My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘Love of the Common People’

51wqa0MBekL._SS280In the 1960s, sales of single records were far more important to the music industry than album sales. Albums consisted of one or two hit singles, and 8 to 10 “filler” songs, which were often cover versions of the current hits of other artists or less commercially viable songs written by the artist and/or producer. Country artists typically released an average of three albums a year. Waylon Jennings’ 1967 collection Love of the Common People was his fifth album for RCA, released a year after his debut collection for the label.

Produced by Chet Atkins, Love of the Common People is a little unusual in that none of its tracks were released as singles. It consists of the usual cover songs and original artist/producer compositions as well as a few contributions from well known songwriters of the day, such as Sonny James and Harlan Howard. Despite its lack of radio hits, the album’s material is stronger and less uneven than many albums of the day, and it sold reasonably well, peaking at #3 on the Billboard country albums chart. And although this is a slightly more polished Waylon than we would hear a few years later, the album largely avoids some of the excesses of the Nashville Sound era.

My favorite track is “Young Widow Brown”, a light-hearted tune written by Waylon and Sky Corbin, concerning a fun-loving young woman who drives her husband to an early grave and doing her best to send her many suitors to a similar fate. While not as edgy as Waylon’s later work, it’s not as far removed from his Outlaw music as one might expect.

The title track is a folk-rock tune that had been a pop hit earlier in the year for The Four Preps. It sounds like something that might have fit on Waylon’s earlier effort Folk-Country. “Taos, New Mexico”, written by RCA in-house producer Bob Ferguson, is a very nice Tex-Mex tune that’s a little ahead of its time. It sounds like something that Freddy Fender or Marty Robbins would have success with a few years later. “I Tremble For You” is a little known Johnny Cash song written by the man in black and Lew DeWitt, who was part of the original Statler Brothers lineup. It’s not the usual boom-chicka-boom style usually associated with Cash, and it shows Waylon’s strength as a ballad singer. Shoulda been a single. “If The Shoe Fits” by Harlan Howard and Freddie Hart, “Destiny’s Child” by Sonny James, and “The Road” by Ted Harris are all worth a listen.

The album does contain a couple of missteps: a cover of the John Lennon/Paul McCartney tune “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, and Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”. The latter about a wounded warrior suffering from physical injuries and PTSD, long before those terms were coined. His wife callously prepares to leave him on his own while she seeks her pleasures elsewhere, making no attempts to hide her intentions. The song had been a Top 10 hit earlier in the year for Johnny Darrell and two years later would become a huge pop smash for Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. It’s a good song, but Jennings’ delivery is surprisingly stiff and devoid of emotion.

Waylon Jennings, of course, had a long and distinguished career in country music and left behind a catalog so huge that it’s easy to overlook some of the entries that weren’t big hits. Love of the Common People is a gem well worth exploring.

Grade: A

3 responses to “Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘Love of the Common People’

  1. Paul W Dennis August 10, 2015 at 8:23 am

    “Love of The Common People” was the B-Side of “The Chokin’ Kind”.

    It actually received quite a bit of airplay after this album was released, although Billboard did not chart album tracks at the time, I agree about the McCartney-Lennon song being a misstep but even Waylon’s missteps were interesting .

  2. Ken August 12, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Waylon’s evolution as a performer continued on this great 1967 album. A wide variety of songs with solid lyrics gave him a lot to sink his teeth into despite production values lacking much diversity. The recordings date back to session from early 1966 for his “Leavin’ Town” album [Taos, New Mexico & I Tremble For You] and conclude in mid-February 1967.

    To be honest I liked Waylon’s performance of “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town” much more than you did and feel it would have made an excellent choice for a single. Waylon’s recording pre-dates Johnny Darrell’s single release by about five months though Darrell recorded it about two months before Waylon did. RCA included it as a track on Waylon’s 1970 “Best Of” album [RCA Victor LSP-4341] despite the song’s non-single/non-hit status.

    I concur that “Young Widow Brown” is a standout track. It was co-written by Waylon back in the late 1950’s while he was a DJ at KLLL in Lubbock, Texas. Frankie Miller first recorded the song for Starday in 1960. Waylon projected a bit of an attitude on some songs and his delivery couldn’t have been better on this one. Gotta love those tasty dobro licks.

    Country music in the latter half of the sixties suffered from an inferiority complex regarding pop music. Many artists and producers included pop/rock instrumentation (sitars, electric organs, harpsichords) whenever possible. Recording recent pop songs was also a manifestation of the syndrome in their quest to add “hipness” to the genre. Waylon’s version of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” is a classic example. Though not a bad recording it’s less than memorable and doesn’t accomplish anything in my book. It was Waylon’s second Beatles re-make. He had previously released “Norwegian Wood” in 1966 as the “B” side of “Time To Bum Again” and as a bonus track on the “Nashville Rebel” movie soundtrack album [RCA Victor LSP-3796]

    The title track was indeed released on a single as Paul pointed out. It charted the month after the “A” side “The Chokin’ Kind” debuted in Billboard in August 1967. During a short five week chart run “Love Of The Common People” peaked at #67 but ultimately received far more radio play than that lowly position would indicate. As Waylon’s popularity grew in the late 60’s & early 70’s the song was resurrected into many country radio station oldies libraries. It’s one of my favorite Waylon performances. “The Chokin’ Kind” was recorded two months after sessions for this album were complete. Because Waylon and RCA felt so strongly about the song’s potential it was selected as the “A” side release precluding a stronger promotional push for the title track. “Chokin’ Kind” peaked at #8 in October 1967 so perhaps the other side could have done better.

    “Destiny’s Child” is another gem with an infectious melody and a great arrangement. However your source info incorrectly attributed the writing credit to the wrong Sonny. It was written by Waylon’s long-time friend Sonny Curtis not Sonny James. “Don’t Waste Your Time” is a great song but could’ve been significantly better without the intrusive female chorus. “If The Shoe Fits” is another one that perfectly fits the Waylon “attitude.”

    Tex Ritter summed up this album and the state of Waylon’s career at the time in the last sentence of the liner notes that he wrote for this album – “The Waylon Jennings star has lots of luster, is bright indeed, and is continually rising.”

    An interesting side note – “I Tremble For You” was revised in late 1970 with all new lyrics and performed by Johnny Cash on his ABC-TV show that aired on January 6, 1971. “The Junkie’s Prayer” was also recorded by the Statler Brothers for their “Bed Of Roses ” album released around the time this show aired. Cash’s spoken intro is rather ironic given his lifelong addictions. I’m sure Waylon could relate.

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