Merle Haggard Greatest Hits: Finest Performances
- Released: March 26, 2002
- Label: Sun Entertainment
- 1.Today I Started Loving You Again
- 2.Swinging Doors
- 3.Workin' Man Blues
- 4.I'm a Lonesome Fugitive
- 5.Mama Tried
- 6.The Bottle Let Me Down
- 7.Okie from Muskogee
- 8.Branded Man
- 9.Hungry Eyes
- 10.The Fightin' Side of Me
- 11.I Take a Lot of Pride in What I Am
- 12.I Think I'll Just Stay Here and Drink
Personnel: Merle Haggard (vocals, guitar); Abe Manuel (guitar, harmonica, bass, tambourine, percussion, background vocals); Clint Strong (acoustic & 12-string guitars); Red Lane (acoustic guitar); Tim Howard (guitar); John Hickman (banjo); Norm Hamlett (steel guitar); Don Markham (saxophone, background vocals); Bobby Woods (piano, keyboards); Joe Reed (bass); Biff Adam (drums); Bob Newcomb, Bonnie Owens (background vocals).
Compilation producers: Shelby S. Singleton, Jim Wilson.
Recorded at Tally Recording Studio, Palo Cedro, California.
Personnel: Merle Haggard (vocals, guitar).
Recording information: Tally Recording Studio, Palo Cedro, CA.
GREATEST HITS contains 12 new versions of classic Merle Haggard songs. Because it was recorded at Haggard's home studio in 1995 with his stage band providing backing, the record sounds a lot like a board recording of a '95 Merle Haggard concert. The sound is simple but clean, the band plays with the confidence of a group that has played the material hundreds of time, and Haggard, as always, sings superbly.
None of the cuts here improves on the original hit recordings (an impossibly tall order, given the excellence of Haggard's early records), but nearly all are solid nonetheless. Haggard's band sticks pretty close to the arrangements of the original records, but Haggard takes some liberties with the melodies, playfully dropping down an octave or back-phrasing on occasion. He never undercuts the songs, it's just that, like the other great pure singer of his era, George Jones, Haggard rarely sings a song the exact same way twice, which makes GREATEST HITS valuable to those interested in hearing a slightly different take on these familiar songs.
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