Waylon Jennings – Analog Pearls Vol. 1 – Stockfisch Records stereo-only SACD SFR 357.4801.2, 31:08 ***1/2:
(Waylon Jennings – guitar, vocals; Richard Albright – drums; Gerry Gropp – guitar; Paul E. Foster (guitar, vocals)
Texas-born country artist Waylon Jennings is remembered by many for two things. On February 3, 1959, while on tour with his friend and producer Buddy Holly, he gave up his seat to J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Holly, Ritchie Valens , Richardson and the pilot died when the plane crashed. It is referred to as The Day The Music Died. As a country musician, Jennings became a charter member of the Outlaw Movement in country music (along with performers like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt, David Allan Coe and many others). This freewheeling, anti-establishment rebellion against Nashville reclaimed the raucous honky-tonk traditions of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, George Jones and Lefty Frizzell.
Analog Peals Vol.1 is a compilation of Jennings’ early A&M Records output with “The Waylors”. Produced by Herb Alpert, this is very traditional country music. The opening cut “Stepping Stone” is a mild, flowing lament with an unspecified chorus. Jennings relaxed baritone is not unlike many of the existing country singers of the day. With more depth, Jennings covers “House Of The Rising Sun”. Here the singer injects more emotion into the song. His vocal range is extended on the second verse. Having titled this version “The Real House Of The Rising Sun”, it implies some of the negativity toward British rock bands co-opting rockabilly (most notable Elvis Presley). However, like so many artists looking for hits, Dylan is fair game. Waylon’s take on “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” has some innate energy and almost escapes the obligatory arrangements.
There are some effective moments. “Sally Was A Good Old Girl” is a rollicking Saturday night dance fest. It’s fun and seems to loosen up Jennings. An original composition, “Charlie Lay Down The Gun” tells a menacing tale of a romantic triangle. In the Spanish-infused tradition of country, “Four Winds” visits the twangy, rambling instincts of escaping failed love. The track has a trumpet intro and ending solo (producer Alpert?) and is good storytelling. Overall, the songs feel restrained by the arrangements limiting any measurable spontaneity out of the group.
The SACD technology (as with all Stockfisch releases) is a welcome update to this softer compilation of Waylon Jennings, The instruments (especially the guitar) sound crisp and pristine. Jennings’ voice has tender warmth. But this material is not as interesting as his later work. His vocals and song selection improved with age.
TrackList: Stepping Stone; The Real House Of The Rising Sun; Just To Satisfy You; Kisses Sweeter Than Wine; Unchained Melody; Four Strong Winds; Sing The Girls A Song, Bill; Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright; River Boy; Sally Was A Good Old Girl; Charlie Lay Down The Gun