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Country - Released February 21, 2020 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

Hank Williams is one of those musicians who is more successful dead than he was alive, and since he’s been dead since 1953, he has become a veritable megastar. Adored during his short career, the scandalous and photogenic singer became the top country music star, taking advantage of the rise of radio and television in the United States to further his success. Then on a cold New Year’s Eve night he was found dead at the age of 29, in the back of the Cadillac that was bringing him to his next concert. A short-lived success, but one that served as both a blueprint and warning to stars in rock music: in the years following his death, Elvis Presley took over with real success. However Hank Williams became the prototype for the cursed star that burns through their youth and dies too young. Indeed, Elvis would follow suit, and Kurt Cobain didn’t avoid the trap either. But first and foremost, it’s the music that made these figures famous, and Hank Williams was certainly no exception. He invented the white blues, songs that are both dismal and comforting, which touch on death, heartbreak and depression but that make you want to dance to the songs on repeat all the same. Without his hooting but pitiful songs, there would be no modern country music. His recordings have been countlessly compiled and re-edited, with varying levels of success. But this box set Pictures from Life’s Other Side will be one to remember. It brings together 144 tracks (over seven hours of music!) recorded in 1951 for WSM radio. With the broadcast sponsored by Mother’s Best Flour and a disc jockey making conversation and presenting each song, you feel like you’re listening in the backwaters of Tennessee in front of a transistor radio. Accompanied by his Drifting Cowboys, Hank Williams delivers every aspect of his art: blues, religious songs, some wonderful yodelling, songs to dance to, covers… The performances are amazing, the harmonies and the arrangements are tight, and the violinist creates magic with his bow. Fewer and fewer people that had the privilege of seeing Hank Williams live are still here to tell the tale, but these recordings allow us to imagine the fervour, the emotion and the poetry which the ill-fated singer and his band created. © Stéphane Deschamps/Qobuz
CD$22.99

Country - Released June 14, 2019 | BMG Rights Management (US) LLC

CD$12.99

Pop - Released October 17, 1997 | Mercury Records

This set, coming along as it did fairly early in the CD era, provides a very solid look at the genius of Hank Williams and is a fine place to start for anyone looking for an introduction. The price is right, sound is OK, and it has pretty much all of the most important material, and some curiosities as well. Arguably there are omissions, but that would be true in any singe CD overview. In this case, Williams' first single, "Six More Miles to the Graveyard," would have been a far better choice than, say, "My Heart Would Know." This one has the poetry, the easy Southern swing, proto-rockabilly, and hillbilly boogie ("Move It One Over" is one such example), and the magic of the voice itself for a fine price. This is a great purchase. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
CD$25.49

Country - Released January 1, 1978 | Mercury Nashville

Hank Williams' body of work is so large and has been repackaged so many times in so many forms that the notion of creating a definitive compilation almost seems like an impossible goal. However, as a one-stop shopping place for Hank's basic repertoire, 40 Greatest Hits is as good as it gets. While it doesn't include everything, practically every memorable hit is here, and thankfully every cut appears in its original form (that means in mono, with no string overdubs or artificial duets with his family members). The track sequence subtly reflects the arc of Williams' short but vitally important career, and there's enough good music and great songs here to make a fan of anyone with even a passing interest in American music. If you care about country music, you need some Hank Williams in your collection, and there isn't a better introduction to his rich body of work on the market than 40 Greatest Hits; begin here, then start exploring. © Mark Deming /TiVo
CD$38.49

Country - Released January 1, 1992 | Mercury Nashville

The title of The Original Singles Collection ... Plus is slightly misleading. Although PolyGram marketed the three-disc, 83-song set as a complete collection, it doesn't feature all of the singles Hank Williams released during his lifetime. Several singles Williams released under the pseudonym "Luke the Drifter" as well all of the duets he cut with Audrey Williams aren't present. Despite these handful of songs, everything else is included in their original, undubbed versions and are presented in the best sound possible. For a fan that wants all the essential songs without springing for the eight disc series of complete recordings, The Original Singles collection is invaluable. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD$140.99

