Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Waylon Jennings

  • Ladies Love Outlaws [RCA Victor, 1972] C
  • Lonesome, On'ry and Mean [RCA Victor, 1973] B
  • Ultimate Waylon Jennings [RCA Nashville/BMG Heritage, 2004]

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Ladies Love Outlaws [RCA Victor, 1972]
Waylon lets you know he has balls by singing as though someone is twisting them. C

Lonesome, On'ry and Mean [RCA Victor, 1973]
I can't say for sure whether it's him or me, but Waylon doesn't sound anywhere near so . . . strained this time out. Maybe it's just "Sandy Sends Her Best," as powerful a song about the guilty good will on the hurting side of a breakup as you'll ever hear. Still a touch or four melodramatic, though. B

Ultimate Waylon Jennings [RCA Nashville/BMG Heritage, 2004]
Beyond "outlaw," nobody ever specifies what Jennings does and doesn't do with his strained, resonant, masculine baritone--his "Me and Bobby McGee" is uglier than Kristofferson's. But on sure shots you can forgive him his pain. Highlights include the belated "Don't You Think This Outlaw Bit's Done Got Out of Hand" and the wounded "The Taker," a Kris Kristofferson gem about a lady some other slimeball done wrong. For those who think BMG's title-by-title reissue program makes less sense than the Black Sabbath box (although I've Always Been Crazy sounds sane enough). [Recyclables]

Further Notes:

Subjects for Further Research [1970s]: "Waylon lets you know he has balls by singing as though someone is twisting them," I wrote about the self-serving "Ladies Love Outlaws" in 1972, and although I've softened some--actually enjoy him when Willie's there to cut the grease--his macho melodrama will always rub me the wrong way. Allow me this prejudice. His admirers speak fondly of 1975's introspective, Jack Clement-produced Dreamin' My Dreams, cut before his stance became a marketing procedure.

Distinctions Not Cost-Effective [1980s]: Once you loved him or hated him. No more.