By the time 1990 rolled around, the rugged foursome comprising country music’s greatest supergroup had each been to Hell and back. Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash had all danced with their respective substance abuse devils. Willie Nelson, meanwhile, had IRS troubles, forcing him to sell his memories.
Out of this though came two strong quartet albums and a whole lot of war stories for the road. In their prevailing over their respective demons, the group infused life into their signature tunes (individual hits and collective ones) for a rollicking two-and-a-half hour concert at Nassau Coliseum which forms the firm backbone of this new live CD/DVD compilation. Merging humbleness and invincibility, the second coming of the “Million Dollar Quartet” put on their boots and guitars and simply let it rip.
The show’s first half showcases each member’s songs of genius. There’s Kris doing “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down;” Waylon urging mommas not to let their babies grow up to be cowboys; Willie singing about blue eyes crying in the rain; and Johnny providing the one-two punch of “Ring of Fire” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” Each treads on equal footing here – no star outshines the next.
The second half showcases the group’s collective work together, including two standout tracks that merge all four voices brilliantly: “Silver Stallion” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train.” After 35 songs and a final exclamation of “I can’t wait to get on the road again,” the band surely leaves its mark.
While the concert DVD captures the live energy well (it’s a straightforward show without flash), head straight for the bonus features, which features some great off-the-cuff anecdotes from each icon about his fellow three icons. It’s all uncut footage that gets each of the four in their natural element – breezy and wistful.
You’re also treated to live numbers from previous Farm Aid concerts. Be sure to check out the first “Highwayman” performance on Disc 3 as the song’s composer, Jimmy Webb, earnestly fills in for a missing Johnny Cash.
Though Waylon and Johnny haven’t been with us for some time, this is one collection that proves that legacy-wise, this band will keep coming back again, and again, and again, and again.
– Ira Kantor