Released in February 2010, The Great Lost Hits chronicles George Jones’ years as a recording artist for the Musicor label, from 1965 to 1972. Jones had been recording for the United Artist label since 1962, and Musicor was launched as a division of the UA operation. Before his Epic years – the label that took his career to new heights and where Jones recorded for nearly 2 decades – George Jones recorded some of his best-loved hits, and truly developed the vocal style he would become renowned for and that would inspire countless other country singers that have come along since. Listening to this collection, you can almost hear that legendary singing style come to life, and hear some mighty fine country songs, from arguably the genre’s greatest voice, in the process.
This two-disc collection is a wonderful snapshot into the catalog and career of George Jones up to 1972. By that point, he was already a long-time country star, having spent nearly two decades honing his craft. The selections here range from silly to stone-country, from devastating to rib-tickling, and back again. Most are given very traditional arrangements, complete with crying fiddles, rolling steel guitars, and weeping vocals. But in a bit of foreshadowing to the layered production of the Billy Sherrill years ahead, we can also hear Jones changing over to the Nashville Sound of the time, apparently willing to adapt his sound accordingly to change with the times.
‘Four-O Thirty-Three’ is a bouncy number that references the house number where the narrator and his little lady have built a happy home. The acoustic guitar-laden tune found its way to the top 5 in late 1966. ‘Milwaukee, Here I Come’, another top 20 hit, is a jaunty duet with Brenda Carter. The pair sing of a man leaving Nashville, heading back to the beer-making capital. He’s fed up with having to compete with all the Opry stars around town for his lady’s affections.
That’s not to say that all the up-tempo tunes are as enjoyable. ‘I’m A People’, which was released as a single and managed to reach the top 10, resting at #6 sounds very out of place, and stands as a blemish in Jones’ catalog. Aside from the unsettling vocal from Jones, which often sounds like its one key too high and features shiftless ‘shoobie doobie doh’s’ in the chorus, the lyric to this novelty tune is very strange. George sings here of how he longs to be a monkey in a zoo. I’ve often fantasized about casting away all my responsibilities too, but I always remained human in my dreams, or at the very least, uncaged.
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