Josh W. from FORT WAYNE, IN Reviewed on 10/14/2010...
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Willie Nelson Shines Bright on STARDUST
Bill Matheny | Sherman Oaks, CA USA | 02/21/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Over the last few years we've been bombarded with one unnecessary CD that remakes American standards after another. Ughh! I can only think of two artists who honor these songs while still making contemporary albums: Steve Tyrell's A NEW STANDARD and, best of all, Willie Nelson's STARDUST. Re-discovering this album, complete with two new tracks, is a joy. Of the many great albums that Willie Nelson has recorded, this one is my favorite. It sounds just as good today as it did twenty years ago, and I suspect it will sound the same in another twenty years. I am living proof that you don't have to listen to standards on a regular basis - if ever - to love this album. STARDUST is an absolute gem that gets better every time you play it. Bravo, Willie!"
Super songs by a subtle, super singer...
William E. Adams | Midland, Texas USA | 05/18/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On this record, Willie proved that his favorite items from "The Great American Songbook" were good enough to survive his distinctive phrasing and country/blues accompaniment organized by his buddy, Booker T., the producer. Mostly mellow, this album gives you 45 minutes of quiet pleasure. The songs were designed for pop, jazz or Broadway treatments, but Willie proved he could do them justice in his own sweet way. I had a boss who purchased this one when it came out in 1978 or so, and played it for me one day. I was barely conscious of Willie back then, but I knew the material from more traditional renditions. While I did not rush out to buy this at the time, it was because it was a tight budget year, not because I didn't like it. Now I've just acquired it, 25 years on, yet both Willie and the songs survive. If you like Nelson, this CD is one of the essentials. If you like "The Great American Songbook" this version of some of the best from that body of work is also essential. Here, Willie invented a style that melds jazz, pop, country, folk, blues and Broadway. Play "Red-Headed Stranger" and follow it with this one, and you have all the evidence one needs that Mr. Nelson is an immortal in the roster of great American music-makers."
S. Hawkins | New York, NY | 04/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'll grant that at first sight this seems like a doomed project - a non-jazz figure tackling songs that are now entrenched in the jazz canon.
However, one must recall that these tunes, from the Tin Pan Alley tradition, initially were not considered jazz. It strikes me that Nelson approached them with this understanding.
Georgia on My Mind, and Moonlight in Vermont become subtle, gentle country-tinged ballads, while September Song becomes an understated, mostly sap-free statement.
There are a few problems. I Can See Clearly Now is not particularly interesting, and the strings on September Song are a bit much.
But ultimately, the album stands out for Nelson's ability to incorporate these songs into his own vocabulary, in lieu of trying to perform them as jazz, or crossover. He really makes them his own - an admirable feat."
Willie Nelson for People Who Don't Like Country
Steven R. Seim | Beaver Dam, WI United States | 07/13/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an album of covers of traditional pop songs, but the primary impression it leaves is neither country nor traditional pop. Instead, the key is the tasteful production by Booker T. Jones - swinging but understated percussion, warm bass, and bluesy keyboards. Willie's weary outlaw vocals and sublime guitar picking fit it like a glove. The result is, simply, classic American music, more Muscle Shoals than Nashville. It's just a shame that Willie and Booker T. didn't make another album. This is truly a diamond in the rough.Surprisingly, the two outtakes on this version are a welcome addition. "Scarlet Ribbons" fits well with the rest of the album, and "I Can See Clearly Now" ends with an extended blues jam that makes for a perfect conclusion."
A brilliant reinterpretation of a fine set of American stand
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 08/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I originally got this album when it first came out and liked it immediately, but as sometimes happens, I lost contact with it for whatever reason. I recently became reacquainted with it when I wanted to hear a recording of Kurt Weill's "September Song," and this was one of the two versions I possess. I just let the disc keep playing when I was finished with the Weill, which led to several relistenings. What a delightful album! In a way, it reminds me somewhat of Ray Charles's MODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY AND WESTERN MUSIC, in that an artist in one musical genre takes up standards in another. What is remarkable here is how unstrained these performances are; nowhere does Willie seem to be forcing the songs into a mode of performance that they resist (in contrast, say, to a god-awful big band cover I recently heard by Paul Anka of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"-yeah, it was a horrible as it sounds like it has to be). Part of the reason Willie Nelson's covers work so well is that he has never been a typical country western singer. Virtually all other country singers tend to sing all their songs precisely on the beat, even such magnificent singers as Lefty Frizzell and George Jones. But Willie habitually sings every so slightly behind the beat and has always done so. His voice therefore has a flexibility to adapt to these songs that many other singers would lack. That he is able to do so is remarkable in itself. While he has a unique voice, it isn't a great voice. He possesses neither much power nor great range, and yet he is able to do justice to nearly every cut.
Not every cut is a thundering success. "Blue Skies" sounds a bit bland and unexciting, but he is perfectly suited to sing the aforementioned "September Song." The raw, unpolished quality of his voice actually seems to enhance the performance. For the same reason, he shines on "The Sunny Side of the Street." The somewhat rustic quality of his voice brings out aspects of songs like "Moonlight in Vermont" lacking in other versions. And his rendition of "Someone to Walk Over Me" is simply the finest I have heard. He is also outstanding on the album's title track, "Stardust," which isn't terribly surprising, since his voice shares some of the qualities of Hoagy Carmichael's voice, which was one of the least polished in American popular song. In the end, the album represents a marvelous triumph of style over songs that one might have imagines beyond Willie's competence. The best example might be "Unchained Melody." Few songs from the rock and roll era have provided a greater opportunity for a singer to show what kind of vocal chops he or she possesses than this gem, and when one thinks of the ideal singer for the song, one instantly thinks of Bill Medley and the Righteous Brothers, not Willie Nelson. I won't say that Willie makes you forget Bill Medley, but he does create a more delicate, fragile song than the one the listener is used to.
The album was one of Willie Nelson's greatest commercial successes, so in retrospect it is easy to underestimate what a bold venture it actually was. He had steadily been gaining more and more popularity as a performer, and there was no guarantee that he was not going to alienate his base audience by performing these exceedingly non-country songs, even if it was able to inject them with a bit of his own style. But on reflection, perhaps it shouldn't be such a surprise. Willie might be country, but he never fit comfortably into the Nashville scene. Politically he was light years from your typical country performer, and just too untamed and eccentric. But for whatever reason, this remains not merely one of Willie Nelson's finest albums, but one of the most creative reinterpretations of several classic songs from the great American songbook."