Posts Tagged ‘Hank Williams: The Unreleased Recordings’

I was under a misapprehension over the past couple years of Mother’s Best Hank Williams releases. From earlier articles and releases, I had concluded that there would be a third box set this fall under roughly the same format as the first two. I wrote that several times, but I was wrong.

The Complete Mother’s Best to be released at the end of September will finish off the current series. I’m sure there will be various packages in different formats and outlets as the years go buy, but the new release will round out the series.

I should have realized there would have to be a change as I checked  through the Hank Williams Sr Listings Website which I have linked to in the Blogroll at the side. There are two things I forgot until I reread the fine color coded listings  of the content of all the Mother’s Best shows. When you do that, you find out two things;
One: There is a lot of repetiton of the Hank performances, and
Two: There are a lot of Audrey performances.

I don’t trash Audrey as most other commentators do, so don’t bother looking for it.

This means there really isn’t much left on the original acetates.

However, I still think a nice much more inexpensive package of edited  single performances could have been put together. There are a number of repeated performances I would like to hear. I’m especially interested in the different versions of the up tempo  rockabilly foundation numbers.

There are alternate versions of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, ‘Nobody’s Lonesome For Me’, ‘Move It on Over’, ‘I Just Don’t Like This Kind of Living’,’Hey Good Lookin’, ‘Mind Your Own Business’ and ‘Moanin the Blues’. There are also different versions of ‘Sing, Sing, Sing,’ and ‘My Sweet Love Ain’t Around’.

So I would like to see an inexpensive one disk release of edited singles from Mother’s Best which haven’t been released yet, even if they are duplicates..

But at the same time, there is an absolute historic necessity that the Mother’s Best Shows be released in their entirety as they were recorded. And shouldn’t all of the Armed Forces Recordings be assembled and released as well? I assume there’s more of that material than was released on ‘Live at the Grand Ole Opry’. But I’m not a researcher so can’t be sure.

My quibbling can’t detract at all from Time Life’s  enormous achievement  in this whole Mother’s Best release project. And the Williams’ estate deserves credit for selecting this company to handle this important historical artifact. The format, notes, packaging,  song selection, and remastering have been beyond criticism. I’m sure the new ‘Complete’ 16 disc set will live up to the standard set by the two 3CD releases. But I would still like to see some of those unreleased duplicates released in single song format.

Once again here’s the website for the new release.

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It’s not surprising that the new Mother’s Best 3 disc Box Set from Hank Williams is not getting  the kind of attention from the media that last years first edition did.

Last year, you recall, I catalogued the huge list of major media outlets both print and electronic around the world who gave such glowing coverage to ‘The Unreleased Recordings’.

So far the major media outlets have passed over ‘Revealed’. These outlets obviously saw their treatment last year as an endorsement and commendation for the whole planned three release series.

But some bloggers in particular have done a great job of zeroing in on the new release.

One of the most profound statements on Hank Williams I have ever heard (  I say this because it mirrors my own views exactly)  comes in the first sentence of Ken Burke’s review in ‘Country Standard Time’. Here it is:

 After his death in 1953, Hank Williams, became less a performer than a post-mortem brand name wherein his basic personality as an artist was increasingly downplayed and diminished. This remarkably enjoyable three-CD set, drawn from warmly remastered acetates – featuring occasional surface noise – of the old Mother’s Best radio show, showcases much of that nearly lost essence.

Burke also notes the real drive that you can hear in the up tempo hits that are featured on Disc 1. He can see “rockabilly intentions” in Hanks work which were realized with Elvis later in the decade. The review ends with a statement on Williams’ lasting impact: “Williams’ down home charisma completely renews his star power for modern audiences.”

‘My Kind Of Country’ offers a complete in-depth  review by Occasional Hope which allows that this Set may be of more “historical interest” than the ‘Unreleased’. It notes that the ‘Luke the Drifter’ selections on Disc 3 are not all originally by Luke the Drifter.  Hope, I think correctly praises the live shows on each disc, but thinks really the wide variety of new unheard material on the ‘Unreleased’ Box set revealed more about Hank Williams artistry than the selections this time around.

Richard Marcus in ‘Leap in The Dark’ gets off a great line ab0ut the gospel songs which he finds disturbing overall: “a look into  the darker recesses of Williams’ brain where guilt and fear sit holding hands.”

There is a short review at the allmusic website. Steve Leggett is really enthusiastic about the new release, ” these long-lost recordings are an absolute treasure simply goes without saying. Hank Williams was country music’s first modern superstar and that all these years later, we are given several hours of Williams performing in an intimate setting just as he was beginning to break across the nation’s radar, is nothing short of a miracle.”

Dan MacIntosh in ‘Roughstock’ expresses some disappointment with Disc 3. I share that concern that the third disc drags a bit with a mixture of vocal and spoken word. In the end MacIntosh gets pretty exuberant:

 “Williams, even to this day, is deceptively amazing. He sang simple songs, with simple arrangements, but there is nevertheless great depth to what he recorded. Maybe it was his voice. Perhaps it was how he could distill complicated relationships – whether romantic or spiritual – into words that the common man could easily understand. Whatever the explanation, like a rural magician, you’ll likely find yourself asking, ‘How did he do that?’ after listening to this fine collection. You might also wonder if he ever recorded anything substandard. I’ll wager he never did, and this three-CD set supports such a belief.” Wow you can’t much more positive than that.

