Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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GEORGE JONES
The Hits . . . Then 'Til Now
Time Life

Four-times-married recovering alcoholic and coke fiend with his own brand of sausages--now that's a legend

Still touring at 76, the man widely considered country music's greatest singer has been recorded and repackaged so endlessly you couldn't blame a newcomer for never beginning. Three 20-song discs can't do full justice to his immeasurable depths, unshakable commitment or dumb sense of humor. But this overview has the advantage of being just that. Not only does it document the young hit machine whose voice was too big to fit in a honky-tonk, it proves how well he aged after his two great decades with Epic Records ended in 1991. Those who've invested in Epic's Essential George Jones box will find too much of it repeated here. But for anybody else, it's manna. Though people like to call Jones's voice the essence of country music, it's way too remarkable for that. But for sure it's country music's pride.

Blender, July 2008