The Complete Atlantic Sessions

willie feat
**** ½

This three-disc box set chronicles the vital moment in which Willie Nelson became Willie—the longhaired, laid-back leader who would inspire rednecks and hippies to join hands peacefully in song under a drifting cloud of pot smoke.

When he signed with Atlantic Records in 1973, Willie was granted more artistic control over his own work than he’d ever had before. Given such latitude, he came up with the concept albums Phases & Stages and Shotgun Willie. Each was shockingly original, artistically complete and studded with future classics like “Whiskey River,” “After the Fire Is Gone” and “Bloody Mary Morning.”

In this collection, Willie’s two Atlantic albums are augmented with outtakes and alternate versions from the original sessions, plus a third disc chronicling what was to have been a live effort recorded at the Texas Opry House. A corporate shakeup meant that Willie exited Atlantic before that album could be released, but it didn’t really matter—his career, his life and country music itself had already been changed forever.

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