Pop Matters has once again reviewed the Hank Williams release from TimeLife. Christel Loar goes right to the core of what we’ve all being saying about these remastered Mother’s Best recordings: “The recordings reveal a personality that is much more lively and filled with humor than one might expect from listening to his most popular songs. Williams tells stories and talks easily about his music and his life as he performs his songs, many of which are alternate arrangements to familiar favorites, and some of which were never performed by Williams outside these studio sessions.”

So far I haven’t seen any reviews of the new album in major newspapers or even minor ones for that matter. If you run across any, please post them in the comments section below.

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Hank Williams is not just an entertainer, a country music superstar, a pop song writer, a radio personality a million seller recording star, country hall of fame member, rock hall member. Hank Williams transcends these popular designations, honors,  and labels that change with the weeks and months and years.

Hank Williams is a world artist of the highest order whose work rises above region, place or time.  Hank Williams stared fearlessly into the depths of anguish, despair and death. Hank Williams exalts in  the triumphs of human nature, the  raucous sensual joys, and hopes and optimism in life and love. In his short life, he tasted the triumphs of commercial success, sold out concerts,  punishing national tours, million selling records, the top of the hit parade.  

Now 60 years later we are moving into uncharted territory as just recently seen by his inclusion in the New Literary  History of America. The release of the ‘The Unreleased Recordings’ last year was reviewed by newspapers, radio and television, magazines and other journals around the world. This modest little blog receives visitors from Europe and elsewhere around the world. I support the petition to have Hank reinstated to the Grand Old Opry, but find it rather amusing. Friends, in the Hank Williams’ universe of 2009, the Grand Old Opry is peanuts!

If  ‘Revealed’ the second 3 volume Box Set of Hank Williams’ Mother’s Best Recordings had been released first it probably would have had the same dramatic impact as the first set of ‘The Unreleased Recordings’ had a year ago. But now, I suppose, the exciting and wonderful new insights into Hank Williams talent and personality we experienced a year ago were taken for granted as we waited for this the second of three Mother’s Best Box Sets expected from Time Life. And so far the new set has not received the wide-ranging publicity avalanche that occurred when ‘The Unreleased’ was dropped into the music world.

There is nothing disappointing about this collection. As I wrote in an earlier post, the new format of dividing the discs by theme and presenting one complete show on each disk is a success. The first disc of hits contains some really rocking versions of Hank’s early rockabilly recordings such as ‘Move It On Over’, ‘Hey Good Lookin’ ,’Why Don’t You Love Me’, Moanin The Blues and ‘Mind Your Own Business’. Disc 2 presents the usual solid and moving renditions of sacred songs many  we may have never heard him sing before. Disc 3 will be a disappointment to some and will not get as much playing time as the first two. It’s called ‘Luke the Drifter’ although that’s a bit misleading. From my memory, and the discographers will know of course, but many of these songs did not appear as original Luke the Drifter recordings. Most of the songs here are familiar to fans  and a new cover of ‘Deck of Cards’ a late 40s narration hit  really doesn’t add much to the Hank Williams’ story.

But overall the new set continues the sense of  excitement that  the first Mother’s Best recordings  brought to the average Hank Williams fan for the first time. There is the clarity and broadcast quality of the sound which surpasses the original MGM studio recordings. There is the richness in his voice and subtlety of expression we never heard before, not  until these old acetate radio program recordings were remastered and restored.

We learn more about Hank. And this is where the new set even surpasses the first release. A lot more studio banter and Hank’s relaxed easy going kibitzing with his band and host Louis Buck is included.  It’s a relaxed presentation that doesn’t sound like Hank’s session recordings that he knew were carved in stone so to speak and would last forever. These are just more of the of thousands of radio programs in Montgomery, Shreveport and Nashville that he did through the years and for all he knew were going out across the airwaves to disappear forever.

But on the other hand, the recordings have an immediacy in his knowledge that they were going out live to thousands of people and this brings out a relaxed intimacy with the microphone and audience only ‘live’ radio creates. Another revelation from the first Box Set  was the breadth of  Hank Williams’ musical interests and knowledge. Once again the gospel songs are standouts, along with hits made famous by other singers, and  fascinating if obscure songs Hank Williams picked to fill out these radio programs, .

These recordings are an artistic treasure, because they shows us more. They unveil the Hank Williams as an artist for the ages.  An artist with a short life and limited output. But an artist whose breadth of knowledge of human emotions  expressed both a writer and a performer, who  explores  the deepest issues of human existence is unsurpassed  in popular music.

As I discussed in first Mother’s Best release, powerful performances of songs Hank did not write added so much to his stature.  I discussed ‘Cool Water’ On Top of old Smokey’  ‘Searching for a Soldier’s Grave’ and ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?’ among others. The same is true this time.

