This is the second page of an opinionated Waylon Jennings discography, looking at the work of the "outlaw" country legend, and many of his side projects and collaborations. The first page of this discography covers his work up to 1979.
Waylon Jennings "Music Man" (RCA, 1980)
(Re-released on CD along with Black On Black.)
Jessi Colter & Waylon Jennings "Leather And Lace" (RCA, 1981)
Waylon Jennings "Black On Black" (RCA, 1982)
(Re-released on CD along with Music Man.)
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson "WWII" (RCA, 1982)
The Waylon & Willie franchise sputtered to a stop on this sometimes-poignant, frequently preposterous reunion album. The opening track is a weirdly over-orchestrated disco-tinged pop number; a disasterous version of Otis Redding's "Dock Of A Bay" soon follows, and at last the lads (briefly) regain their hillbilly equilibrium on tunes such as "Last Cowboy Song." Mostly though, this album is a bit overblown and self-indulgent -- a little too artsy for their own good, if you ask me. Still, it's notable for atypically political material such as "Lady In The Harbor" and "Heros"... Not the best album either of these guys ever did, but certainly not the worst.
Waylon Jennings "It's Only Rock And Roll" (RCA, 1983)
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson "Take It To The Limit" (Columbia, 1983)
(Produced by Chips Moman)
One of their lesser efforts. A fairly lethargic, soft-edged album, reverberating with the "punch-in" feel of modern studio multitracking. Mostly it's the limp, unenergetic arrangements and the sense that no one was really trying that hard that makes this album seem like so negligible. Includes covers of oldies by Roger Miller, Paul Simon, David Allan Coe and, yes, the title track by the Eagles. Only one (!) original tune by Willie.
Waylon Jennings "Waylon And Company" (RCA, 1983)
Waylon Jennings "Never Could Toe The Mark" (RCA, 1983)
Highwaymen "Highwayman" (Columbia, 1985)
The first Highwaymen album, an outlaw-legends collaboration between Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson, has the sluggishness of an celebrity vanity project, yet several songs stand out, approaching, if not fully attaining, the epic scale implied by such an all-star lineup. "Jim, I Wore A Tie Today" has a nice soulfulness to it; the revamped arrangement on Cash's chestnut, "Big River" is also kinda nice, while "Last Cowboy Song" and "The Twentieth Century Is Almost Over" ably capitalize on the mythic status of the august quartet. It's nice to see that the repertoire also includes material by Guy Clark ("Desperados Waiting For A Train") and Woody Guthrie ("Deportee"), although these are not superior versions of either song. Not a stunning album, but certainly worth checking out.
Waylon Jennings "Turn The Page" (1985)
Waylon Jennings "Sweet Mother Texas" (1986)
Waylon Jennings "Will The Wolf Survive?" (MCA, 1986)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen)
Waylon Jennings & Johnny Cash "Heroes" (1986)
Waylon Jennings "Hangin' Tough" (MCA, 1987)
Waylon Jennings "A Man Called Hoss" (MCA, 1987)
Waylon Jennings "Full Circle" (MCA, 1988)
(Produced by Jimmy Bowen)
The spirit is willing, but the mix is weak. There's plenty of perfunctory outlaw-isms, and a slew of songs that I'd like to like more, but the Jimmy Bowen production is just so plodding and by-the-numbers that little really stands out. The second half of the album is best: "How Much Is It Worth To Live In LA" is the album highlight, (and to my knowledge the only track that has made it onto a best-of set), while "Hey Willie" and "You Put The Soul In The Song" are close runner-ups... This isn't his best, but it's still Waylon... and that's still better than most!
