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Waylon Live (The Expanded Edition)

Waylon Jennings

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Album Review

Waylon Jennings' 1976 album Waylon Live is generally considered as one of the great live albums in country music — and, when pressed, it's easy to make an argument that it's among the finest of the decade — and Buddha's 1999 reissue seemed to be the final word on the record, since it restored the record to its scrapped original double-album running length, taking it from 11 to 20 songs. Just four years later, however, BMG Heritage issued Waylon Live: The Expanded Edition, which more than doubled its length to 42 songs over two discs. Most concerts don't last that long and it is true that this expanded Waylon Live isn't taken from just one gig; it was taken from three concerts in late September 1974: one show at the Western Place in Dallas on the 25th and two dates at the Opry House in Austin on the 26th and 27th. Simply put, Jennings was on fire these three days, at the peak of his powers as a performer, turning out music that was rebelliously rowdy and sweetly poignant. These shows were also at a crucial time, just as he was reaching the summit of his creativity, and this new expanded track listing has him looking back ten years while living thoroughly in the moment. There's a little bit of everything here: hits and album tracks, covers of classic country and current rock hits, newly written songs and tunes he's never sung before, songs recorded for RCA in the '60s, and songs yet to be released. It covers a hell of a lot of ground, but there's not a bad choice or performance here, and its freewheeling, all-encompassing scope makes as strong a case for Jennings' deep, far-ranging gifts as the classic studio albums Honky Tonk Heroes and Dreaming My Dreams. In its own way, it's as good as an introduction to Jennings as either of the double-disc greatest-hits collections Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line and RCA Country Legends; while those contain original hit versions recordings which illustrate how consistent and adventurous he was in the studio, this is similarly eclectic and contains plenty of heart, guts, soul, and fire. These performances are as good as Jennings ever got, which means it's tremendous and one of the rare cases where the album truly deserves such an expanded treatment. Absolutely essential.

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Biography

Born: 15 June 1937 in Littlefield, TX

Genre: Country

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

If any one performer personified the outlaw country movement of the '70s, it was Waylon Jennings. Though he had been a professional musician since the late '50s, it wasn't until the '70s that Waylon, with his imposing baritone and stripped-down, updated honky tonk, became a superstar. Jennings rejected the conventions of Nashville, refusing to record with the industry's legions of studio musicians and insisting that his music never resemble the string-laden, pop-inflected sounds that were coming...
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