There are some equally moving and forceful efforts on this new set. I’m just letting them sink in a bit, and as I did last time, will go over the new recordings disc by disc.

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Fans will thrilled by the new format for the second Box Set from the Mother’s Best Flour shows to be released by Time Life on November 3rd.

The 3 CD package  has a similar appearance to the first ‘Unreleased Recordings’ 3CD set released  last year at this time.

The new release has more structure than last year. Instead of the songs being organized on the CDs more or less at random, the ‘Revealed’ set groups the songs according to themes. The first is called ‘The Hits Like Never Before’, the second ‘At the Cross’, and the third ‘Luke the Drifter’, not all originally Luke the Drifter releases I don’t think, but songs of a more philosophical bent.

In addition, at the end of each CD there is a complete show from the Mother’s Best radio series. This is a big improvement for the average listener,who will now get to hear the real Hank Williams live, revealed as a professional entertainer with a great personality, showing both his humorous and serious sides, and talking about his favorite songs.

Last year several complete shows were released on a separate album with the awkward title  ‘The Legendary Hank Williams Rare and on the Radio’ which was only available on line from Reader’s Digest.  I think for many fans it was likely very confusng, and I don’t imagine, although I stand to be corrected, that the Reader’s Digest effort really sold very many copies or did much to get the Hank Williams’ story out there.

Jett Williams, who is deeply involved in the production of these Mother’s Best Box Sets, says the ‘Revealed’ package offers something new:

To me, this is even more exciting than the first set because you get to hear my daddy talk and you get a sense of him, not just as an entertainer, but as a person. That’s why we called it REVEALED. The song selection is as strong as the first volume, but this time we’ve done three thematic CD’s.

Of course, as we all know from the first ‘Unreleased’ set the great thing is not only the Hank Williams personality revealed, and the new songs never commercialy available before, but even more important, the georgeous clarity and depth of the sound  which as many have said surpasses the immediacy and presence of the original MGM recordings.

One of the highlisghts of the new set is the first performance of ‘Cold Cold Heart’. This opens the first CD. In addition, the hits on  Disc 1 include upbeat classics such as ‘Move it on Over’, ‘Hey Good Lookin’ and ‘Mind Your own Business’. Some ballads on the hits disc are ‘Lonesome Whistle’, ‘They’ll Never Take Her Love From Me’ and ‘Mansion on the Hill’.

On Disc 2, called ‘At The Cross’,  there are several songs that the average fans may not have had access to before. These include, ‘That Beautiful Home’, ‘Lord Build me a Cabin in the Corner of Gloryland’, ‘Thirty Pieces of Silver’, ‘At The Cross’, and ‘Farther Along’.

Finally on Disc 3, ‘Luke the Drifter’, there are some classics such as ‘Everything’s OK’, ‘Just Waitin’ , ‘I’ve Just Told Mama Goodbye’, and ‘Faded Love and Winter Roses’. A country standard in spoken word, ‘Deck of Cards’ is also on this disc.

As I said, each CD ends with a complete Mother’s Best Flour Show. ‘Nobody’s  Lonesome For Me’, and ‘I Can’t Help It’ are included on these programs. The opening  theme is ‘Lovesick Blues’.

Time Life will also package single CD versions for release at WalMart and Barjan.

The release date at major  internet outlets for ‘Hank Williams Revealed (The Unreleased Recordings)’ is November 3rd. Of Course you can order now for November 3rd shipping.

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Both as a musician and through his memories, steel guitar player Don Helms served Hank Williams with distinction. The legendary voice of the Hank Williams sound died last August. On Sunday March 8, a tribute to Helms starring Ray Price will be held in Nashville.

 One of the cuts on the new ‘Hank Williams The Unreleased Recordings’ three CD set really shows, in my mind anyway, the importance of Don Helms to Hank Williams. In these radio shows, done off the cuff I think listeners will find the Helms contribution enhanced on some cuts, It certainly is on Hank’s cover of the famous country, pop and later rock classic  ‘Have I told You Lately That I love You’.

His solo on that cut is haunting, and the whole recording is really a duet between Hank and Don Helms. Listen to it again; it’s beautiful.

The story is told that the high steel sound was designed by Fred Rose, not only to give Hank a distinctive sound, as if he didn’t have that already! but also to make Hank’s records cut through the noise and stand out when played on jukeboxes in noisy bars, roadhouses,  and restaurants.

Don Helms’  musicianship took it well beyond that strategy.

Don Helms seemed from a distance anyway to have had a great sense of humor. At least it seems so from a quote I remember reading when he toured with Jett Williams. Having earlier toured with Hank Jr, Helms said, “I really  like playing with these Williams, I know all the songs!” Or something like that.

I also thought Helms tried to give a sense of reality to life with Hank Williams. I know he said the Hank Williams he read about in biographies didn’t resemble the Hank Williams he knew from his  days as a Drifting Cowboy. They used to go bowling for God’s sake! He said, “My one wish in life is that everybody who had written a book about Hank Williams had met him.”

In both the music and the memories Don Helms served Hank Williams honestly and well.

The link to info about the Sunday Tribute is here. 

Note: This link is no longer active.


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