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Fricke's Picks: The Kristofferson Vaults

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In her new memoir, Just Kids, Patti Smith tells of a night in New York when she saw Kris Kristofferson — an Oxford-educated, ex-Army songwriter struggling to make it in Nashville — sing his tune "Me and Bobby McGee" for Janis Joplin, who soon recorded it. His own first take on Please Don't Tell Me How the Story Ends: The Publishing Demos 1968-72 (Light in the Attic) starts out as Smith surely heard it: gravel-coated baritone and spare acoustic guitar. A budget church organ and chorus soon creep in, and there is full-band action in "Border Lord" and "Slow Down." Kristofferson harmonizes with himself in "Come Sundown" like he's pitching it to the Everly Brothers. But in near-naked tracks like "The Lady's Not for Sale" and "Duvalier's Dream," Kristofferson sounds eerily like a Dixie Leonard Cohen: lonesome, growling and tenderly incisive. Nashville soon got the idea, although Kristofferson sings "Enough for You" ("It's just a shame to know/I'm not enough for you") like he's still on the outside looking in.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

David Fricke

Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke has more than 10,000 albums in his New York apartment. His first record review for the magazine was Frank Zappa's 'Sheik Yerbouti' (RS 290).

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