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Waylon Jennings

Waylon Live: The Expanded Edition – 2003 (RCA/BMG Heritage)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

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CDs by Waylon Jennings

Well, better late than never. A year-and-a-half after his death from diabetes-related causes, Waylon Jennings is more marketable than he's been in two decades. Hot on the heels of this past spring's "Lonesome, On'ry, and Mean" tribute (which featured the likes of Grammy winners Dave Alvin and Norah Jones, plus punk rockers John Doe and Henry Rollins) comes another expanded version of Jennings' classic 1976 live album.

"Waylon Live" was country music's closest equivalent to The Who's 1970 release "Live at Leeds," both in terms of its original economical glimpse at one of the industry's most exciting live acts and in its later expanded incarnations; first doubling, then later quadrupling the length of the original album for the benefit of the lucrative reissue market.

Recorded over three nights in Dallas and Austin in 1974, this is probably the most complete glimpse we'll ever have of Jennings at the height of his powers; backed by what was then country music's hottest band (including steel guitarist Ralph Mooney) and tackling marathon sets which changed nightly in those more freewheeling days. Particularly welcome are previously unheard live renditions of several of Jennings' early hits which weren't included on the first two versions, including "Amanda," "Anita You're Dreaming" and "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line," as well as two Wynn Stewart classics, "Donna On My Mind" and "Big Big Love."

If a single criticism can be leveled, it's that "The Expanded Edition" is, perhaps, too much of a good thing. The first two versions of the album were capable of being taken in in one sitting. Once a utilitarian 39 minutes or so in length, but now clocking in at two-and-a-half hours, the latest edition of "Waylon Live" asks an awful lot of the listener, though perhaps that's perfectly in keeping with the album's roots in the '70s; an era when acts didn't think twice about releasing two, three, and even four-record live sets.