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Album Reviews: Kris Kristofferson The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection (Legacy)

Aug. 23, 2016
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It’s an odd thing: Kris Kristofferson opened his debut album (1970) with the worst song he ever wrote, a self-righteous poke at the older generation called “Blame It on the Stones.” And then, on that same LP, comes “Me and Bobby McGee,” “For the Good Times,” “Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night”—four of the greatest songs to emerge from that circa 1970 nexus of rock and country, all of them enduring as classics. With those four numbers, his career was assured.

Marking his 80th birthday this summer, Legacy has issued a 16-CD box set, The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection, which covers his work through 1981. In addition to his first 11 studio albums, The Complete Collection includes three live albums and two discs of demos, outtakes and rarities.

Early on there was a touch of Bob Dylan in his writing, notably on the rare single he recorded in 1966 and included on the “Extras” disc, a compilation of odds and ends. For the most part, Kristofferson drew from the spirit of the best country music from the Hank Williams era while being determined to drag Nashville, howling and punching, into the counterculture. Although he co-wrote a couple of songs with The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn on Spooky Lady’s Sideshow (1974), he gravitated more naturally to country than rock and pioneered the outlaw country movement that gained prevalence in the ’70s. Kristofferson’s lyrics expanded the scope of topics and perspectives and touched poetry in some of his best lines.

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