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George Jones & Tammy Wynette [extended]

  • Tammy's Greatest Hits [Epic, 1969]
  • The Best of George Jones [Musicor, 1970] B+
  • Tammy's Greatest Hits Volume II [Epic, 1971] B
  • The Best of George Jones, Vol. 1 [RCA Victor, 1972] A-
  • The Best of George Jones [Epic, 1975] B+
  • Tammy Wynette's Greatest Hits Volume Three [Epic, 1975] C+
  • The Battle [Epic, 1976] B
  • Alone Again [Epic, 1976] A-
  • All-Time Greatest Hits: Volume 1 [Epic, 1977] A-
  • I Wanta Sing [Epic, 1977] B
  • Greatest Hits [Epic, 1977] A-
  • 16 Greatest Hits [Starday, 1977]
  • Womanhood [Epic, 1978] B
  • Greatest Hits Volume 4 [Epic, 1978] B+
  • Just Tammy [Epic, 1978] B-
  • My Very Special Guests [Epic, 1979] A-
  • I Am What I Am [Epic, 1980] A-
  • Still the Same Ole Me [Epic, 1981] B+
  • Anniversary: Ten Years of Hits [Epic, 1982] A-
  • A Taste of Yesterday's Wine [Epic, 1982] B-
  • Shine On [Epic, 1983] C+
  • You've Still Got a Place in My Heart [Epic, 1984] B
  • By Request [Epic, 1984] B-
  • The King of Country Music [Liberty, 1984]
  • White Lightning [Ace, 1984]
  • First Time Live [Epic, 1985] B
  • Anniversary: Twenty Years of Hits [Epic, 1987] B-
  • Too Wild Too Long [Epic, 1987] B-
  • Super Hits [Epic, 1987] B-
  • One Woman Man [Epic, 1988] B+
  • Best Loved Hits [Epic, 1991] Choice Cuts
  • Friends in High Places [Epic, 1991] *
  • The Best of George Jones (1955-1967) [Rhino, 1991] A-
  • And Along Came Jones [MCA, 1991] *
  • Walls Can Fall [MCA, 1992] A-
  • Greatest Hits Vol. 2 [Epic, 1992] A-
  • Honky Tonk Angels [Columbia, 1993] Neither
  • High-Tech Redneck [MCA, 1993] Choice Cuts
  • The Bradley Barn Sessions [MCA, 1994] *
  • One [MCA, 1995] Choice Cuts
  • I Lived to Tell It All [MCA, 1996] *
  • Vintage Collections [Capitol, 1997] A-
  • It Don't Get Any Better Than This [MCA, 1998] ***
  • Cold Hard Truth [Asylum, 1999] ***
  • The George Jones Collection [MCA, 1999] **
  • Live With the Possum [Asylum, 1999] Neither
  • The Gospel Collection [BNA, 2003] **
  • The Definitive Collection [Mercury Nashville, 2004]
  • Kickin' Out the Footlights . . . Again! [Bandit, 2006] *
  • Live in Texas 1965 [Ace, 2018] ***

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Tammy Wynette: Tammy's Greatest Hits [Epic, 1969]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

George Jones: The Best of George Jones [Musicor, 1970]
Don't take the title too seriously--the clenched jaw and rubberband larynx of honky-tonk's greatest honky have graced more albums than he can count (seventy, eighty, like that), and only the Lord knows how many singles he's put out. This is a fairly nondescript selection of ten of them, including one B side and two I can't trace. As usual, the highest-charted are the blandest, and neither of my faves--the hyperextended deception trope "Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong" and the poor white "Where Grass Won't Grow"--made top ten country. B+

Tammy Wynette: Tammy's Greatest Hits Volume II [Epic, 1971]
While no one was looking, that stand-by-your-man gal was writing a female identity song: "The Only Time I'm Really Me" (is when I'm asleep--and presumably dreaming). Which is almost cancelled out by one of the most appalling divine justice songs in that godforsaken subgenre: "The Wonders You Perform" (at least it's not about her husband). Beyond those two it's the best of the usual--her sultry resignation has archetypal power when the ideology isn't too repellent. It's more archetypal on her first best-of, though. B

George Jones: The Best of George Jones, Vol. 1 [RCA Victor, 1972]
"White Lightnin'" isn't the only white lightnin' Jones's longtime but no-more producer "Pappy" Daily passes around--to commemorate Jones's desertion to Epic, Daily has sold all the George he owns to RCA, and the initial result is a hither-and-yon compilation that skips from the high purity of his work with Mercury and United Artists (no Starday stuff) to the tortured midrange of the recent "I'll Follow You" and "A Day in the Life of a Fool." Much too brief, but not a bad introduction. A-

