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Ghost Canyon

Title - Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein Plus [8CD Box]
Artist - Bobby Bare

For those not in the know, no artist recorded more Shel Silverstein songs than veteran country singer Bobby Bare.

Indeed, his 1972 cover of Silverstein's bittersweet 'Sylvia's Mother' launched a professional relationship that led to an enduring friendship.

Lullabys, Legends And Lies (1974) remains an exercise in pure imagination, establishing Bare as a major album artist and yielded 'Marie Laveau,' Bare's first chart-topping single.

Furthermore, among Silverstein's wry sagas about winners, losers, and lonely all-night cafés, you'll discover charming children's songs and touching, affectionate love ballads. A complicated man, that Silverstein.

If most people associate the late Shel Silverstein with his children's literature, others remember his cartoons and graphic travelogues for Playboy.

By contrast, relatively few recognize this Chicago native as a prolific songwriter, penning such hits as Johnny Cash's 'A Boy Named Sue,' Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show's 'The Cover Of Rolling Stone,' Tompall Glaser's 'Another Log On The Fire,' and Loretta Lynn's 'One's On The Waycorn.'

During the late '70s, Silverstein shifted his creative focus to playwriting and children's books, but he continued crafting clever songs specifically for Bare.

By the mid-'80s, Bare had recorded more than 100 Silverstein originals.

Out now, Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein, Plus is the first comprehensive collection of this material, and is accompanied by a quite wondrous 128-page hardcover book.

Complete with eight (8) CDs (with a total playing time of 476:39 minutes), which include 137 tracks, 25 of them previously unissued, six (6) albums appear complete, including integral songs by other writers.

The long-unheard Great American Saturday Night includes three songs missing from a recent independent label release.

The Box-Set contains an LP-sized, lavishly illustrated 128-page hardcover book that contains song lyrics and a discography.

In a conversation with Hank Davis, Bare recalls his years working with Silverstein, and Dave Samuelson documents the songwriter's multiple creative pursuits.

That all said, there is also to be found a disclaimer within the liner notes from author Dave Samuelson: “Newcomers to the Bare/Silverstein catalog should note several of these recordings contain language that may surprise if not shock more sensitive ears."

"Always the iconoclast, Silverstein generally directed his ribald, often dark humor to a predominantly male audience. His world straddled both the Playboy philosophy and the bohemian Beat Generation of the 1950s."

Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends And Lies
1. 'Lullabys, Legends And Lies'
2. 'Paul'
3. 'Marie Laveau'
4. 'Daddy What If'
5. 'The Wonderful Soup Stone'
6. 'The Winner'
7. 'In The Hills Of Shiloh'
8. 'She's My Ever Lovin' Machine'
9. 'The Mermaid'
10. 'Rest Awhile'
11. 'Bottomless Well'
12. 'True Story'
13. 'Sure Hit Songwriters Pen'
14. 'Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe'

Taking it from the top, in 1973, Bare commissioned Silverstein to write the songs for a concept album of story songs. The album was a great one and (to my mind) clearly showcases the fact that Bare was probably the greatest interpreter of Silverstein songs next to Dr. Hook.

As for the album itself, well, Bare has always been able to project the feel of a culture that I personally grew up in and miss terribly. So to hear him sing these songs back from the day here, and listen to the words as they peel away 60 years, whilst I get to see, hear, feel, and even taste the total experience of my youth, it just doesn't get any better than that.

'Rosalies Good Eats Cafe' was in every little cow town, railroad town and truck stop of my Wyoming growing up and I still cannot listen to 'Daddy What If' (featuring young Bobby, Jr. making his debut) without a tear coming to my eye.

Add to that 'Paul,' a tale about Paul Bunyan's sexual appetite (!) and it truly is a quite marvelous collection of real country - not "new country" - songs that, and without a lot of added "twang", resonates with me today as much as it did back then.

Bare's in great form throughout, spinning yarns with a smile and a hint that there's some truth to be found amid the fanciful stories. Silverstein found other singers to connect with his material, but never anyone who connected so fully, or for so long, as Bare.

Hard Time Hungrys plus
1. 'Hard Time Hungrys'
2. '(Taxes On) The Farmer Feeds Us All'
3. 'Alimony'
4. 'Two For A Dollar'
5. 'Back Home In Huntsville Again'
6. 'Daddy's Been Around The House Too Long'
7. 'Warm And Free'
8. 'Able-Bodied Man'
9. '$100,000 In Pennies'
10. 'Bottles And Boxes'
11. 'Truck Driver, Truck Driver'
12. 'The Unemployment Line'
13. 'Too Much Blues'
14. 'Things To Sell'
15. 'Door To Door'
16. 'Poor Blues'
16. 'It's Good To Know The Sun's Still Shinin' Somewhere'
17. 'Lead Me Back Home'

Now, fair warning, this album will bring a tear to your eye, especially with 'Two For A Dollar,' which paints the picture of the dispersal of treasured family furniture and effects through the impersonal reality of an auction sale.

