Michael Nesmith, The Newer Stuff (Rhino 1989) -- Okay, it's not a brand new album, but I just found out about it. And it's good. So I'll share it with you. For those who don't recall, Michael Nesmith is a former member of the Monkees, now retired in Southern California.
This collection of songs from the past decade is short on details (i.e., no information about musicians or recording dates), but very likeable. Michael has a wry sense of humor and a Californian's perspective on social issues. Standout songs include "Total Control", in which he pokes fun at Type A personalities, "I'll Remember You", a tribute to both Fred and Ginger and the Beatles (and who couldn't like that?), and "El Dorado to the Moon". A milestone album? No. Good music by a talented musician? Yes. Try it, you'll like it.
Willie Nelson, Across the Borderline (Columbia 1993) -Across the Borderline marks a real return to form by Willie Nelson, following years of personal and financial hardships, including disastrous scrapes with the IRS. Willie enlisted the assistance of whiz producer Don Was and selected a batch of tunes (mostly covers) that is almost ideally suited to his temperament. Willie stretches himself vocally on some of the cuts, and comes up a winner. In fact, it is hard to find a clunker among these cuts, except for the Peter Gabriel tune "Don't Give Up", which "features" backing vocals by Sinead O'Conner (who has really worn out her welcome).
Highlights include a Bob Dylan song ("What Was It You Wanted"), a John Hiatt song ("The Most Unoriginal Sin"), and two originals by Willie ("Valentine" and "Still is Still Moving to Me", the latter of which, by rights, ought to be a hit). However, the real highlight of the album is the Paul Simon song "Graceland". Willie's version is more countrified than the original (including a twangy string section) and an excellent recording. "Graceland" is the strongest song Rhymin' Simon has written in years, and Willie brings out the best in it. Hats off to Willie. Let's have some more.
"And she said losing love is like a window in your heart, Everybody sees you're blown apart, Everybody sees the wind blow, I'm going to Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee."
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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