George Jones: The Best of George Jones [Epic, 1975]
You can hear why people say Billy Sherrill has compromised Jones on this compilation's only great song, "The Door"; Bergen White's strings begin tersely enough, but by the end the usual army of interlopers is sawing away, so that you barely notice how Jones lowers the boom on the two "the"s in the song's final line. Ultimately, though, it isn't the production that makes this acceptable but less than scintillating--it's the conception. Too many of these songs lay out the conventional romantic themes with a slight twist, and there's virtually no room for Jones the honky-tonk crazy, the one who sang "The Race Is On" and "No Money in This Deal." One Epic cut that would help on both counts is the unsarcastic "You're Looking at a Happy Man," in which his wife leaves him. B+

Tammy Wynette: Tammy Wynette's Greatest Hits Volume Three [Epic, 1975]
Songs like "(You Make Me Want to Be) A Mother" are why so many women more honest than Tammy don't want to be mothers--makes having a child seem like losing a self, and defines having a self as manipulating others. Though it was written by two men, I credit Tammy with enough autonomy to blame her for it. And would add (somewhat paradoxically) that the only time this compilation comes to life is during the song about her children and the song to them. C+

George Jones: The Battle [Epic, 1976]
One of the artiest cover illustrations ever to come out of Nashville has misled casual observers into the belief that this is a concept album about George and Tammy's marital problems. What it is is a slightly better-than-average George Jones LP marred by a surfeit of conjugal-bliss songs. First by a country mile: "Billy Ray Wrote a Song," about two up-and-coming Nashville professionals, both male. B

George Jones: Alone Again [Epic, 1976]
Although it sticks too close to heart songs, this comeback-to-basics statement is the best country album of the year and far surpasses the rest of Jones's recent work. I'm getting to like the over-forty Jones as much as the rawboned honky-tonker anyway--what's amazing about him is that by refusing the release of honky-tonking he holds all that pain in, audibly. The result, expressed in one homely extended metaphor per song (the only one that's too commonplace is "diary of my life"), is a sense of constriction that says as much about the spiritual locus of country music as anything I've heard in quite a while. A-

George Jones: All-Time Greatest Hits: Volume 1 [Epic, 1977]
Jones afficionados may well object to his re-recording his old standards, especially while some of the prototypes remain in catalogue on RCA and Musicor. But though I miss the revved-up boy-man lightness of some of the originals, these are much brighter and more passionate than most remakes, and I welcome the improved sound quality and relatively schlock-free arrangements. Likable at worst, revelatory at best, and recommended. A-

George Jones: I Wanta Sing [Epic, 1977]
The vocals aren't as intense here as on Alone Again, so the tomfoolery seems a little forced, though I hope he keeps trying. But as long as he's not buried in strings, soul choruses, and Peter Allen songs, I don't think he can make a bad album. Will somebody tell Billy Sherrill to withdraw that call to Australia? B

Greatest Hits [Epic, 1977]
If rock and roll plunges forward like young love, then country music partakes of the passionate stability of a good marriage, and here's one couple who know for damn sure that the wedding doesn't end the story. Their hits are alternately tender and recriminatory, funny and fucked up, but they're always felt and they're always interesting. And even though George and Tammy eventually succumbed to d-i-v-o-r-c-e, they don't give you the feeling that that's the way it has to come out. A-

George Jones: 16 Greatest Hits [Starday, 1977]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

Tammy Wynette: Womanhood [Epic, 1978]
In which Billy Sherrill performs (or permits) a miracle: five good songs on one side. (Nobody ever accused Bily of thinking big.) On side one, we learn about virtue sorely tempted, the limits of sisterhood, music as emotional communion, virtue abandoned, and the limits of professionalism. On side two, Tammy confuses Wolfman Jack with John the Baptist and then retreats into the commonplace. With country albums, you take what you can get. B

Tammy Wynette: Greatest Hits Volume 4 [Epic, 1978]
Nothing like d-i-v-o-r-c-e to bring out the independent woman in you--the only marital-commitment song here is about having an alcoholic husband. And where in her domestic-paragon phase she was beginning to sound prim, here she ranges from forthright to positively hot, torching up her tales of star-crossed sex as if she's just learned how to masturbate. Point of interest: Billy Sherrill's latest collaborator on Tammy's material is George Richey, Tammy's latest husband. B+

