My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘The Taker/Tulsa’

the taker tulsaThe double-titled 1971 album The Taker/Tulsa was released in 1971. Waylon was starting to take control over his music, and this was the first album he produced himself. The songs are full of substance and the arrangements solid.

Both the title tunes were singles. ‘The Taker’ was a significant hit, peaking at #5. This excellent song (written by Kris Kristofferson and Shel Silverstein) is a perceptive depiction of a charming man who ends up hurting the woman who loves him:

He’s a talker
He’ll talk her right off of her feet
But he won’t talk for long
‘Cause he’s a doer, and he’ll do her
The way that I’d never
Damned if he won’t do her wrong.

He’s a taker
He’ll take her to places and make her
Fly higher than she’s ever dared to
He’ll take his time before takin’ advantage
Takin’ her easy and slow

And after he’s taken the body and soul she gives him
He’ll take her for granted
Take off and leave her
Takin’ all of her pride when he goes.

It was one of no less than four outstanding songs written by Kristofferson, then a relative newcomer to Nashville, and which help to make the album as a whole cohesive. Waylon’s version of the regretful ‘Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down’, a very recent hit for Johnny Cash, is convincing, with the song well suited to him. Less well known at the time, but at least as much of a classic today, was ‘Lovin’ Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)’, which Kristofferson was about to make a hit of in his own right. Waylon’s version is as good as any of this modern standard.

The least familiar of the Kristofferson songs for most listeners (although it has still been recorded a number of times) is ‘Casey’s Last Ride’, which may be the only country songs to be set on the London Underground, and may have been written when Kristofferson was studying at Oxford in the late 1950s, although the gloomy melody sounds to me to be influenced by the Beatles and other British 60s artists, which would place its composition later.

The second title song, ‘(Don’t Let The Sun Set On You) Tulsa’ is a dramatic story song written by Wayne Carson, it might be a kind of sequel to ‘The Taker’, with the protagonist championing the girl he loves, who has been abandoned and left pregnant by another man:

Jamie is the only thing I ever really cared for
She don’t deserve this kind of shame
She’s carryin’ the child that you’re to blame for
You just laughed and said
There ain’t no way it’s gonna get your name
I swore I’d get you for what you’re puttin’ her through
And the only reason I ain’t got you
Jamie cried and begged me not to
But I ain’t through with you yet
Don’t let the sun set on you in Tulsa

It’s a fine song which was a top 20 hit for Waylon, and should be better known. The last single, another top 20 hit, was Red Lane’s ‘Mississippi Woman. A brooding tale of jealousy, the narrator spies on, and eventually murders, the object of his affections.

The powerful ‘Six White Horses’ (not the Tommy Cash hit but another song with the same title, written by Bobby Bond), voices the fears of a soldier’s (blind) father for his boy:

Read again the letter that tells me where he’s gone
To hell with the fighting, I want my son home

I taught him to fish and I taught him to be strong
Taught him that killing any man was wrong
But tomorrow in battle I’d run to where he stood
If the help of a blind man would do any good

Last night I went to his room for a while
Touched all the things that he used as a child
I rocked the cradle where he used to lay
I found his tin soldiers and threw them away

Also downbeat in mood is ‘Grey Eyes You Know’, a string-laden lament by a bereaved husband for the beloved wife who stood by him through all the bad times.

A brisk cover of Don Gibson’s ‘(I’d Be) A Legend In My Time’ does not work as well for me as either the original or Ronnie Milsap’s big hit a few years later. Waylon write one song, the post-breakup ‘You’ll Look For Me’, which is quite good but not that memorable.

Overall this was an excellent album which shows Waylon stretching himself and asserting himself as an artist.

Grade: A

2 responses to “Album Review: Waylon Jennings – ‘The Taker/Tulsa’

  1. Ken August 19, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Perhaps your info states otherwise but in fact Waylon did not produce this album. Danny Davis produced “The Taker,” “Mississippi Woman,” “Six White Horses,” “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” (recorded several months before Cash’s version) “(I’d Be) A Legend In My Time” and “Grey Eyes You Know.” Ronny Light produced “You’ll Look For Me,” “(Don’t Let The Sun Set On You In) Tulsa” and the two tracks recorded in Hollywood in December 1970 – “Lovin’ Her Was Easier” and “Casey’s Last Ride.” The last two songs marked the debut of steel player Ralph Mooney on a Waylon recording. Mooney had just begun his 20-year stint as a “Waylor” the previous month.

    The ten songs were gathered from eight recording sessions held between June 1969 and December 1970. During this period of his career Waylon did always not record songs at consecutive sessions for a specific album. Songs from different sessions were often assembled for an album release. However if a newly recorded song had hit potential it was often released quickly as a single and later included on an album. At the time that this album was released in February 1971 “The Taker” had been a hit four months earlier and “Tulsa” was just finishing it’s chart run.

    All three singles on this album are Waylon favorites for me along with two LP tracks. “Grey Eyes You Know” was co-written by Harlan Howard. Waylon gives it a superb vocal treatment reminiscent of “Yours Love.” “Lovin Her Was Easier” is performed with an instrumental arrangement that would soon become Waylon’s trademark sound for most of the 1970’s.

    Waylon first full-fledged self-produced album was “Honky Tonk Heroes” in 1973. Although to be completely accurate one track on that set “Black Rose” was produced by Ronny Light at the last session just before Waylon took the reins.

  2. Occasional Hope August 20, 2015 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks for the added info.

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