Entertainment Weekly - p.93
"Strict chronology allows for fun realizations..." - Grade: A
Personnel: George Jones (vocals, guitar); Melba Montgomery (vocals); Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings.
Liner Note Author: George Jones.
Even the title of the three-disc George Jones collection 50 YEARS OF HITS should be enough to tell you that the man being anthologized is one of the all-time giants of country music. A towering influence on all that followed him, not only in country but in rock and pop as well, Jones started out in the 1950s as a Hank Williams-influenced honky-tonk man who wasn't afraid of a little rockabilly either (the Hank influence is clearly audible on such early tracks as "Just One More"). By the '60s, he'd refined his approach, taking a bit from the jazz-inflected style of Lefty Frizzell and becoming a striking balladeer. "She Thinks I Still Care" and "Color of the Blues" stand as templates for how to sing a country ballad.
For most performers, that would have been enough, but Jones never stopped turning out heart-stopping performances. This is underscored by the presence of the mid-period mind-blower "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which reaches a superhuman level of pathos, and latter-day tracks such as the unstintingly bleak "The Cold Hard Truth," as well as the high-spirited, good-humored "Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?)." In case future generations want to know what country music was all about back in the 20th century, there should be a copy of 50 YEARS OF HITS placed in a time capsule.