Country - Released September 22, 1998 | Mercury Nashville

Between 1986 and 1987, Mercury launched its first effort to chronicle Hank Williams' complete recorded works, releasing a series of eight double albums/single CDs which were later collected as a box set. Both the individual compilations and the box set were pulled from the market in the '90s, clearing the way for The Complete Hank Williams, a ten-disc box set which purported to contain all of Williams' recordings. Mercury, however, played it a little loose with their terms, deciding that "complete" covers the studio recordings, demos, and selected live performances, leaving overdubbed tracks and many live cuts (including much of The Health and Happiness Shows, which was released as a separate collection) in the vaults. This is bound to frustrate some collectors, but it makes for a better listen, actually. Instead of piling all the recordings into an impenetrable chronological trawl through Williams' recording life, the compilers logically devoted specific discs to the studio sessions, live cuts, and demos. In particular, the studio discs are quite compelling, but for hardcore fans, the previously unheard live performances (including several songs that Williams only performed in concert) are the real treasures. Then again, only hardcore fans will invest in such a lavish, extensive box set as The Complete Hank Williams, and there's little question that they'll be quite pleased with it. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released June 14, 2002 | Mercury Nashville

Tall, charismatic, and eschewing rustic hillbilly stage outfits in favor of sleek, tailored Nudie suits, Hank Williams was country music's first true superstar, and he was more than aware that a little motion on-stage drove the ladies crazy. But it is Williams' songwriting that has ensured his legacy more than anything, and his songs -- which mixed hillbilly elements with blues and gospel, all with a firm grasp of how to shade in some Tin Pan Alley techniques -- crossed over regularly to the pop charts, and have continued to hold up well even into the 21st century. Songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which has a spare, poetic structure so efficient it could be a haiku, and "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive," which manages to be funny, ironic, and prophetically frightening all at once, don't happen by accident, and show an awareness of craft that has a good deal more in common with Irving Berlin than it does Uncle Dave Macon. This two-disc overview of Williams' career includes his classic MGM and Polydor singles from 1947 to 1952, a handful of haunting acoustic demos (which show him to be a quite capable acoustic guitarist), a couple of his Luke the Drifter cuts, and a half-dozen or so live spots from the Grand Ole Opry (in 1950) and Health & Happiness (in 1949) radio shows. Thankfully it includes none of the string-sweetened overdubbed versions that proliferated after Williams' death, and given the number of dubious and rather thrown-together Hank Williams collections on the market, Gold earns trust points for being both thorough and tasteful. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Country - Released July 23, 2002 | Mercury Nashville

Mercury/UTV Records' 2002 release The Ultimate Collection does not follow a strict chronological running order over the course of 42 songs and two discs, but that's not a problem since the sequencing flows easily and is logical to the ear. Besides, the other "best introduction/summary" to Hank Williams -- 1978's 40 Greatest Hits -- didn't run chronologically, either. That collection is still the best choice for an introduction, even if it doesn't have the remastered sound this boasts, because it has a better song selection. True, all of the stone-cold essentials are here, but there are many songs that really should have been here -- "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy," "Nobody's Lonesome for Me," "Dear John," "Baby, We're Really in Love," for instance -- yet aren't since the compilers favor a slight revisionist bent that will appeal to alt-country fans (more gloom and doom, not as much fun). It should be noted that this complaint is a minor one, applicable to those who already have a lot of Williams, and, overall, this is an excellent summary of his greatest work, one that will satisfy most listeners, or will convert those who have yet to realize why Hank is a legend. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released December 5, 2016 | Doxy Records

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Country - Released October 11, 2005 | Mercury Nashville

