Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

George Jones: The Definitive Collection [Mercury Nashville, 2004]
As music, this collection of 22 remastered early recordings is magnificent even if you believe, like most nonpurists, that the greatest country singer ever was just getting started in his straight honky-tonk period. It's terse, unsentimental, and soul deep, Jones's voice a marvel and mystery long before its fathomless maturity. Moreover, Jones sounds maybe a quarter quantum clearer and younger in this mix. Note, however, that 1994's two-disc Cup of Loneliness: The Classic Mercury Years covers the same ground, and its 29 additional cuts are as worthy as all but a few highlights here. With artists of Jones's calibre, sometimes more is more. [Blender: 3]