(Eagle Entertainment, 60 mins)
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
If ever there was an entertainer who defied that old show
biz axiom that suggests its better to leave your audience wanting more, it’s
almost certainly Willie Nelson. It seems
that practically every month, virtual store shelves are welcoming a new Willie
release. Fortunately, over-saturation
has yet to sink in, which makes this cheery DVD, taken from a 1985 television
special, another worthy addition to Willy’s repertoire.
Despite the lapse of nearly 25 years, the release
illustrates just how timeless and driven Willie’s remained over the years. In
fact, in comparing today’s Willie Nelson stadium shows to these performances in
an intimate club setting, there’s virtually no change that’s detectable in
either attitude or approach. Willie
makes it all about delivering the music without pretense, a fact that’s affirmed
in these extraordinary duets with his guest, the late Ray Charles. That’s also evident in the fleeting rehearsal
scenes where the two share some good-natured joshing. (“We played chess in
Ray’s room last night,” he comments, eliciting laughter from both the crowd and
Ray himself. “And he won! Next time we’re going to turn the lights
on.”) However, when the two exchange
vocals for the touching “Seven Spanish Angels” and “Georgia on my Mind,” Nelson
is the one driven to excel, turning in superior performances that show him
fully capable of keeping up with the master.
Naturally, Nelson’s standards are also well represented –
“On the Road Again,” “Always on my Mind,” “To All the Girls I Loved Before” and
“Whiskey River,” all delivered with that casual grace that’s become Nelson’s
stock in trade. So too, a brief visit to
Willie’s hometown of Abbott, Texas shows how his humble roots have transformed
him into America’s most beloved country crooner.
Special Features: none.