Waylon Jennings "The Early Years" (1989)
Waylon Jennings "New Classic Waylon" (MCA, 1989)
Highwaymen "Highwaymen II" (Columbia, 1990)
Waylon Jennings "The Eagle" (Sony, 1990)
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson "Clean Shirt" (Sony, 1991)
Waylon Jennings "Too Dumb For New York City, Too Ugly For L.A." (Sony, 1992)
(Produced by Ritchie Albright)
A surprisingly strong album from ol' Waylon -- a real bolt from the blue from a fella who'd kinda been coasting for a while... The title track is a funny, biting indictment of the pretty-people snobbishness of show biz, which a grizzled old mug like Waylon had defied for decades; other highlights include the politically-oriented album opener, "Just Talkin'," and the biting, bitter heartsong, "Silent Partners," both first-rate Waylon material. Electric guitarist Troy Seals picks lead on many tracks, and also contributed several songs to the set -- overall, this is a fine, punchy, muscular set, with engineering assist by Billy Sherrill, who adds a solid, assured feel to the sound. For a record this late in the game, this is quite remarkable... Certainly worth checking out!
Waylon Jennings "Cowboys, Sisters, Rascals, & Dirt" (Ode 2 Kids, 1993)
A children's album...
Waylon Jennings "Waymore's Blues (Part II)" (RCA, 1994)
(Produced by Don Was)
Everyone involved tries to get this album to catch fire, but it never really does... Only on a couple of tracks does it even start to smoulder. There's a lot of energy and effort, but it feels forced and compressed -- not outright "bad," but more like an echo of what had gone on before. True, blue fans might like this, but for casual listeners, this might not add that much to Waylon's legend.
Highwaymen "The Road Goes On Forever" (Liberty, 1995)
(Produced by Don Was)
Even though the oft-bland studio whiz Don Was sat behind the console to produce this one, I gotta admit the album's pretty darn good, and a punchier, more compelling work than the first two Highwaymen albums on Columbia. This kicks off with a good version of "The Devil's Right Hand," written by Steve Earle, and also includes songs by Billy Joe Shaver, Dallas Frazier and the various fellers in the band. It's a pretty strong record, certainly worth checking out.
Waylon Jennings "Right For The Time" (Justice, 1996)
Waylon Jennings/Mel Tillis/Bobby Bare/Jerry Reed "Old Dogs" (Atlantic, 1998)
This all-star, old coot rowdyfest has a predictable feel, complete with fake "live" ambiance (even a painfully obvious laugh track) and plenty of strained good ole boy humor. The whole is decidedly less than the sum of the parts on this one: you're way better off sticking to each of these guy's solo albums. Nice to see Mel Tillis up and around, though. He'd really dropped off the radar by the time this disc came out...
Waylon Jennings "Closing In On The Fire" (Ark 21, 1998)
This was pretty late in the game for ole Waylon... When he keeps it simple, he's still ever-so-soulful, but various ill-advised tempo changes and arty rock-tinged arrangements get in the way, making him sound at times a bit too much like Hank Jr. (which, in this case, is not meant as a compliment...) This disc travels pretty familar pathways, but despite the tedium it does have its rewards, and is worth checking out if you're a diehard fan...
Waylon Jennings "Never Say Die -- Live" (Sony/Lucky Dog, 2000)
An appreciative audience, a brace of great songs... But to tell the truth, Waylon's a bit long in the tooth here, and his musicians are spounding pretty bar-band-y. I saw Waylon do a gig in San Francisco around this era, and while he still kicked ass over most of the whippersnappers that've come in his wake, you're better off hunting down some of his older records instead.
Waylon Jennings "Live From Austin, TX" (New West, 2006)
Waylon and his band playing live on Austin City Limits, on April 1, 1989. Yeee-haww!!
Waylon Jennings "Sings Hank Williams" (Universal/YMC, 2006)
The late Waylon Jennings famously nominated Hank Williams as the poster child for the 1975 "outlaw" music scene, paying a sideways tribute in the song, "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way..." The affinity was natural enough -- Williams was one of country music's greatest waste cases and rebels, and like the Texas-based outlaw crowd, he forced the country music establishment to accept him on his own terms. Plus, he recorded some of the best honkytonk music ever made, songs that any true-country singer was gonna sing every chance they got. This album was originally recorded in 1985, but for whatever reasons, it went uninssued until now... It's a nice missing piece in the tapestry of Waylon's career; although many of the tracks have the too-smooth feel of a lot of '80s country studio work, there are several songs where Waylon really connects with the material, notably on "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Why Should We Try Anymore," "Mansion On The Hill" and "They'll Never Take Her Love From Me," four songs that are worth the price of admission alone. There's also a scripted interview wherein Jennings talks about his respect for William's legacy... Overall, this album is certainly worth checking out if you're a fan of either artist's work.
