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The Essential Kris Kristofferson

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
The two-disc Essential Kris Kristofferson summarizes this revered outlaw's contribution to straight-no-chaser contemporary country music in 37 cuts -- all but one a 1999 live track from his Austin Sessions album dating to his '70s and '80s prime. Disc 1 is worth the price of admission alone and is required listening for any country music fan. Here are the songs that changed the way the mainstream spoke of matters of the heart, the flesh, and the devil: "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "To Beat the Devil," "Casey's Last Ride," "Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again," "For the Good Times," and a live ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David McGee
The two-disc Essential Kris Kristofferson summarizes this revered outlaw's contribution to straight-no-chaser contemporary country music in 37 cuts -- all but one a 1999 live track from his Austin Sessions album dating to his '70s and '80s prime. Disc 1 is worth the price of admission alone and is required listening for any country music fan. Here are the songs that changed the way the mainstream spoke of matters of the heart, the flesh, and the devil: "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "To Beat the Devil," "Casey's Last Ride," "Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again," "For the Good Times," and a live version of "The Pilgrim: Chapter 33" represent a turn toward frank, vivid narratives about the real, messy world of loving, losing, and battling for peace of mind. Kristofferson's voice was fairly weathered even in his younger years, and its cragginess compounded the cosmic ennui informing his parched viewpoint. Disc 2 doesn't offer monuments on the order of its predecessor, but it does contain such overlooked gems as "Border Lord," "Broken Freedom Song," and "Nobody Wins." Kristofferson's stirring turn with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson on Jimmy Webb's epic, haunting "Highwayman" is another highlight, and the above-mentioned 1999 track, "Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends," marks a moment when Kristofferson reasserted his gift most persuasively. The early work retains all of its potency -- and has even gained a bit in light of the formulaic turn of mainstream country writing today -- and the '80s work begs to be reconsidered. This set lives up to its title, and then some.
All Music Guide - Richie Unterberger
The two-CD Essential Kris Kristofferson compilation isn't a balanced retrospective of his lengthy career, heavily emphasizing his 1969-1971 recordings, which in fact comprise all of disc one. And it doesn't represent many of his albums at all particularly the ones not done for Monument or Columbia, including just one post-1985 track. On the other hand, for the vast majority of Kristofferson listeners who want a best-of that offers more than a single-disc greatest-hits anthology can, it serves its purpose well. His best-known songs are here, in the original Kristofferson-sung versions: "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Why Me," and "For the Good Times." His earliest Monument records are sampled particularly deeply, with no less than nine of the 12 songs from his 1970 debut, Kristofferson, appearing. Still, there's no doubt that his early work was his most popular and best, and the disproportionate representation allows for the appearance of good songs from the era that escape skimpier greatest-hits collections. And there's no doubt that disc two, devoted almost entirely to post-1971 material, is less impressive and consistent, not to mention more haphazardly organized in its chronology, with the 1972 track "Why Me" appearing as the second-to-last cut. Room's also made for a few songs Kristofferson recorded with others, those being "I'd Rather Be Sorry" a duet with Rita Coolidge, "Highwayman" done with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, and "How Do You Feel About Foolin' Around" on which he paired with Willie Nelson.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/2/2004
  • Label: Sony
  • UPC: 074646499221
  • Catalog Number: 64992
  • Sales rank: 1,190

