I probably should have selected something a little more dark in honor of Halloween but when this album came up in my numerical system I figured it fit. Why? Because this album finally pulls the mask off of Willie's late 60's recordings.
Someone who's not a serious Willie Nelson fan may not realize that prior to all of his classic albums of the 1970's (classic in writing, playing and production) there existed a fantastic songwriter that Nashville had no idea what to do with. Willie Nelson wrote some amazing songs during his stay with RCA records from 1965-1972. However RCA was too busy crapping them up with useless instrumentation and over-production basically because they thought his unique style of singing couldn't sell records. No, what couldn't sell records was taking great songs and essentially tearing them apart for no reason. But, that's life on a major record label sometimes. Thankfully by the time Willie landed on Columbia (after a brief stint with Atlantic) he just said 'the hell with it' and did his own thing.
That of course is a very brief synopsis of Willie's early career. What you need to know about this 2009 album is that it takes 17 songs originally recorded for RCA between 1966-1970 and "re-masters" them. By re-master I really mean "un-master" because what you're getting are stripped down versions of some killer early Willie material (14 of 17 songs originally written by Willie himself). Gone are the ridiculous backing vocals, gone are the out of place horn sections, gone is the glossy production. Good riddance. These songs never needed all that extraneous noise. Case in point - the version Willie does of Kris Kristofferson's classic "Sunday Morning Coming Down" on this album may actually be my all-time favorite version. This album is highly recommended for anyone who considers themselves even a nominal Willie Nelsen or classic country fan.