Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Willie Nelson's Stardust Turns 30

By Evan Rytlewski
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Willie Nelson plays the Potawatomi Bingo Casino tomorrow night, which is all the excuse I need to give a nod to the expanded version of Willie Nelson’s 1978 album Stardust which hits stores next week. The original album was noteworthy from breaking from the rollicking, rock-spiked outlaw country Willie Nelson had just become infamous for. Instead, it was a jazzy, folky jaunt through the American songbook that would shape everything Nelson has done since. This was the album that established him as the well-intentioned genre-hopper, the tireless troubadour who made no distinction between country and folk and jazz and rock and—infamously—reggae.

The reissue pairs the original, Booker T.-produced album with a second disc of covers, most of them culled from Nelson’s uneven ’80s albums. It lacks the focus and intimate charm of the real album, especially the selections from the mid-’80s, which are saddled with gaudy production and distracting arrangements where Stardust remained stripped down (1988’s “Oh Buttermilk Sky,” for instance, may very well have been recorded during The Beach Boys’ “Kokomo” sessions.) 

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