Waylon Jennings "Never Say Die: The Complete Final Concert" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2007)
I had the chance to see Waylon and his band towards the end of their run, and while that show was nowhere near as great as the one documented on this album, it was still a real treat. Few performers, in any genre, have had as much sheer charisma as Waylon Jennings, and that comes through loud an clear on this poignant set, recorded live at the Ryman auditorium in January, 2000 with his hand-picked Waymore Blues Band putting as much heart and soul into it as ol' Waylon himself. Although at the time his health was so poor that he couldn't stand up on stage, Jennings filled the hall with his presence and joyful good nature -- it's a fine show, indeed, a powerful performance from a guy who wasn't actually doing so well healthwise. Waylon knew he was on the way out, but he had a great attitude about it, cracking jokes about being "a cripple" and even singing his on gentle epitaph on "Might Be A Good Time." He threw himself fully into each and every song, and graciously shared the limelight with buddies like John Anderson, Travis Tritt and Montgomery Gentry, as well as with his wife, Jessi Colter, who leads on a few tunes and sings some devastating duets with Waylon. (Their sweet, simple version of "Storms Never Last," where their emotional bond engulfs the stage, is a real show-stopper. I'm sure there wasn't a dry eye in the whole joint...) This edition expands the original Y2K release into the full concert length -- two CDs worth, plus a concert DVD that covers the same material. The concert film is a mixed blessing: on one hand, in technical terms, it's kinda poorly produced -- great sound quality but the cinematography and editing are both pretty rough. But as a document of Waylon's waning years, it's simply invaluable. You see what his rough'n'tumble road band was like, how they mixed showmanship and honest emotion, and of course you see Waylon, vigorous and vital, though also clearly wounded with a real weight on his shoulders. Musically, it's all very solid -- most of the songs are oldies, but none of them are played by rote, and the feeling these folks put into their performances comes through loud and clear. If you're a Waylon fan, you'll wanna check it out.
Waylon Jennings "Waylon Forever" (Vagrant, 2008)
Waylon Jennings "The Best Of Waylon Jennings" (RCA, 1970)
Waylon Jennings "Greatest Hits" (RCA, 1979)
Waylon Jennings "Greatest Hits (Expanded Edition)" (RCA, 1979)
Waylon Jennings "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line: The RCA Years" (RCA, 1993)
Waylon Jennings "The Collector's Series" (1985)
Waylon Jennings "The Best Of Waylon" (1986)
Waylon Jennings "Waylon's Greatest Hits, Volume 2" (RCA, 1984)
Waylon Jennings "The Essential" (RCA Nashville, 1996)
Oh, baby! When I was a kid, I used to love all those boozy, weatherbitten raggedyass self-mythologizing songs Jennings made back during the glory days of the Waylon and Willie "outlaw" era in the 1970s... and this CD brings it all back home beautifully. Waylon's sly, bluesy, matter-of-fact delivery has such a great sound... easily one of the most relaxed and intelligent-sounding country singers ever. This is one of the most rockin' of the RCA Essential collections, completely omitting his years as a '60s folkie, and just piling on hit after country hit. Highly recommended.
Waylon Jennings "RCA Country Legends" (Buddah, 2001)
This is an awesome 2-CD set, although I have to confess, I prefer the more compact delivery of the earlier single-disc collection on the Essential series (which is better to just put on and enjoy from start to finish...) But this expanded, super-duper best-of is a fitting and timely tribute to the late Texas legend, who passed away right about the time it came out. Also, it includes way more of his hard-to-find early work when he still hadn't left Nashville to hunker down, back home in Texas. Good collection -- highly recommended!
