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Country - Released October 4, 1988 | SMSP

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released February 15, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

The two-CD Essential Kris Kristofferson compilation isn't a balanced retrospective of his lengthy career, heavily emphasizing his 1969-1971 recordings, which in fact comprise all of disc one. And it doesn't represent many of his albums at all (particularly the ones not done for Monument or Columbia), including just one post-1985 track. On the other hand, for the vast majority of Kristofferson listeners who want a best-of that offers more than a single-disc greatest-hits anthology can, it serves its purpose well. His best-known songs are here, in the original Kristofferson-sung versions: "Me and Bobby McGee," "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Why Me," and "For the Good Times." His earliest Monument records are sampled particularly deeply, with no less than nine of the 12 songs from his 1970 debut, Kristofferson, appearing. Still, there's no doubt that his early work was his most popular and best, and the disproportionate representation allows for the appearance of good songs from the era that escape skimpier greatest-hits collections. And there's no doubt that disc two, devoted almost entirely to post-1971 material, is less impressive and consistent, not to mention more haphazardly organized in its chronology, with the 1972 track "Why Me" appearing as the second-to-last cut. Room's also made for a few songs Kristofferson recorded with others, those being "I'd Rather Be Sorry" (a duet with Rita Coolidge), "Highwayman" (done with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash), and "How Do You Feel About Foolin' Around" (on which he paired with Willie Nelson). ~ Richie Unterberger
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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released February 10, 2017 | Rhino Atlantic

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Country - Released September 1, 1973 | A&M

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Country - Released November 1, 1972 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released August 7, 2007 | Monument - Legacy

If you're looking for the basics from singer/songwriter Kris Kristofferson's early-'70s Monument catalog, 16 Biggest Hits fits the bill. Kristofferson's coarse vocals considerably change the dynamic of songs like "Me and Bobby McGee," "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down," "Once More with Feeling," "For the Good Times" and "Help Me Make It Through the Night," from those of the artists' who actually took the songs to the top of the rock and country charts. Also of note is Kristofferson's "Why Me," his first chart entry as vocalist in 1972, and the 1984 hit "Highwayman," recorded by the short-lived supergroup of the same name featuring Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. While this compilation is highly recommended, for those listeners who want to go deeper into his catalog, pick up The Essential Kris Kristofferson on Columbia/Legacy, as it includes choice album cuts and duets with Willie Nelson and Rita Coolidge. ~ Al Campbell
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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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By the time Monument came to release Kristofferson's second album, The Silver Tongued Devil and I, in July 1971, he was the author of four songs that had topped the country or pop charts for others. Kristofferson himself had not yet reached the charts with a recording of his own, but his spectacular success as a songwriter made The Silver Tongued Devil and I a much-anticipated record. One consequence of this was that Monument was willing to spend more money; three of the album's songs boasted strings and another a horn section. But the key, of course, was still the songwriting, and though there were several excellent songs, the album could not live up to its predecessor, which was the culmination of years of writing. Typically for a second album, Kristofferson reached back into his catalog, presenting his own treatments of "Jody and the Kid" and "The Taker," which had been hits for Roy Drusky and Waylon Jennings, respectively. In his newly written material, Kristofferson continued to examine the lives of society's outcasts, but the antiestablishment tone of some of Kristofferson was gone along with much of the wry humor, and in their place were touches of morbidity and sentimentality. Kristofferson retained his gift for intimate love songs, and the album's most memorable selections turned out to be "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" (which became a semi-standard) and "When I Loved Her." And even if his observations seemed less acute, his talent for wordplay often rescued the songs from banality. On its way to becoming a gold record, The Silver Tongued Devil and I reached the pop Top 20, Kristofferson's career high on that chart, and the country Top Five; thus, Kristofferson made the transition from being a successful songwriter to a successful recording artist. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Pop - Released August 20, 1999 | Atlantic Records

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Country - Released January 1, 1970 | Monument - Legacy

