Waylon Jennings 

RCA Country Legends (Buddha)

A lot is made of Jennings' discomfort with Nashville orthodoxy and the resulting 1972 contract renegotiation that brought him artistic control. This superb new forty-track collection certainly shows his post-'72 sides to be of a different breed than his early work. Yet, starting with his 1965 RCA debut, "Stop the World (And Let Me Off)," the strength of Jennings' baritone still managed to lift his company-town recordings above the Nashville Sound. Signature tracks like "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" and a 1969 remake of Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man" had a flair and force that bespoke both his rock 'n' roll past and his outlaw future. Throughout the '70s, Jennings consolidated his freedom, using his road band in lieu of session pickers on recording dates, turning to non-RCA (and non-Nashville) studios, and, most importantly, dropping producer Chet Atkins in favor of himself. He penned his own hits, promoted young songwriting talents like Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, and Rodney Crowell, and recorded non-Nashville tunes from J.J. Cale and Neil Young. The results validated his artistic vision and rewrote (for a time, anyway) the rules of country music success. Buddha's double-CD, augmented with new liner notes, vintage photos, and a detailed sessionography, covers twenty years of hits at RCA: 36 top-tens, of which thirteen topped the chart. It's a testament to Jennings' influence that such a commercially focused set provides an essential, balanced introduction to his entire catalogue.

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