It takes you into the hard world of prison with 'Back Home In Huntsville Again' and shows the family dislocation caused when 'Daddy's Been Around The House Too Long'.

Bit it will also have you smiling with 'Warm and Free' as we learn how to make the best of an opportunity. '$100,000 In Pennies' teaches us with a smile that even a successful crime can have problems whereas 'Bottles And Boxes (contributed by Roger Murrah) is a classic in the vein of 'Streets of London'.

Originally culminating on the 'Unemployment Line,' it takes true genius to use a single subject to evoke a range of emotions. This album achieves this eloquently and, furthermore, when you've listened to it a few times, you will soon realize that you have laughed, cried and loved - all based on the fact that for some, life is hard or just plain unfair.

But it is done so well that that you will feel lifted by the experience of hearing it, and, if you have a soul, a lot closer to those people in society who are doing it the hard way.

This was the album that introduced me to Silverstein and Bare and from the very off, it was a massive revelation for me. If you have any poetry in your soul, you must hear it!

Singin' In The Kitchen plus
1. 'Singin' In The Kitchen'
2. 'The Monkey And The Elephant'
3. 'Lovin' You Anyway'
4. 'Where'd I Come From'
5. 'Ricky Ticky Song'
6. 'The Giving Tree'
7. 'You Are'
8. 'The Unicorn'
9. 'Cloudy Sky'
10. 'She Thinks I Can'
11. 'Scarlet Ribbons'
12. 'See That Bluebird'
13. 'Sylvia's Mother'
14. 'You Know Who'
15. 'Staying Here With Me'
16. 'The Wheel'
17. 'Love And Flowers'
18. 'The Stranger'
19. 'Chester'
20. 'Bald Headed Woman'
21. 'Baby Wants To Boogie'
22. 'Brian Hennessey'
23. 'Climbin' The Ladder And Climbin' The Walls'
24. 'Yes, Mr. Rodgers'

I mean, what more could you want - as a devoted Bobby Bare musical follower - than an album showcasing Bare and his family singing and enjoying themselves, quite literally, "in the kitchen"? [OK, for the record, Bare's loose, live-in-the-studio vibe makes the listener believe that they're really hearing the Bare family singing around the kitchen table!].

Bare's voice (from 1974) is mellow, often funny and always moving and we gleefully listen along. And as we laugh at 'The Unicorn' (a classic Irish Rovers song), we imagine our own kitchen with 'Where'd I Come From' and be utterly moved by the good, honest and openly symbolic song 'The Giving Tree.'

Bare's wife, Jeannie, is a competent vocalist, and Bare brings a measure of solid professionalism to the effort by performing a couple of songs solo, reinforcing the fact that this really is such a cute album.

This concept kids album is all Siverstein songs (bar two) and is a prime example of a supreme wordsmith and an absolute joy to listen to from start to finish, of course.

Simply put, when you're feeling down, this is the album to play!

Stray Bare Tracks
1. 'Sweet Larraine'
2. 'Lemme Be Something'
3. 'Vince'
4. 'Make It Pretty For Me Baby'
5. 'Vegas'
6. 'It Ain't Easy'
7. 'February Snow'
8. 'Sing For The Song'
9. 'From The Jungle To The Zoo'
10. 'Too Many Nights Alone'
11. 'Greasy Grit Gravy'
12. 'They Held Me Down'
13. 'This Guitar Is For Sale'
14. 'There's An 18 Wheeler In Front Of The Ritz Hotel'
15. 'More Like The Movies'
16. 'Hattie Halle And Big Dupree'

Bare recorded songs by other writers during the latter half of the 1970s—1977, which brought 'Me And McDill,' a salute to Bob McDill — but he still found a way to fit Silverstein songs onto his other concept albums (1975’s Cowboys and Daddys) and kept him by his side when he took a stab at crossover success with Bare, his 1978 debut for Columbia.

This quite magnificent Box-Set collects these tunes, as well as several unreleased cuts, as a pair of 'Stray Bare Tracks' discs, collections that have more in common with the middle-aged crazies of Down & Dirty and Drunk & Crazy than the redneck hippie dreamer of Lullabys, Legends and Lies.

The contrast between these two phases is startling. The first three records are intimate and sweet, sometimes hinting at earthier concerns, but their good intentions triumph over their devilish instincts.

That’s not the case with the rest of the material on the box. Once Bare and Silverstein grew comfortable with each other, they indulged in each other’s strengths and excesses as only a pair of close friends can.

Appropriately, as the pair’s familiarity increased, the music turned bolder, even burly, with the productions accumulating some slick period flair.