Tammy Wynette: Just Tammy [Epic, 1978]
This is schlock with conviction, the essential country music parade. But what makes a great country album for urban speedsters like me is lyrics that are worth listening to, maybe even thinking about, and these begin and end with the opening cut, "They Call It Making Love." B-

George Jones: My Very Special Guests [Epic, 1979]
This collection of ten collaborations with outlaw old-timers, country-rock phenoms, Staples, Tammy, and someone named Elvis has low points, as you might expect. But its quality has more to do with what's being sung than with who's singing it where. James Taylor, harmonizing from New York on his neo-classic "Bartender's Blues," sounds fine; Emmylou Harris, chiming in from El Lay on the lame "Here We Are," fares only slightly worse than Johnny Paycheck does on poor old "Proud Mary," which comes complete with made-in-Nashville interaction. Must-hears: "I Gotta Get Drunk," with Willie Nelson, and the amazing "Stranger in the House," which gives an unexpected clue about who taught Mr. Costello to sing. A-

George Jones: I Am What I Am [Epic, 1980]
Smiling corpse or committed cuckold or drunk peering over the edge of the wagon, a sinner is what he am, and he's never sounded so abject or unregenerate--the twenty-years-in-five thickness of his Epic voice only intensifies the effect. If Billy Sherrill's chorales signify his helplessness, their unobtrusiveness-in-spite-of-themselves prove his triumph. And remember, it was Sherrill who found him these songs. A-

George Jones: Still the Same Ole Me [Epic, 1981]
Dumb title, appropriately enough, and every word true--just like his lies about lifetime troth in the title number, one of those inane stick-to-the-medulla-oblongata tunes no one will ever do better. And side-openers, the man has side-openers--a brand-new honky-tonk classic and a brand-new wages-of-honky-tonk classic. Nothing else stands out except for the intrusion of young Georgette Jones (Wynette?) (surely not Richey?) on "Daddy Come Home," which even George can't get away with. But it all stands up. B+

George Jones: Anniversary: Ten Years of Hits [Epic, 1982]
Sure he's inconsistent and self-destructive, but he's such a natural that all his insanity goes into the mix, and such a pro that the greatest performance on all four sides, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," was recorded with a year between the first verse and the bridge. Note also that it was completed in 1980--the strictly chronological sequencing clarifies how he and Billy Sherrill grew into their collaboration. As countrypolitan evolves into country-pop, yielding a standard country best-of on the first two sides, Sherrill gives up on forcing Jones into the mold, instead encouraging his prize to be what he is, the greatest country singer in history--not so much with arrangements, though they do get sparer, as with increasingly hyperbolic and goofy material. Jones's Starday and Musicor best-ofs are as essential as Jimmie Rodgers or Robert Johnson. Side four--ruminative, mannered, dripping with pain--cuts them. A-

Merle Haggard and George Jones: A Taste of Yesterday's Wine [Epic, 1982]
What might have been a historic get-together overplays both the good-old-boy camaraderie and the cry-in-your-beer sentimentality of country's male-bonding mode. Willie Nelson's keynote tune becomes completely bathetic, and that the nostalgia and mutual self-congratulation it presages are even bearable is one more proof of Jones's genius. B-

George Jones: Shine On [Epic, 1983]
Charley Pride couldn't get away with the lucky songs Billy Sherrill's stuck George with this time, and though the unlucky songs are better, superstar guilt and second-convolution cheating just don't suit him. Granted, "Ol' George Stopped Drinkin' Today" is a near-perfect fit. But when it comes to "Almost Persuaded," I'll take the original--by David Houston, Tammy's first singing partner. C+

George Jones: You've Still Got a Place in My Heart [Epic, 1984]
This not-great George Jones record should reassure anybody who was worried he'd never make another decent one without hitting the bottle again. First side leads off with messages to wives of various periods, second with a Jones-penned chestnut that happens to be the title of his new bio, a great pseudofolksong (or maybe it's real, which is what makes it great), and a very cheerful explanation of why he'll never hit the bottle again. We believe you, George. B

George Jones: By Request [Epic, 1984]
At least there's a rudimentary honesty to the title--this compiles the legend at his most broad-based, and while I'd request half of it myself, only the Ray Charles duet can't be found in more exciting company. B-

George Jones: The King of Country Music [Liberty, 1984]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

George Jones: White Lightning [Ace, 1984]
[CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]

