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All this Wasted Time (4/26/2002) Write to CD Shakedown

Willie NelsonWillie Nelson, The Great Divide (Lost Highway Records 2002) - With more than 100 albums to his credit, Willie Nelson has nothing to prove. Yet he continues as a diligent master of his craft. Witness The Great Divide, in which Willie pairs with a host of notables, including Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, and Lee Ann Womack.

Now age 68, Willie has long made a go of doing things his own way. Says Willie, "I like to sing with other singers. There was a time when it was real difficult to do because of label restrictions. When Waylon Jennings and I got together and did our stuff, he was on RCA, and I was on another label. It was really the first sort of outlaw movement. It's nice to know we can do it open now, with the blessings of most of the record companies."

Willie NelsonAfter his inspired outing with Daniel Lanois (Teatro), Willie's last two major label releases have been disappointing - the blues album, Milk Cow Blues, and his family record, Rainbow Connection.

For the new album, Willie drew inspiration from Rob Thomas (frontman for Matchbox 20) and his producer, Matt Serletic. Says Willie, "We talked about recording together. And one thing lead to another, and Matt asked, 'Well, why don't we do a whole album?' So everything came from that."

Willie NelsonWhile some of the songs are chestnuts (a cover of "I Just Dropped In" from Nashville tunesmith, Mickey Newbury), there is one misstep: a cover of "Time After time" by Cyndi Lauper.

The Great Divide was recorded in Los Angeles, with L.A.-based musicians. Thus, the album loses some of Willie's Texas country atmosphere while searching for a more homogenized sound. Says Willie, "I turned it over to Matt and let him run the whole show. When you take on a producer, you have to let him drive the bus. That's what I did with him."

Willie NelsonIn addition to Willie's reassuring voice on songs like, "Won't Catch Me Cryin'", The Great Divide also includes a swell duet with Lee Ann Womack on a song penned by Bernie Taupin ("Mendocino County Line"), and the album's strongest cut, an outlaw tune with Kid Rock called "Last Stand in Open Country."

Willie also has a new book called "The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes," featuring childhood anecdotes, song lyrics and stories from Willie's colorful life.

All in all, The Great Divide is a friendly serving, if not one that you will run back to.

StingSting, All This Time (A&M Records 2001) - Sting, the former Police frontman, who is now two decades into a solo career, needs no introduction. All This Time is his first live album in 15 years; Sting took his polished working band into an intimate live setting. The result is the rewarding All This Time, which includes such favorites as "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "When We Dance," and "Brand New Day."

Sting's 15-member band included such long-time players as drummer Manu Katche, guitarist, Dominic Miller, trumpeter, Chris Botti, pianist Jason Rebello, and Mark "Kipper" Eldridge on keyboards.

StingYet the recording almost didn't happen. After rehearsing with his band, Sting had a gig scheduled in Italy for 200 persons. Yet the day scheduled for the concert was the day of the attack on the World Trade Center. After deliberation, Sting went forward with the show in a subdued mood, exemplified by such songs as "Fragile," and "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You."

I can't say that All This Time is a great recording. Yet Sting is a consummate artist, and has managed to channel his rock and roll angst into a broader sense of malaise with the status quo.

Which is to say, Sting still has an edge. All This Time may not set sales records, but it will reward his fans.

Music for Little PeopleSingin' In My Heart: Songs of Love and Friendship (Music for Little People 2002) - Here's a happy, uplifting collection from Music for Little People. The 13 tracks are a blend of something old, something new, all to warm the child's heart in you.

Thus, the album starts with "Thank You for Being a Friend" (Andrew Gold) and continues with the charming "Bushel and A Peck" (Maria Muldaur), and "Stupid Cupid" (Connie Francis). It is amazing to me how Disney continues to bring new life into some of these vintage 60's songs: My eight-year-old daughter heard "Stupid Cupid" and instantly recognized it from The Princess Diaries.

Connie FrancisThe album draws from original records from MPLP including "Sugar 'Shuga' Bee" by Papillion and "I Love You (There's No Doubt About It)" by the Persuasions. And the older crowd will fondly recall "Lean on Me" (by the great Bill Withers) and "Stand By Me" (Ben E. King).

All tolled, Singin' in My Heart has something for everyone. Plus there is a bonus Valentine inside. Don't miss this charming collection.

- Randy Krbechek © 2002

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