Monday, October 5, 2009

CD Odyssey Disc 39: Kris Kristofferson

Hey, if it sounds country, man, that's what it is - it's a country review.

Disc 39 is...Kristofferson

Artist: Kris Kristofferson

Year of Release: 1970

How I Came To Know It: Another artist I was introduced to by my mother. I didn't get a lot of the songs then, but I liked the sound.

How It Stacks Up: I have four Kristofferson albums. This one is not always my sentimental favourite, but it is I think the best overall.

Rating: 4 stars.

It is fitting that I only recently reviewed a Lucinda Williams album before this one. Like Williams, Kris Kristofferson is an underappreciated songwriter who often has his songs co-opted and made famous by someone else.

Unlike Lucinda, Kristofferson is a kick ass vampire hunter in those Blade movies, who has a wicked potty mouth and a penchant for building contraptions to help the ultra-cool half-vampire Blade clean up the city streets of bad guys!

If Kristofferson had played "The Dude" in "The Big Lebowski" intruders in his house would be staining his rug with blood, not pee, and those nihilists would have lost a lot more than Aimee Mann's toe. Walter's car would've been a lot more kick-ass, and that bag full of dirty underwear would've been a UV bomb.

If that didn't work, "The Dude" would call up a few dozen truckers to level the bowling alley with tractor trailers.

I could go on - but I think I've made my point.

Back to the album - this is (I believe) his first, and came out in 1969 or 1970 (the date seems a little hazy). When I first went to buy it, I almost put it back thinking it was a Greatest Hits album, but it is just that there are a lot of recognizeable songs. Me and Bobby McGee, Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down and Help Me Make It Through the Night were all hits - mostly for someone else.

Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash did the first two, and the last one at least Kristofferson got partial billing in a duet with Rita Coolidge.

In every case, I prefer Kristofferson's version. And not just because it is "the original" - I'm over that. I just like his gravelly voice, and the raw honesty in his singing. For the record, I like the remake by Johnny Cash of "Sunday Mornin'", but I'm not a big fan of Joplin or Rita Coolidge (although I do take a perverse pleasure in putting them in the same sentence).

I really dig the song "To Beat the Devil" which is about a hungry singer who steps into a bar, and meets some old guy who buys him a beer and tries to convince him that he'll never make a difference. Amid a really cool, wild west sort of feeling, Kristofferson kind of raps out the encounter - and then remakes the Devil's song from a message of despair:

If you waste your time a-talking to the people who don’t listen
To the things that you are saying who do you thinks going to hear?
And if you should die explaining how the things that they complain about
Are things they could be changing, who d’you thinks gonna to care?

There were other lonely singers in a world turned deaf and blind who
Were crucified for what they tried to show,
And their voices have been scattered by the swirling winds of time,
cause the truth remains that no-one wants to know.

to a message of hope:

And you still can hear me singing to the people who don’t listen
To the things that I am saying, praying someone’s going to hear;
And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about
Are things they could be changing, hoping someone’s gonna to care.

I was born a lonely singer and I’m bound to die the same
But I’ve got to feed the hunger in my soul;
And if I never have a nickel I won't ever die of shame
cause I don’t believe that no-one wants to know.

With the kicker, "I'm not sayin' I beat the devil. But I drank his beer for nothin' and then I stole his song."

I like the idea of stealin' the Devil's song - it is like getting the devil to surrender his gold fiddle, except you get a song AND he has to buy you a beer. I think that trumps Charlie Daniels.

Like most remastered classics, the producers felt the need to put 4 bonus, previously unreleased tracks. This time they got it right, with at least 3 being worth the price of admission, particularly the first track "The Junkie, and The Juicehead, Minus Me" which is a pretty good track about being down and out by a guy who was pretty familiar with being down and out.

The verdict: this is classic outlaw country, and one of the better examples of same. If you like that kind of music, this would do you right

Best tracks: To Beat The Devil, Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make It Through The Night, The Law is For Protection of the People, Sunday Mornin' Coming Down


Sheila said...

This almost makes me want to listen to this album...almost. I do like him in the Blade movies.

et said...

To Beat the Devil is a great song. As is Sunday Mornin' Coming Down. I discovered KK when in college in the early '70's - I believe that's when I realized I enjoy albums by artists who write their own lyrics and/or compose their own songs.

BTW, I just discovered your blog today thanks to Sheila's link to the vampire church post. I'll be back here too!