29 May 2010

"Early Hits: The Starday Recordings" by George Jones

Early Hits: The Starday Recordings
George Jones
CD Release Date: 10 July 2007

Given that George Jones is pretty much Honky Tonk 101, this collection of early recordings may as well be the syllabus for learning about an entire genre.  Time Life issued this compilation in 2007, by which point nine of these fifteen recordings were at least 50 years old.  The sound quality is about what you'd expect; white noise and pops abound, but they don't hamper the listening experience in the least.

His vocal aesthetics may have evolved over the years, but it's unmistakably Jones singing on this old school classics.  The collection leads off with his immortal recording of "Why Baby Why," and what follows is an interesting survey of the first eight years The Possum worked as a recording artist.  Among the highlights are his versions of "Life to Go" and "Tall, Tall Trees."  Stonewall Jackson's version of the former, and Alan Jackson's cover of the latter, were both hits for those artists, but the songs began life through Jones, who wrote both of them (co-writing "Tall, Tall Trees" was Roger Miller).

In fact, that may be the most interesting part about this survey of Jones's nascent career: he wrote five of the songs included, and co-wrote another seven.  The remaining three songs are a pair of covers ("Yes I Know Why," originally recorded and written by Webb Pierce, and "Run Boy," originally written by Hy Heath and recorded by Ray Price), and "For Sale or Lease," a previously unissued track from Jones's first recording session that goes uncredited, its writer's identity apparently lost to time.

These recordings are more than a footnote in history; they include five Top Ten hits, as well as the aforementioned Jones originals of songs that were hits for other artists.  Early Hits: The Starday Recordings isn't a distillation of Jones's discography; for that, you'll need to look elsewhere.  But if you have even a passing interest in the recording career of "the greatest living country singer," this is as good a place as any to start.

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