Thursday, November 29, 2007

No. 257: Stardust

Band: Willie Nelson
Album: Stardust
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: In lieu of his folk and country stylings, Willie Nelson's 1978 album is simply a group of standards, reinterpreted by the famed weed smoking singer.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I was pleasantly surprised by this album. It's really quite good and puts a fantastic spin on some wonderful standards.
Best song: Nelson's version of Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies" is fantastic.
Worst song: Most of the record is amazing, but I am not a fan of "Unchained Melody" in any form, including this one. Seriously, does anyone like this song?
Is it awesome?: Absolutely.

My familiarity with most of the famous version of songs on "Stardust" is one of mostly indifference. I'm a child of boomers, so my childhood was bathed in The Beatles, Stones and Who.

Still, I'm an American and I've seen old movies. I know "Stardust." I know Irving Berlin. I know "Georgia On My Mind" and I know "Someone To Watch Over Me." All of those songs have been in about 1,000 romantic comedies.

And, really, we know the usual arrangement: Extra Anglo sounding male singer, swirling strings and backing chorus. To hear Willie Nelson's honey sweet voice and his, well, lack of strings really recasts the songs in a nice light.

It's easy to forget that Nelson started his career not as a singer, but as a songwriter. So, for him to make a record like this one is something of a move against the grain. Certainly, it fits. Nelson's voice is among the best in country music and the angst/desperation in said voice is incredibly moving.

This is the type of album that makes me glad to be doing this project. I'd never heard this album before and now I'm finding it to be wonderful. This is one that won't disappear off the iPod when I'm done writing it up. "Stardust" is a classic.

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