George Jones: First Time Live [Epic, 1985]
If it's amazing that this inexhaustible record machine has never resorted to a live quickie, it's doubly amazing that he's never dared one. Less amazing is the career moment it captures, the period of sobriety that's turned his never-ending stage fright into shtick. "No Show Jones" opens the show, naturally, and this being country music it kicks off with his guitarist's Merle Haggard imitation. Elsewhere there's a set-down-a-spell band feature, a get-it-over-with medley, and the usual quota of you-had-to-be-there cornball, which Jones, whose stage fright isn't altogether irrational, delivers pretty clumsily for a thirty-year-man. And on top of it all there's irrefutable proof of how instinctive his tricks and mannerisms are--you've heard these vocal grimaces and bursts of prose poetry before, but never in just these heart-stopping places. Definitive: "He Stopped Loving Her Today." B

Tammy Wynette: Anniversary: Twenty Years of Hits [Epic, 1987]
Her corn pone all husk, her bouffant as sultry as Aretha's do, she sings like the heartbreaker who's about to best the long-suffering wife her lyrics put on a pedestal, but no matter how hypocritical her trademark equation between marriage, submission, and fulfillment, she remains the most soulful female country singer ever. And since she left George Jones (which no one in the world blames her for) and found fulfillment with George Richey a decade ago, her music has gone phfft. Twenty years my foot--the newest song here is a (professional) reunion with George (Jones) that's seven years old. In a world where Greatest Hits, Greatest Hits Volume 4, and George & Tammy's Greatest Hits still exist, this unexceptionable CD-length commemorative issue is about as useful as a kudzu seed. Consult your catalogue. B-

George Jones: Too Wild Too Long [Epic, 1987]
As per recent habit, "I'm a Survivor," "One Hell of a Song," and "Too Wild Too Long" adduce his legend without justifying it. "The Old Man No One Loved" is as pointless as anything he's ever walked through, "The U.S.A. Today" not as bad as you'd fear. But "The Bird" is gloriously silly, and he hits "I'm a Long Gone Daddy" on the noggin. As for "Moments of Brilliance"--well, "Moments of Brilliance" is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. B-

George Jones: Super Hits [Epic, 1987]
Four of these undeniably super tracks are on Epic's essential Anniversary--Ten Years of Hits, two more on Epic's near-essential All-Time Greatest Hits: Volume 1. Included is the mawkishly obvious "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes." Omitted is the tragically obscure "Don't Leave Without Taking Your Silver." B-

George Jones: One Woman Man [Epic, 1988]
Less than no way to tell this is his best album since I Am What I Am nine years ago--Billy Sherrill himself doesn't know, not with two cuts previously released and one of those nothing special. The other, however, is the homicidal "Radio Lover," which I first heard on the makeshift By Request. Points of interest include veteran honky-tonk, shameless tearjerk, and the impossible "Ya Ba Da Ba Do (So Are You)," about three icons sitting around talking--Elvis Presley, Fred Flintstone, and George Jones. B+

Tammy Wynette: Best Loved Hits [Epic, 1991]
"Unwed Fathers" Choice Cuts

George Jones: Friends in High Places [Epic, 1991]
friends wherever he can find them, some inspired (Randy Travis, Vern Gosdin), some otherwise (Ricky Van Shelton, Buck Owens) ("A Few Ole Country Boys," "All That We've Got Left") *

George Jones: The Best of George Jones (1955-1967) [Rhino, 1991]
You never know with George. On Starday's 16 Greatest Hits, which I purchased for $3.88 in 1978, are Jones originals called "Eskimo Pie" and "No Money in This Deal" that I've always loved. Now I check Joel Whitburn and discover that neither was ever a hit, great or otherwise. These were--they constitute as complete a tour of Jones's early best-sellers as has ever been conducted. That doesn't make "Tender Years" half the record "No Money in This Deal" is--Nashville hits are often cornier than city folks prefer. But he isn't the greatest country singer in history for nothing. Let a dozen compilations bloom. Just watch out for duplications. A-

George Jones: And Along Came Jones [MCA, 1991]
and along came Tony Brown too ("I Don't Go Back Anymore," "You Couldn't Get the Picture") *