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Kris Kristofferson Primary Artist, Guitar, Background Vocals
Norman Blake Dobro
Josh Graves Dobro
Mickey Newbury Background Vocals
Buddy Spicher Fiddle
Rita Coolidge Background Vocals
Gary Busey Background Vocals
Pete Drake Steel Guitar
Donnie Fritts Keyboards, Background Vocals
Chris Gantry Guitar
Mac Gayden Guitar
Steve Gibson Guitar
Clydie King Background Vocals
Dennis Linde Guitar
Larry Murray Background Vocals
Billy Swan Bass, Guitar, Background Vocals
Sammi Smith Background Vocals
Jack Skinner Background Vocals
Grady Martin Guitar
Bobby Wood Keyboards
Larry Gatlin Background Vocals
Buzz Cason Background Vocals
Bobbye Hall Percussion
John Beland Background Vocals
Dennis Belfield Bass
Byron Berline Background Vocals
Stephen Bruton Guitar, Background Vocals
Kenny Buttrey Drums
Harrison Calloway Horn
Jerry Carrigan Drums
James Cason Background Vocals
Charles Chalmers Background Vocals
Sandra Chalmers Background Vocals
Chip Young Guitar
Gene Chrisman Drums
Johnny Christopher Guitar
Glen Clark Keyboards
Tommy Cogbill Bass
Jim Colvard Guitar
Jim Cox Keyboards
Sammy Creason Drums
Nick DeCaro Accordion
Terry Dearmore Background Vocals
Shane Keister Keyboards
Bobby Dyson Bass
Ronnie Eades Horn
Ray Edenton Guitar
Bobby Emmons Keyboards
Venetta Fields Background Vocals
Chuck Findley Horn
Paul Franklin Steel Guitar
Don Gant Background Vocals
John Harris Keyboards
Hoyt Hawkins Background Vocals
Jim Horn Horn
Tommy Jackson Fiddle
Jackie Kelso Horn
Jerry Kennedy Guitar
Millie Kirkham Background Vocals
Mark Knopfler Guitar, Background Vocals
Mike Leech Bass
Darrell Leonard Horn
Tommy McClure Bass
Jerry McGee Dobro, Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Background Vocals
Farrell Morris Percussion
Wayne Moss Guitar
Weldon Myrick Steel Guitar
Andy Newmark Drums
June Page Background Vocals
Terry Paul Bass, Background Vocals
Larry Paxton Bass
Herb Pedersen Background Vocals
Earl Lon Price Horn
Norbert Putnam Bass
Donna Rhodes Background Vocals
Alan Rush Background Vocals
Don Sheffield Horn
Jerry Shook Guitar
Lee Sklar Bass
Dwight Smith Horn
Gordon Stoker Background Vocals
Fred Tackett Guitar, Mandolin
Harvey Thompson Horn
Jimmy Tittle Bass
Mike Utley Keyboards, Background Vocals
Allan Wald Background Vocals
D. Bergen White Background Vocals
Benny Whitehead Background Vocals
John "Bucky" Wilkin Guitar
Mentor Williams Background Vocals
John Willis Guitar
Dick Hyde Horn
Charlie McCoy Harmonica, Horn
Fred Carter Jr. Guitar
Ray C. Walker Background Vocals
Norman Bruton Mandolin
Randy Cutlers Background Vocals
David Briggs Keyboards
Sherlie Matthews Background Vocals
Technical Credits
Waylon Jennings Composer
Kris Kristofferson Composer
Shel Silverstein Composer
Donnie Fritts Composer
Dennis Linde Producer
Jimmy Webb Composer
David Anderle Producer
Stephen Bruton Composer
Nancy Carlen Producer
Fred Foster Composer, Producer
Booker T. Jones Producer
Fred Mollin Producer
Chips Moman Producer
Terry Paul Composer
Norbert Putnam Producer
Mike Utley Composer
Howard Fritzson Art Direction
Vic Anesini Mastering
John Christiana Packaging Manager
Fred L. Foster Composer
Steve Burton Composer
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Weighted towards seminal early work

