http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/1411267b214e8de14ae43ee4d3674883a9926c21.jpg Without a Song

Willie Nelson

Without a Song

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 1 0
February 16, 1984

Without a Song, Willie Nelson's latest adventure in standards land, is a tame safari. In ten slow and sentimental ballads, Nelson circles his prey laconically, drawing a bead on love with his slow, Southern nasality but never shooting to kill. The familiar vocal hesitations and throat-catchings are all in place, but straightforward readings of these mostly less-than-spectacular tunes are tossed off by Nelson with little energy.

The basic ingredients for a good record are here — believable material and a tried-and-true team of players, including the English brothers' backbeat, Grady Martin's guitar pleasantries and guest vocalizing by heartthrob Julio Iglesias — but even these don't quite jell. Limp arrangements reminiscent of a bar mitzvah band's cursory thumping are underscored by Bee Spears' one-note-in-four bass and producer Booker T. Jones' omnipresent funeral-parlor organ. The magic that suffused "Stardust" and "Somewhere over the Rainbow" — two great cuts from previous albums — was created by mixing offbeat instruments, elements of bluegrass and swinging country, and enthusiasm. These qualities are sorely missing here. The Julio Iglesias collaboration is an almost throwaway rendering of "As Time Goes By." Even this fails to rouse Nelson from his lethargy. Don't play it again, Willie.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “American Girl”

    Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

    It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

    More Song Stories entries »