Friday, May 8, 2015

red headed stranger

Willie Nelson took on deceivers an' believers an' old in-betweeners with the wild sorrow of this stark country concept album.    After two highly successful albums on Atlantic Records ('Shotgun Willie' and 'Phases and Stages'), Nelson signed a deal with Colombia Records that gave him creative control over his recordings:  "I had a clause in my contract which gave me artistic freedom. That was all I needed, I thought. That's really all anyone needs. If you think you can do it yourself, do it. That makes less for them to do, and they can just sell it. And if it doesn't sell, you're screwed...I bet everything I had on this one album. It was the first album with CBS, and it had to be good or else the second one they don't normally get excited about."

Returning to Texas from a ski trip to Colorado,  Nelson was inspired by his wife Connie Koepke to use  the song "Tale of the Red Headed Stranger" by Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith:   “I started out with the song ‘Red Headed Stranger’ itself, a song that I didn’t write but I used to sing when I was a disc jockey many years ago.  So, when I had the chance to do an album with CBS, what was almost unheard of in those days was artistic control. I had to stop and think of what I wanted to do. I took the ‘Red Headed Stranger’ album and thought, “I’ll write a concept album about what happened up until that song started, and then what happened after the end of it.”

He cut some demos at his ranch in Fitzhugh Road and then found a studio in in Garland, Texas called Autumn Sound Studios to record the album.  The sessions were engineered by Phil York and Eric Paul with Willie Nelson on vocals and guitar;  Paul English and Billy English on drums;   Jody Payne on guitars and mandolin;   Bee Spears on bass;   Bobbie Nelson on piano;  Mickey Raphael on harmonica;  and  Bucky Meadows on guitar.   

Nelson says:   "In our agreement, I could go in and do what I wanted to do any way I wanted to do it, and they would take it and put it down. So that's when I wrote the 'Red-headed Stranger' album, and I took that song and I wrote from the first song from the time of the preacher all the way up to the Red-headed stranger, and imagined what would have happened after that. I wrote the concept album, recorded it, and gave it to CBS. They thought I'd gone insane because there wasn't that much there. It was very sparse ... They’d never heard anything, probably, that sparse turned in as a session (laughs) They thought it needed a little…you know, maybe it sounded pretty good as a demo, but I couldn’t be serious about it being a finished product ... But they put it out. I think Waylan shamed them into putting it out...There were some good songs in there. 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain' was a big hit out of the album, and the album itself sold very well. A lot of young people liked it. They still like it." 

'Red Headed Stranger' became his first number one album on the country chart and went on to sell over two million copies.

 "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" became a number one country smash.  His first.

"Remember Me"
went to number two on the country singles chart.

'Red Headed Stranger' 
full album:

Side one
1. "Time of the Preacher"   Willie Nelson 2:26
2. "I Couldn't Believe It Was True"   Eddy Arnold, Wally Fowler 1:32
3. "Time of the Preacher Theme"   Willie Nelson 1:13
4. "Medley: Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger"   Nelson / Carl Stutz, Edith Lindeman 1:36
5. "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"   Fred Rose 2:21
6. "Red Headed Stranger"   Carl Stutz, Edith Lindeman 4:00
7. "Time of the Preacher Theme"   Willie Nelson 0:25
8. "Just As I Am"   Charlotte Elliott, William B. Bradbury 1:45

Side two
1. "Denver"   Willie Nelson 0:53
2. "O'er the Waves"   Juventino Rosas, arranged by Willie Nelson 0:47
3. "Down Yonder"   L. Wolfe Gilbert 1:56
4. "Can I Sleep in Your Arms"   Hank Cochran 5:24
5. "Remember Me"   Melba Mable Bourgeois 2:52
6. "Hands on the Wheel"   Bill Callery 4:22
7. "Bandera"   Willie Nelson 2:19

reissue bonus tracks
16. "Bach Minuet in G" (arranged by Nelson) Johann Sebastian Bach 0:37
17. "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)"   Hank Williams 3:31
18. "A Maiden's Prayer"   Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska, Bob Wills 2:14
19. "Bonaparte's Retreat"   Pee Wee King, Redd Stewart 2:26

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