Waylon Jennings "The Millennium Collection" (MCA Nashville, 2000)
An impressive, soulful, 11-song collection of Waylon's later work on MCA, between 1986-89. Still kickin' it, and keepin' it real, Waylon sounded surprisingly strong amid the synthiness of the times. Yeah, this has some silly pop touches, but compared to what else was happening at the time, it's pretty vigorous material. Definitely worth checking out.
Waylon Jennings "Journey: Six Strings Away" (Bear Family, 1999)
Waylon Jennings "Journey: Destiny's Child" (Bear Family, 2002)
Waylon Jennings "The Complete MCA Recordings" (MCA-Nashville, 2004)
Waylon Jennings "16 Biggest Hits" (Sony-BMG, 2005)
Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson "16 Biggest Hits" (Sony-BMG, 2006)
Waylon Jennings "Nashville Rebel (Box Set)" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2006)
An awesome 4-CD box set, covering Waylon's full career, including some later material on the MCA label... Disc One is one of the best overviews of Waylon's early work you're likely to hear, a well-chosen set that weaves through his early hits and late-'60s "folk-country" efforts... This may be the stuff that drove Jennings to chafe against the Nashville studio system and go "outlaw," but there's still plenty of interesting, innovative material, and this disc does a great job weeding out most of the lame stuff while finding some of the best nuggets... Disc Two traces his path towards the haloed ground of outlaw legend, starting with a bunch of his early '70s work (much of which I find a bit strained, particularly all those gabby, verbose Shel Silverstein songs...) and winding up smack dab in the middle of his glory years. When he starts singing stuff like "Just Pretend I Never Happened," Billy Joe Shaver's "Honky Tonk Heroes," and Bob McDill's "Amanda," well, that's all you need to know. The man was a god. Disc Three spans 1974-1980, more pure gold, from "Good Hearted Woman" to "Good Ol' Boys," including all those groovy duets with Willie Nelson and Jessi Colter, the sort of stuff you build a shrine for... Inevitably, Disc Four (1980-1995) is a downward slide, but that's only because the bar had been set so high in the '70s -- hard for anyone to top a track record like that. Things kick off with "Storms Never Last," probably my favorite Waylon & Jessi duet, and cruise into the Highwaymen phenomenon and his lingering later hits. As with the first disc, though, this is collection does a great job weaving this material together, picking up old favorites such as "Lucille," "America" and "Will The Wolf Survive," as well as a bunch of later Waylon & Willie tunes. The inclusion of the rival-label MCA material is a real treat, making this a much more definitive set than it would otherwise have been (although it's a shame they didn't also include "Too Dumb For New York City, Too Ugly For L.A.," one of his funniest later songs... But I guess ya can't have everything...) So... Do you need to pick this box set up? Probably... It's got all those great songs you already own on those other Waylon best-ofs, but it's more comprehensive, and the '60s stuff is a treat... There are also three "new," previously unreleased, tracks, including a duet with Johnny Cash that got dug out of the vaults... Mostly, though, it's such a well-programmed, well thought-out that set you'll really enjoy listening to each disc. This doesn't feel like just another by-the-numbers greatest hits package, but rather a living, breathing tribute that lives up to its subject. And besides, you're never really going to listen to those gigantic Bear Family boxes, so why not get this more managable, more affordable American-made set instead? It'll knock your socks off, Hoss.
Waylon Jennings "The Essential Waylon Jennings" (Sony-BMG Legacy, 2007)
Looks like ol' Hoss has gotten an upgrade... Personally, I'm still partial to the original Essential set from '96 -- it's just so well programmed and compact -- but hey, if they wanna throw a new, 2-CD set our way, with twice as much stuff, that's dandy, too. This set hews pretty closely to Waylon's RCA glory years, although it doesn't dig as deep or go as far afield as the recent Nashville Rebel box set... It's a nice, affordable midway point between the two, a strong introduction to one of country music's most charismatic, smoulderingly sexy performers, and is likely to be the standard best-of set for years to come. If you're new to the Waylon Jennings sound, this collection oughta knock your socks off.
