Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 16, 2005
My Very Special Guests: Legacy Edition (Epic/Legacy)
Through the years, George Jones has been a most prolific duet partner, from his early work with Melba Montgomery to his hits with Tammy Wynette and latter-day special appearances with the likes of Patty Loveless and Mark Chesnutt. My Very Special Guests, initially released in 1979, featured the expected (Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson), along with some surprises (Dr. Hook, James Taylor, Pops and Mavis Staples, Elvis Costello). The Legacy Edition grows the album's original 10 tracks to 37 over two CDs, adding Jones singing with Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, Shelby Lynne, David Allan Coe, and Ralph Stanley among many others. The Seventies production of Billy Sherrill on the original album tracks sounds more than a little cheesy now, but thankfully the rest, recorded from 1977-1997, cover a range of styles and instrumentation that adds up to an entertaining listen. Jones reprises some hits ("A Good Year for the Roses" with Alan Jackson, "The Race Is On" with Travis Tritt, "The Love Bug" with Vince Gill), but he also tackles styles associated with a singing partner like Cash's "I Got Stripes" and Buck Owens' "Love's Gonna Live Here." Over the years, country duets have tended toward novelties, and there are a couple here, but Jones' intensity and versatility demonstrate why he's still considered country music's greatest living singer.