much to Do
  20. My Cricket & Me
  21. Save Your Tears
  22. A Song for You
  23. Whiskey River
  24. I Drank All of Our Precious Love Away

Disc 2

  1. Phases and Stages (Theme)/Washing the Dishes
  2. Phases and Stages (Theme)/Walkin'
  3. Pretend I Never Happened
  4. Sister's Coming Home/Down at the Corner Beer Joint
  5. (How Will I Know) I'm Falling in Love Again
  6. Bloody Mary Morning
  7. Phases and Stages (Theme)/No Love Around
  8. I Still Can't Believe You're Gone
  9. It's Not Supposed to Be That Way
  10. Heaven and Hell
  11. Phases and Stages (Theme)/Pick Up the Tempo/Phases and Stages (Theme)
  12. Phases and Stages (Theme)/Washing the Dishes [Altern
  13. Sister's Coming Home/Down at the Corner Beer Joint [
  14. Phases and Stages (Theme)/(How Will I Know) I'm Falling in Love Again [
  15. Bloody Mary Morning
  16. No Love Around
  17. I Still Can't Believe You're Gone [#
  18. It's Not Supposed to Be That Way
  19. Heaven and Hell
  20. Phases and Stages (Theme)/Pick Up the Tempo
  21. Phases and Stages (Theme)

Disc 3

  1. Whiskey River
  2. Me and Paul
  3. Medley: Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life
  4. Stay All Night (Stay a Little Longer)
  5. Walkin'
  6. Bloody Mary Morning/Take Me Back to Tulsa
  7. The Party's Over
  8. Truck Drivin' Man
  9. She Thinks I Still Care
  10. Good Hearted Woman
  11. Sister's Coming Home
  12. Shotgun Willie
  13. You Look Like the Devil
  14. Blood Mary Morning
  15. Medley: Funny How Time Slips Away/Crazy/Night Life
  16. Willie's After Hours

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Willie Nelson   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Vocals
Johnny Gimble   Fiddle,Mandolin
Waylon Jennings   Acoustic Guitar,Background Vocals,Soloist
David Bromberg   Guitar,Electric Guitar
Doug Sahm   Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Pete Carr   Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Electric Guitar,Background Vocals
Memphis Horns   Horn,Track Performer
Augie Meyers   Acoustic Guitar,Piano
Eric Weissberg   Banjo
Sammi Smith   Vocals
Jimmy Day   Dobro,Pedal Steel Guitar,Background Vocals
Grady Martin   Guitar
Larry Gatlin   Acoustic Guitar,Background Vocals
Mickey Raphael   Harmonica
Jack Barber   Bass
Barry Beckett   Keyboards
Willie Bridges   Baritone Saxophone
Steve Burgh   Acoustic Guitar,Electric Guitar
Paul English   Drums
Jeannie Green   Background Vocals
Jeff Gutcheon   Organ,Electric Piano
Jack Hale   Trombone
Roger Hawkins   Drums
David Hood   Bass,Bass Guitar
John Hughey   Pedal Steel Guitar
Wayne Jackson   Trumpet
Red Lane   Acoustic Guitar
Lester   Fiddle
Andrew Love   Tenor Saxophone
Arif Mardin   Drums
Hugh McDonald   Bass
James Mitchell   Baritone Saxophone
Steve Mosley   Drums,Snare Drums
George Rains   Drums
Jeannie Seely   Vocals
George Soulé   Background Vocals
Bee Spears   Bass
Dan Spears   Bass,Bass Guitar
Bobbie Nelson   Piano
Dee Moeller   Background Vocals
Fred Carter   Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Electric Guitar,12-string Guitar
James Clayton Day   Dobro

Technical Credits

Johnny Gimble   Composer
Waylon Jennings   Composer
Willie Nelson   Composer,Producer,Liner Notes
Floyd Tillman   Composer
Donny Hathaway   String Arrangements
Gene Rice   Engineer
Leon Russell   Composer
Sammi Smith   Duet
Johnny Bush   Composer
Jimmy Day   Composer
Cindy Walker   Composer
Mickey Raphael   Composer
James Austin   Liner Notes
Tom Dowd   Remixing
Tommy Duncan   Composer
Paul English   Composer
Terry Fell   Composer
Steve Ham   Engineer
Stan Hutto   Engineer
Arif Mardin   Producer,String Arrangements
Jerry Masters   Engineer
Steve Melton   Engineer
Gene Paul   Engineer
Knox Phillips   Engineer
Jeannie Seely   Duet
Bee Spears   Composer
Jerry Wexler   Producer,Liner Notes,Executive Producer,Audio Production
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys   Composer
Bill Bentley   Liner Notes
Bobbie Nelson   Composer
Fred Carter   Producer
Steve Woolard   Discographical Annotation
Dickey Lee Lipscomb   Composer
Paul Stroud   Composer
Steve Duffy   Composer
Masaki Koike   Art Direction
David Briggs   Producer
Mike Lewis   String Arrangements
Rick Sanjek   Producer
Mesney   Cover Illustration
J. B. Shinn   Composer

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The Complete Atlantic Sessions 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago