Essential Kris Kristofferson

Essential Kris Kristofferson

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by Kris Kristofferson

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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…  See more details below


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.

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Editorial Reviews

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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Disc 1

  1. Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down
  2. To Beat the Devil
  3. Just the Other Side of Nowhere
  4. Me and Bobby McGee
  5. The Best of All Possible Worlds
  6. Casey's Last Ride
  7. Help Me Make It Throught the Night
  8. Darby's Castle
  9. Jody and the Kid
  10. Loving Her Was Easier (That Anything I'll Ever Do Again)
  11. For the Good Times
  12. Come Sundown
  13. From the Bottle to the Bottom
  14. Billy Dee
  15. Breakdown (A Long Way from Home)
  16. The Silver Tongued Devil and I
  17. The Taker
  18. The Pilgrim: Chapter 33

Disc 2

  1. Border Lord
  2. The Sabre and the Rose
  3. Broken Freedom Song
  4. Jesus Was a Capricorn (Owed to John Prine)
  5. Shandy (The Perfect Disguise)
  6. Sugar Man
  7. The Last Time
  8. Nobody Wins
  9. I'd Rather Be Sorry
  10. Highwayman  - Willie Nelson
  11. Don't Cuss the Fiddle
  12. The Bigger the Fool, The Harder the Fall
  13. Stranger
  14. If You Don't Like Hank Williams
  15. Here Comes That Rainbow Again
  16. Once More With Feeling
  17. How Do You Feel About Foolin' Around  - Willie Nelson
  18. Why Me
  19. Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends

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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   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
John Christiana   Packaging Manager
Fred L. Foster   Composer
Steve Burton   Composer

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The Essential Kris Kristofferson 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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)
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.