There have been countless Hank Williams compilations issued over the years, ranging from cheap budget-line discs to box sets of his complete recordings, but the idea for the triple-disc 2005 set Turn Back the Years: The Essential Hank Williams Collection is a fresh one: instead of following the traditional chronological approach, or mixing up his greatest hits in random order, this borrows a cue from Columbia/Legacy's 2000 set Love, God, Murder and arranges Hank's work thematically. Each of the three discs is titled after one of his songs, each bearing a clear thematic imprint: the first is "Honky Tonkin'," and contains his barroom anthems; the second is "Cold, Cold Heart" and has his high, lonesome heartbreak songs; the third is "I Saw the Light" and is devoted to gospel and religious tunes. This is an effective way to present his catalog, since each of the discs plays as a cohesive album and, taken together, they give a good indication of the range and depth of Williams' music. That said, this shouldn't be seen as a definitive collection, containing all of his great songs -- indeed, such classics as "You're Gonna Change (Or I'm Gonna Leave)," "Mind Your Own Business," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)," "Half as Much," "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)," "I'll Never Get out of This World Alive," and "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)" are all absent. But that's the curse of a catalog as rich as Hank Williams' -- there's no way that one collection can contain all of his great songs. Turn Back the Years doesn't, but it does offer a different way of looking at his catalog that functions both as a thoroughly enjoyable listen for longtime fans and as an excellent introduction for neophytes who want thematic, cohesive albums instead of the usual greatest hits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD$8.99

Country - Released October 13, 1999 | Mercury Nashville

The Hank Williams volume of 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection is a good, basic compilation of Williams' highlights, featuring such timeless tunes as "Hey, Good Lookin'," "Jambalaya," "Move It on Over," "Honky Tonk Blues," "Why Don't You Love Me," "Honky Tonkin'," "I Saw the Light," and "Lovesick Blues." Yes, there are some major songs missing -- "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "You Win Again," "A Mansion on the Hill," "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It," "Half as Much," and "My Son Calls Another Man Daddy," among others -- but this is fine as a budget-line sampler for casual fans. It's not the best compilation in his catalog, but it doesn't have a bum track on it, and it's a mighty fine listen. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Gospel - Released June 18, 2019 | White Room Music

Country - Released May 29, 2016 | Country Masters

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Country - Released May 8, 2020 | G.O.P.

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Country - Released April 8, 2020 | Tough Darling

CD$10.49

Country - Released January 1, 1956 | Mercury Nashville

Every bit as essential as his country hits, I Saw the Light is an excellent testament to the songwriting genius of Hank Williams. A very spirited and, at times, utterly beautiful collection that has to rank with the best country-gospel albums ever made; these perfectly crafted songs might take Williams out of the honky tonk, but they can't take the honky tonk out of Williams' sound, as the tracks sound contemporary to anything else in his catalog. Standout harmonies on "How Can You Refuse Him Now" and "Jesus Remembered Me" to the just plain frightening "Angel of Death" and the poignant "Wealth Won't Save Your Soul" rank with Williams' best work. Overall, a truly essential piece in the viewing of Hank Williams' entire body of work. © Matt Fink /TiVo
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Country - Released January 10, 1985 | Mercury Nashville

Among the material on Lovesick Blues (August 1947 -- December 1948): Vol. 2, the second volume of Polydor's series of Hank Williams' complete recorded works, is "Lovesick Blues"; the single that made him a star and that song illustrate the difference between this volume and its predecessor, I Ain't Got Nothin' but Time. By and large, the secular music on Lovesick Blues is lighter than the gospel that dominated the first volume -- the majority of the songs are pure honky tonk, whether its the rollicking boogie of "Rootie Tootie" and "Fly Trouble," the gritty "Honky Tonkin" and "I'm a Long Gone Daddy," or the wrenching ballad "A Mansion on the Hill." Among the other highlights of a disc filled with uniformly excellent songs are the session recordings "I'm Satisfied With You" and "I'll Be a Bachelor 'Til I Die," the overdubbed nonsession recording "We Live in Two Different Worlds," and the non-session recordings "Please Don't Let Me Love You" and "Weary Blues From Waitin'." © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD$31.99

Country - Released March 23, 1993 | Mercury Nashville

The double-disc set Health & Happinesss Shows collects eight complete radio shows that Hank Williams recorded in 1949, when his career was just taking off. Throughout the collection, Williams sounds energetic and vibrant, even during his between-song stage patter which is nearly fascinating as the music. It's a set that is designed for collectors, but even casual Williams fans will find much to treasure on the Health & Happiness Shows. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
CD$12.99

Country - Released May 23, 2011 | Mercury Nashville