    An artist as prolific as Kristofferson is necessarily difficult to capture in compilation, not least of which because his songs and singing are half his artistic story. Without the hits that others launched from Kristofferson's pen, you can't assemble a full view of his impact on Nashville and pop music in general. Still, Kristofferson's own recordings, especially those of songs made popular by others, are intimate and revealing in ways that no one else's could ever really be. Jopin sung the hell out of "Me and Bobby McGee," but she lost some of the down-and-out brokenness Kristofferson laid into it. Similarly, for "Help Me Make it Through the Night" and "For the Good Times" the hits became icons for Sammi Smith and Ray Price, respectively, but Kristofferson's own versions are perhaps even more unforgettable for his earthier, less-polished voice. ¶ These two discs lean heavily on Kristofferson's earlier work, which, for most listeners will be the right mix. As a recording artist, Kristofferson hit the ground in full sprint on his debut album, "Kristofferson." The follow-up, "The Silver Tongued Devil and I" was just as strong. These two albums alone contribute 16 of disc 1's 18 tracks. Disc 2, on the other hand, samples a dozen different albums, stopping for more than once at any particular release only a few times. The result is a highly consistent disc 1, and a more erratic disc 2. To be fair, one can't help but draw heavily upon Kristofferson's early pair, but given that disc 2 already fails to keep a linear timeline, it might have helped to add a few of the earlier tracks to disc 2. ¶ That said, what's here is magnificent, and shows off Kristofferson's lyrical poetry to great effect. Disc 1 is only bettered by buying Kristofferson's first two albums as reissues (something that any serious fan is highly recommended to do). Disc 2 does an adequate job of surveying the work that followed Kristofferson's initial burst of genius. Included are tracks recorded throughout the '70s, including "Highwayman" with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, and duets with Willie Nelson, and then-wife Rita Coolidge. ¶ This is a good starter set, though anyone bitten by the works on disc 1 will want to pick up the full first two albums. Disc 2 provides a good sense of the path Kristofferson's work took, with good hints as to which albums listeners might wish to examine in full. 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Relive "the good times"

    Essentialness is defined as the basics, the necessary listening to fully capture and appreciate a musician’s career. Born the son of an air force general in Texas in 1936, Kris Kristofferson’s first gig in Nashville was as a janitor cleaning ashtrays and “go-fer” at CBS Studios in the mid-60s. Encouraged by Johnny Cash who helped him “beat the devil,” Kris had his first own real big on-the-road hit with “Me and Bobby McGee,” especially after it was covered by Cash, Janis Joplin and Roger Miller. Songwriter Kristofferson fully established himself with “Help Me Make it Through the Night” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (which also got covered by Ray Stevens). His songs have now been covered by at least 500 artists from Elvis to Dylan. A great many of these 37 tracks come from his early albums, “Kristofferson” (ten tracks) and “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” (six tracks). I could also argue that some of his followup records from 1972-74 were less than monumental. I certainly question this collection’s inclusion of five cuts from the insipid album “Jesus was a Capricorn” and two from the lackluster “Spooky Lady’s Sideshow.” The #1 country hit, “Why Me,” would have been enough from the former. Kristofferson once questioned that song’s hit status in Music City News – “It’s too slow. It’s sincere and it’s pretty, but it’s about a personal, religious thing. It’s not what I ever thought a hit was.” His 1978 album “Easter Island” was definitely better, and we see “The Bigger the Fool, the Harder the Fall” and “The Sabre and the Rose” included on this compilation. But why is there nothing from his 1986 “Repossessed” album, for example? That recording was highly-acclaimed and presented a body of new material after a five-year album hiatus. In fact, the only song on this collection that was recorded after 1984 is “Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends,” from the late 1990s. However, “The Essential Kris” does give us over two hours of music. Of special note are those songs that Kristofferson recorded with others. “I'd Rather Be Sorry” is a duet with Rita Coolidge, his wife from 1973-79. Title cut from the album, “Highwayman,” is sung with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash. A duet with Willie Nelson, “How Do You Feel About Foolin’ Around” was recorded in 1983. Most reviewers agree that Kris Kristofferson’s early compositions were his best, and those songs are certainly essential listening. Since this 2-CD collection does not follow a rigid chronological presentation, perhaps more from his earliest albums should have been included on the second disc to balance the hits. Kristofferson has been recognized as a tender singer/songwriter who has a knack for making lyrical statements that people can personally relate to. Many of his songs simply make us feel good. To relive “the good times” that Kristofferson’s music has brought us, this double album will nostalgically take us back. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)

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