George Jones: Walls Can Fall [MCA, 1992]
The cassette-bound are advised to fast-forward to side two, CD investers to program, oh, 6-4-7-8-9-10-1; there's no true filler here, but "Wrong's What I Do Best" is far more thematic than "I Don't Need Your Rockin' Chair," in which 10 suburban cowpeople sing the praises of 61-year-old youth, and which I conceive as a coda. George has been hitched and on the wagon since well before he cut his late-'80s dreck, but he can still sing the likes of "Drive Me To Drink" (if she can't be his wife she can be his chauffeur) and "There's the Door" (if she can walk out of the house maybe he can walk out of the bar) as if he does a lot of listening at 12-step meetings. His problem wasn't authenticity--it was Billy Sherrill. A-

Greatest Hits Vol. 2 [Epic, 1992]
In art if not life, this was a rich, amazing marriage, goofy and tragic at the same time. Anybody who thinks Tammy got nothing but trouble from the same old him should compare this "My Elusive Dreams" to the David Houston classic. Anybody who thinks serial monogamy equals mental health should try and giggle at the Louvin Brothers' "When I Stop Dreaming." Anybody who thinks novelty songs say nothing new should check the postconjugal intimacy of Bobby Braddock's "Did You Ever." A fitting companion to volume one--just press stop before the inspirational finale. A-

Loretta/Dolly/Tammy: Honky Tonk Angels [Columbia, 1993] Neither

George Jones: High-Tech Redneck [MCA, 1993]
"The Visit" Choice Cuts

George Jones: The Bradley Barn Sessions [MCA, 1994]
did someone say duets with America's greatest living vocalist? ("Bartender Blues," "Where Grass Won't Grow") *

One [MCA, 1995]
"If God Met You" Choice Cuts

George Jones: I Lived to Tell It All [MCA, 1996]
a drunkard's prayers ("I'll Give You Something To Drink About," "Tied to a Stone") *

George Jones & Melba Montgomery: Vintage Collections [Capitol, 1997]
Besides keeping track of them, the big problem with new George Jones reissues is the same as the big problem with old George Jones issues--consistency. Be they literal rereleases like New Favorites and The Race Is On or circumscribed compilations like Razor & Tie's UA-only She Thinks I Still Care, they rise and fall with the quirks of a taste that isn't yours. But here partnership is a steadying influence, as Montgomery props up the flatter material with her cornpone contralto. George isn't just being polite when he claims Melba was a better match than Tammy--anyone who counts that Birmingham beautician deep country should check out the hollers near Iron City, Tennessee. Montgomery is less original than Jones, as is Pavarotti. But she's so downhome that she never got her druthers or her just deserts. And she's also so downhome that Pappy Daily didn't even think about countrypolitanizing her. A-

George Jones: It Don't Get Any Better Than This [MCA, 1998]
old faithfuls ("Wild Irish Rose," "It Don't Get Any Better Than This") ***

George Jones: Cold Hard Truth [Asylum, 1999]
Begins with two all-time keepers and a fine novelty, after which the songs need more than the scratch vocals he was stuck with after he ran into an abutment playing his stepdaughter the tape ("Choices," "Cold Hard Truth," "Sinners & Saints") ***

George Jones: The George Jones Collection [MCA, 1999]
Too obvious too often ("Wild Irish Rose," "Golden Ring"). **

George Jones: Live With the Possum [Asylum, 1999] Neither

George Jones: The Gospel Collection [BNA, 2003]
The Possum, Billy Sherrill, and a great American songbook plus ringers ("The Old Rugged Cross," "In the Garden") **

George Jones: The Definitive Collection [Mercury Nashville, 2004]
As music, this collection of 22 remastered early recordings is magnificent even if you believe, like most nonpurists, that the greatest country singer ever was just getting started in his straight honky-tonk period. It's terse, unsentimental, and soul deep, Jones's voice a marvel and mystery long before its fathomless maturity. Moreover, Jones sounds maybe a quarter quantum clearer and younger in this mix. Note, however, that 1994's two-disc Cup of Loneliness: The Classic Mercury Years covers the same ground, and its 29 additional cuts are as worthy as all but a few highlights here. With artists of Jones's calibre, sometimes more is more. [Blender: 3]

George Jones and Merle Haggard: Kickin' Out the Footlights . . . Again! [Bandit, 2006]
Hag keeps getting Haggier, but that thing in George's voice that was grainy like cornbread is turning to mush ("Things Have Gone to Pieces," "Footlights"). *

George Jones & the Jones Boys: Live in Texas 1965 [Ace, 2018]
Listen to these 26 numbers not for their resonance or intensity, but for how expertly and dispassionately they're picked up, performed, and put back down ("I'm Ragged but I'm Right," "Who Shot Sam," "Intro: Hold It") ***