“Live at Gilley’s – Pasadena, TX” takes the listener back to 1981 and presents Kris Kristofferson at his best
That’s all a long time ago. A good 40 years. Four decades in which so much has changed. In some areas, as the saying goes, no stone was left unturned. For example, country music has not only changed in these 40 years, it has reinvented itself. But then there are those famous rocks in the surf. The people and things that keep their value. The world can go crazy like that. One of these monoliths of consistency is called Kris Kristofferson and now, a good 40 years after the recording, he presents the recording “Live at Gilley’s – Pasadena, TX”.
It must have been a great evening, September 15, 1981. A great evening in a great location: After all, Gilley’s is a legendary live club in Pasadena, Texas. The shed (“Urban Cowboy”), which has achieved film fame, is run by the no less legendary Mickey Gilley, himself a Grammy-winning country star.
40 years old and yet timeless: “Live at Gilley’s – Pasadena, TX”
No wonder himself Kris Kristofferson gave it his all that evening. He wanted to make a bella figura in front of his celebrity colleague – and he succeeded. Kristofferson, the wonderful songwriter, the sensitive poet and Hollywood warhorse, was traveling around the country with a strong band. Also on board were Stephen Bruton, Donnie Fritts and – known from his classic “I Can’t Help” – Billy Swan. With this all-star ensemble, Kristofferson set out at Gilley’s on a foray into his best songs. Can something still go wrong? Oh where from!
Amazingly, Kris Kristofferson & Mannen jump straight onto the show with one of their most popular songs. With “Me and Bobby McGee”. Sure, the title is best known in the interpretation of the wild blues lady Janis Joplin. But of course it was written by Kris Kristofferson. A piece of wisdom that seasoned country fans can of course spare themselves. Logo, you know that. You have to know that! After all, it’s a song that should be included in the World Heritage List. But whether in this live version? Rather not. Kris and Co. tackle what is actually a very calm and thoughtful song with an unusual rocking vehemence. You can hear that the gentlemen had fun stepping on the gas. However, the content-heavy track suffers a bit from this robust, down-to-earth interpretation. What is striking, and unfortunately rather unpleasant, is that the 80s produced some very special sounds. Drums and guitar sometimes sound a bit too spacey, with too many effects and compressors.
Wrote songs for eternity: Kris Kristofferson
But what can you do? At that time, these sounds were literally part of good form. Doesn’t matter. They’re beauty marks. Small details that don’t seriously affect the overall impression of the album. As you listen through the 15 tracks, a few things come back to you involuntarily. Like what a gifted songwriter and lyricist this Kris Kristofferson was and still is. A poet who finds images and embellishes them with wonderful, not at all lofty, metaphors. A power of words that actually characterizes each of these tracks. Starting with the wonderful ballad “Here Comes That Rainbow Again” (second song of the setlist), the co-production with Billy Swan “Nobody Loves Anybody Anymore” that was created in the tour bus, then of course the classics: “For the Good Times”, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”, “The Silver Tongued Devil And I” and the powerfully presented “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” towards the end of the show. With the encore “Why Me”, Kris Kristofferson and his comrades-in-arms end this memorable evening in the Texas music club. Sure, you would have loved to have been there.
You get a little wistful when you realize that something like this will never happen again. Bruton and Fritts died years ago, Mickey Gilley in May 2022. Well, Billy Swan is 80 and Kris Kristofferson is a whopping 86 years old. So then again his hymn to the good old days: “For The Good Times”.
Conclusion: Kris Kristofferson is in stunning form on Live at Gilley’s – Pasadena, TX – and he reminds us throughout 15 tracks that he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time.
|Label: New West||Release: September 2, 2022|