Various Artists "I'VE ALWAYS BEEN CRAZY: A TRIBUTE TO WAYLON JENNINGS" (RCA Nashville, 2003)
An iffy major label tribute to the late, great Waylon Jennings. It's fitting that Waylon's longtime label, RCA, should host a tribute to the old guy, but it's kinda sad that this is the best they could do. Most of these modern artists simply slaughter the songs with brisk, thoughtless overkill. The disc opens with John Mellencamp (still in the midst of his back-to-roots kick) tromping out a so-so version of "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," which -- as it turns out -- is one of the better performances on the album. Many artists I'd have thought would show more affinity for Waylon's subtle side -- Deana Carter or Sara Evans, for instance, or Brooks & Dunn -- either gallumpf to the finish line or layer too much fancy stuff on. Modern-day second-stringers like Pinmonkey and James Hetfield just get in the way; Kenny Chesney is wasted singing opposite the hammy, competitive, warbling Kid Rock.. The list goes on and on. On the plus side, Travis Tritt does okay with "Lonesome, On'ry And Mean," Alison Krauss gives a nice, quiet reading of "You Asked Me To," Andy Griggs holds his own as well, and Dwight Yoakam blows them all out of the water with a rollicking version of "Stop The World And Let Me Off." The most touching moments are a fragile Waylon rendition of "The Dream," and Jessi Colter, resurfacing for a ragged yet rightous reprise of "Storms Never Last..." On the whole, though... talk about missed opportunities.
Various Artists "LONESOME, ON'RY AND MEAN" (Dualtone, 2003)
A well-produced and nicely varied tribute album... A few of these songs are a bit cumbersome, but others are a delight, particularly Norah Jones's spin at "Wurlitzer Prize," Dave Alvin's appropriately resonant version of "Amanda," and Guy Clark's take on "Good Hearted Woman." Also nice is a sweet version on "Waymore's Blues," done by the remnants of Buddy Holly's old band, the Crickets, an amiable and super-competent outfit who remain, curiously, unsigned and exiled on the periphery of the roots and oldies scene. The most glaring "which of these things is not like the other?" track is Henry Rollins' cowpunky stab at the title track, which -- wisely enough -- is buried at the end of the album, so roots fans don't have to fast forward past it. A nice tribute, though, definitely worth checking out, even if no one could do this material as well as Waylon did. He was the coolest of the cool.
Various Artists "WHITE MANSIONS" (RCA, 1978)
Various Artists "THE MUSIC INSIDE: A COLLABORATION DEDICATED TO WAYLON" (Scatter, 2010)
(Produced by Witt Stewart)
Various Artists "WAYLON JENNINGS, THE RED RIVER TRIBUTE COMPILATION" (Omaha, 2003)
Various Artists "WAYLON: THE MUSIC INSIDE, v.2" (Average Joe's, 2012)
(Produced by Witt Stewart & Friends)
Nashville's current crop of outlaw-identified singers -- dudes like Dierks Bentley, Colt Ford, Justin Moore and Montgomery Gentry -- pay homage to the great Waylon Jennings. Also on board are semi-old-timers like Pat Green and Jack Ingram, as well as Hank Jr. and, adding an extra layer of class, Waylon's longtime partner, outlaw queen Jessi Colter. The one head-scratcher on here is folk-popster Jewel, who looks "one of these things is not like the other" when lined up with all the bad-boys, but she does sing a lovely version of "Dreaming My Dreams." Also noteworthy is the rugged, raspy "bonus track" by Wyatt McCubbin that closes out the album -- he's one of the outside country dudes that the Average Joe's label gives a chance to record stuff that Nashville's major labels would overlook... His version of "A Long Time Ago" is a nice coda to a pretty solid set of Waylon covers. Definitely worth a spin.
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