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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Kris Kristofferson is pictured smiling in sunglasses on the cover of Jesus Was a Capricorn, accompanied by his girlfriend and soon-to-be-wife Rita Coolidge. The album followed his previous LP, Border Lord, by only nine months and was his fourth album to be released within two-and-a-half years, which meant that a man who had struggled for half a decade to get anybody to listen to his songs was now writing and recording them as fast as he could. Not surprisingly, he was having trouble filling the pipeline; he borrowed the melody of John Prine's "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" for the title song and even recorded a cover song for the first time, performing a duet with Larry Gatlin on Gatlin's "Help Me." There was nothing here that matched his best songs, but the overall quality of the material was quite good, as Kristofferson went back over familiar ground, singing about religion, romance, and roughhousing with equal fervor. Especially impressive were the two duets with Coolidge, "It Sure Was (Love)" and "Give It Time to Be Tender," which looked forward to their duo albums. Commercially, Jesus Was a Capricorn can be seen either as a case of record company ineptitude or perseverance, or both. Border Lord had marked a falloff in sales from Kristofferson's first two albums, and initially Jesus Was a Capricorn looked like it was going to do even worse, as Monument Records couldn't seem to figure out what the right single was. The label started by releasing a single version of the title track, in which Kristofferson described Christ as a sandals-wearing hippie, and, despite the subject matter, pop radio gave it enough play to get it into the bottom of the charts for a few weeks. But the LP quickly peaked in the charts and started to fade, not helped by the second single, the medium-tempo rocker "Jesse Younger," which made no impression. (Meanwhile, Brenda Lee had no trouble locating the album's best song; she covered "Nobody Wins" and established herself in country music by taking it into the country top five.) Finally, four months after the album's release, Monument issued a third single, the slow-paced statement of faith that closed the LP, "Why Me." (Actually, a disc jockey had started playing the song, which Monument hadn't even wanted on the album. Though sometimes described as a spoof, "Why Me" sincerely reflects a religious experience, according to Kristofferson.) It quickly entered the country and pop charts, hitting number one in country in July 1973, and peaking in the pop Top 20 after a slow climb in November. That turned around the fortunes of Jesus Was a Capricorn, which marched back up the charts and reached number one on the country charts a full year after it had been released. Both album and single went gold, giving Kristofferson his greatest success as a recording artist. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released June 9, 1992 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released February 10, 2017 | Rhino Atlantic

For the follow-up to Moment of Forever, his first set of new original songs in years, Kris Kristofferson decided to record a set of stripped-down new versions of his classic songs. This project, released on Atlantic Records and entitled The Austin Sessions, was a star-studded affair, featuring harmony vocals from Jackson Browne, Steve Earle, Matraca Berg, Vince Gill, Marc Cohn, Alison Krauss, Catie Curtis, and Mark Knopfler. In one sense, it's easy to question why Kristofferson needed to record these songs again, since much of his catalog seems to consist of reinterpretations of these songs, but taken on its own terms, it's a good listen. In a way, Kristofferson's voice -- which never had too much range, even at its peak -- sounds better now that its older; the ragged edges and wear give it more character, which lend character to the songs. Ultimately, The Austin Sessions isn't a major addition to his catalog, but there's enough warmth and personality to these recordings to make it worth a listen for longtime fans. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released February 15, 1972 | Columbia Nashville

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Border Lord was a crucial album for Kris Kristofferson. After five years of scuffling in Nashville, he had broken through in 1970-1971 largely because of a series of song hits recorded by others, though his first two albums, Kristofferson (aka Me and Bobby McGee) and The Silver Tongued Devil and I had enjoyed healthy sales, the latter even spawning a Top 40 pop hit in "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)." But he needed to consolidate that success and even increase it, especially as a recording artist. Yet, as is so often the case, he was afforded precious little time to craft his next work. Border Lord, which, like its predecessors, was an album of all-original compositions, was in record stores only seven months after The Silver Tongued Devil and I, and it was his third such collection in 20 months. He continued to draw upon the dwindling store of songs in his trunk, using the 1967 copyright "Burden of Freedom," as well as "Somebody Nobody Knows," published in 1968, while two others, "Smokey Put the Sweat on Me" and "When She's Wrong," were published by his first publisher, Buckhorn Music, suggesting that they may have been written well before their 1972 copyright dates. New or old, the songs on Border Lord often seemed like retreads of already familiar Kristofferson themes. His interest on lowlife characters, especially fallen women, was so pervasive it practically turned the disc into a concept album. Of the ten songs, six -- "Josie," "Stagger Mountain Tragedy," "Somebody Nobody Knows," "Little Girl Lost," "Smokey Put the Sweat on Me," and "When She's Wrong" -- treated the subject of women in debased conditions, several specifically described as prostitutes. And Kristofferson tended to reuse his allusions and imagery, especially references to the Devil (already the subject of earlier songs such as "To Beat the Devil" and "The Silver-Tongued Devil and I"), who appeared in no less than five songs. The songwriter was almost, but not quite, as interested in the Lord, who was name-checked here and there, and with whose Son Kristofferson identified in the philosophical "Burden of Freedom" ("Lord, help me forgive them, they don't understand"). Among the religious and roadhouse references, the only really new subject was life on the road, which was treated in such new songs as "Border Lord" and "Gettin' By, High and Strange," an indication that this always confessional songwriter was writing about his current life as a touring musician. Though it consisted of material that was noticeably inferior by Kristofferson's standards, the album was full of poetic lines effectively performed by a road-honed singer and a touring band heavily augmented by Nashville pros; even second-rate Kristofferson was pretty good in 1972. Still, Monument Records had difficulty finding an obvious candidate for a hit single, finally settling on "Josie," which must have seemed to have some of the same qualities as "Me and Bobby McGee," but which only struggled into the lower reaches of the pop charts. With that, Border Lord proved a commercial disappointment, slowing the momentum of a career that had been accelerating over the past three years. No doubt Kristofferson and Monument would have been better advised to have waited until he had a collection of songs to match his early hits; instead, he quickly began work on yet another album, Jesus Was a Capricorn, which was out before the end of the year. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Country - Released June 10, 2016 | Legacy Recordings

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Kris Kristofferson in the magazine
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