The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection (Legacy)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 23, 2016
Like the other 11 originals on Kris Kristofferson's surnamed 1970 bow, "Me and Bobby McGee" departs from the Dylan-isms of the day with zero pretension. Had Janis Joplin herself not plucked its harpoon from the Brownsville-born author's dirty red bandanna, the freedom-fighter folk anthem might have had to settle for a country music standard instead alongside LP mates "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and closer "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down." Corralled alongside peer Kristofferson takeaways "For the Good Times" and "Best of All Possible Worlds," they all cut the cool, cruel, and increasingly self-serious commentary of the times (they are a-changing) with a plainspoken pathos foreign sometimes even to the tearful, beer-full genre that prompted the military-issue Texan in the first place. June's The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection heaps over 100 other Kristofferson copyrights on 11 studio albums spanning 1970-81, then almost 100 more via three live discs, an extras gather-all, and prize early demos that may be the single best hour herein. This sum total only racks up some two dozen co-writes and less than that in covers. Kristofferson's Great American Songbook croaks vast on 16 CDs. "He believed he sounded like a 'frog,'" notes Monument owner/producer/arranger Fred Foster in the booklet. Like Sony Legacy's Leonard Cohen box set, the material's poetic license mutes most vocal indiscretions. Flat notes fall away in the face of successor The Silver Tongued Devil and I introducing bar hymn "Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again"), though the succeeding Border Lord – debut of KK's own Sundance Kid, Austin's late guitar royalist Stephen Bruton – gets too stoned. Peak high Jesus Was a Capricorn from 1972 swings the pendulum back the other way from Spooky Lady's Sideshow ("I May Smoke Too Much"), featuring a cameo from future spouse Rita Coolidge. One of three duet LPs the couple cut is included, after which follows Kristofferson's best vocal performance (Who's to Bless... And Who's to Blame) and outlaw cred (Surreal Thing, starring "If You Don't Like Hank Williams"). Divorce ode To the Bone crackles prior to a trio of rousing live summations, four Willie Nelson duets on the bonus disc, and publishing audition "Born to Die Alone," Kristofferson rambling like a rolling stone but singing like a prince.