Waylon Jennings is one of the greatest and most revered names in the history of country music. That goes without saying, and Eagle Rock Entertainment is going to remind audiences just why he remains such a respected figure within the country music (and music in general) world Friday with a new archived recording, The Outlaw Performance. Recorded in 1978 at a sold out show at the Opry House in Nashville, TN, the 16-song performance is a deep dive into what is the most important era in his career, the 1970s. That was the era that saw Jennings break away from the so-called “Nashville Sound” and grow more into his own artist, thus earning him the title of an “outlaw” country artist. That set list forms the foundation for this recording and will be addressed shortly. The performance of the set list by Jennings and company adds to the recording’s presentation even more and will be addressed a little later. The audio and video quality of the recording rounds out its most important elements. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this presentation. All things considered, they make The Outlaw Performance a welcome addition to any country music purist’s live music library and one of the year’s best new live DVDs and BDs.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new archived live Waylon Jennings recording The Outlaw Performance is a fitting tribute to a man who is one of the most respected and revered names in country music. That is proven in part through the concert’s set list. Composed of 16 songs, the set list pulls from many of the albums that Jennings released during the 1970s. That was the era during which Jennings broke away from the so-called “Nashville Sound” and became his own artist. That is what led his music to become dubbed “outlaw country.” While not every one of the 16 albums that he released between 1970 and 1979 is represented here, a healthy cross section of that catalog is represented. In all, 11 of those albums are represented, including Jennings’ “duets” album that he recorded with longtime friend Willie Nelson. That album, Waylon & Willie, was released in 1978. The set list reaches as far back as Jennings’ 1972 album Good Hearted Woman and as recently as the aforementioned duets record with Nelson and another 1978 album, I’ve Always Been Crazy. That album gets the most nods in this performance, with four of its songs featured in the set. That makes sense, considering the performance itself would have been part of a tour in support of said album. Honky Tonk Heroes (1973), Dreaming My Dreams (1975) and Are You Ready For The Country? (1976) each get two nods in this set list while Good Hearted Woman (1972), Lonesome, On’ry and Mean (1973), The Ramblin’ Man (1974), This Time (1974), Ol’ Waylon (1977) and Waylon & Willie (1978) each get one nod. Again, this is not a representation of Jennings’ full 1970s catalog, but is still a rich picture of where he was in his life and career at the time. One of the featured songs, ‘Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand?’ was a discussion on Jennings’ battle with drug use at the time. ‘Good Hearted Woman’ was, in Jennings’ own words, about his wife Jessi Colter.
Staying on the note of the set list, audiences are treated to audio commentary from the late great musician in each of the set’s featured songs. That adds even more enjoyment to the set. As Jennings and his fellow musicians make their way through ‘This Time’ audiences hear from Jennings as he discusses how the song, which became a #1 hit, almost didn’t happen. What led the song to be completed will be left for audiences to discover for themselves. In discussing ‘Good Hearted Woman,’ Jennings was quoted as saying, “It describes her [Colter] better than anything” and as saying that if not for Nelson, the song might not have been completed. ‘Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way’ closes out the set, which runs just under an hour. Jenning is heard saying as the song nears its finale that, “In music, there has to be a freedom…If you don’t have that freedom, then you’re dead going in.” This is a direct reference to Jennings’ professional growth at the time, and how it led him to grow away from the so-called “Nashville Sound.” There is more commentary from Jennings as the end credits roll, and said commentary adds even more engagement to the presentation. Audiences will be left to take in that commentary for themselves. Taking all of the noted commentary into mind along with the set list, these two elements go a long way toward making The outlaw Performance quite engaging and entertaining just on their merits. Of course, the set list and its accompanying commentary is just a portion of what stands out about the performance. The performance put on by Jennings and company in the concert adds to the performance’s engagement and entertainment even more.
The performance by Jennings and company throughout the performance is important to examine because in the bigger picture of the show because of what the band does and doesn’t do here. What the band doesn’t do is waste a lot of time between songs with unnecessary rambling. Rather, the band maximizes its time on stage, letting the music do the talking for the group. Given, there are a few very brief moments of monologue through the course of the roughly 50-minute-plus performance, but in large part, the music is the star. That is not to say that audience interaction is a bad thing. Don’t misinterpret that. But depending on venues, acts only have a certain amount of time to perform, so that can limit that audience interaction. Likelihood here is that the band’s time was greatly limited, so the band made the most of the situation, and still managed to entertain the audience in house in the process. Because of how the group handled the situation, audiences at home will be just as entertained as those who were in attendance. Staying on that note, the band keeps the energy flowing throughout, with Waylon’s subtle yet expert riffs and his vocal delivery. The bass and drums add their own share of enjoyment in each song, enriching each performance with just enough low end and flares from the cymbals, floor toms and snares. Between the expert musicianship and the maximizing of the allotted time, the band’s performance clearly strengthens even more, the foundation formed through the recording’s set list. It still is not the last of the recording’s most notable elements. The collective audio and video quality of the recording rounds out its most important elements.
The audio and video quality of The Outlaw Performance is important to note because it is impressive in its own right. Considering that the footage is more than four decades old, it has obviously stood the test of time. Either that or those behind the concert’s presentation did one heck of a job remastering everything. Interestingly it doesn’t look like anyone touched the video, as the video still has that look that so much old school video recording has. It’s grainy rather than clear and sharp, but not overly so. It shows the marks of having been recorded to film through older cameras, yet still somehow looks so good in its original presentation. So again, the only thing that can be assumed here is that the footage was just that well preserved. Taking into consideration the audio, it is possible that some of that might have been remastered. That’s not to say that the audio was remastered, but if not, then it certainly stood the test of time just as well as its visual counterpart. Seeing and hearing the concert in whole is like taking a wonderful trip back in time right on screen. That is the simplest way to explain the quality of the audio and video. The collective audio and video will grab at audiences’ nostalgia greatly, and together with the concert’s songs and the performance of those songs, will make audiences forget the worries of everything going on around for at least an hour and in the process prove itself a must have for country music fans everywhere.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new archived Waylon Jennings concert The Outlaw Performance is a work that country music fans and Waylon Jennings fans alike will appreciate. That is due in part to the songs that make up the show’s set list. They are a statement of where Jennings was personally and professionally at the time of the 1978 concert. The audio commentary that comes from Jennings himself adds even more to the set list as it gives a little extra background to each song. The overall performance of the set by Jennings and company adds even more engagement and enjoyment for audiences in its own right, as has been pointed out here. The overall audio and video quality of the recording puts the finishing touch to the recording’s presentation. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the recording. All things considered, they make The Outlaw Performance one more of this year’s top new live DVDs and Blu-rays. It will be available Friday. More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:
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