Bare’s records wound up pitched halfway between swaggering outlaw and smooth Urban Cowboy country-pop crossover, a transition that suited Silverstein’s narrowing of vision.

Of the unheard tracks on this first disc, the stand out, for me, is '18 Wheeler Parked at the Ritz Hotel,' which offers a vivid snapshot of Silverstein's way with words.

"This song is a great example of Shel [Silverstein] being such a visual writer," Bare says. "Most of his songs were like movies to me. That's why I recorded so many of them. I never saw them as poems; they were like watching a movie. I could see faces on all the characters. They were that clear to me."

Bare tells motion picture-quality stories, too, when explaining the song's title and its creation.

"The Ritz hotel was based on a Holiday Inn in Nashville," Bare says. "It's not there anymore, and it wasn't one of their fancier properties. Both Shel and I had stayed there. When I was 28 I had my tonsils out and I actually recovered at this 'Ritz Hotel'.

"I remember the recording session pretty well," he continues. "There were a lot of pretty girls there. Pretty girls in Nashville are usually aspiring singers, so we put them to work and got them to sing on the session. I doubt they expected that to happen when they came by to watch."

More Stray Bare Tracks
1. 'Nobody Wants To Go Home'
2. 'Childhood Hero'
3. 'A Week On The Town (Gone As A Goose)'
4. 'Yard Full Of Rusty Cars'
5. 'When She Cries'
6. 'Cold Day In Hell'
7. 'So Good To So Bad'
8. 'The Diet Song' (Version 1)
9. 'When Hippies Get Older'
10. 'Jennifer Johnson And Me'
11. 'Me And Jimmie Rodgers'
12. 'You Jumped Off The Gravy Train'
13. 'Time'
14. 'Drinkin' From The Bottle'
15. 'Someplace To Come When It Rains'
16. 'Stacy Brown Got Two'
17. 'The Jogger'
18. 'Three-Legged Man'
19. 'Rodeo Queen'
20. 'The Diet Song' (Version 2)

Where he once devoted himself to myths and finding the mysteries in everyday lives, he now busied himself with mundanities of modern life: telling dirty jokes, sucking on a glass of wine at TGI Fridays, and cursing diets.

He still could summon some genuine pathos—as late as 1983, Bare cut the hard barroom weeper 'Drinkin’ from the Bottle' — but these '(More) Stray Tracks' also show how Silverstein sometimes like to push Bare right up to the edge and the singer happily went along.

With its chorus of “Does anybody here want to f**k or fight,” the title track off 'Great American Saturday Night' itself is testament to this fact!

The Complete Great American Saturday Night
1. 'Great American Saturday Night'
2. 'Red-Neck Hippie Romance'
3. 'Kids Today'
4. 'Dirty Ol' Me'
5. 'The Diet Song'
6. 'Paintin' Her Fingernails'
7. 'Goodnight Little Houseplant'
8. 'I Can't Sleep'
9. 'The Living Legend'
10. 'They Won't Let Us Show It At The Beach'
11. 'The Day All The Yes Men Said No'
12. 'Time'
13. 'Whiplash Will'
14. 'Me And Jimmie Rodgers'
15. 'Someone To Talk To'
16. 'Great American Saturday Night'

As I'm sure you all know by now, weirdly, this album was not supposed to see the light of day because at the time Bobby was leaving RCA for Columbia records and so RCA just kept it stored in their vault until now.

That said, RCA did release a 45 single of the track 'Redneck Hippie Romance,' but that aside, this is another of his concept albums recorded in 1978 about the happenings on any given Saturday Night.

This long-unheard album now includes three songs missing from a recent independent label release (including the excellent 'They Held Me Down') and highlights a man in mighty fine vocal and lyrical form.

Much in the same humorous vein as Bare and Silverstein's other collaborations, but with a little more salty language than what we've heard before, the tracks contain audience applauding/cheering - albeit all having been recorded in a studio.

With an overall sound a bit more raw and not as polished as a studio album, to my ear it's highly reminiscent of Bare's live 'Down and Dirty' album released a couple years later.

Track highlights include 'Redneck Hippie Romance,' 'The Diet,' 'The Living Legend,' 'They Won't Let Us Show It At The Beach,' and the classic 'Me and Jimmie Rodgers.'

Down & Dirty
1. 'Good For Nothing Blues (Funky Water)'
2. 'Numbers'
3. 'Some Days Are Diamonds'
4. 'Tequila Sheila'
5. 'Rock Star's Lament'
6. 'Crazy Again'
7. 'Tecumseh Valley'
8. 'Blind Willie Harper'
9. 'Rough On The Living'
10. 'Down To My Last Come And Get Me'
11. 'Quaaludes Again'
12. 'Goin' Back To Texas'
13. 'I Can't Watch The Movie Anymore'

One of the greatest live recordings ever made, by 1979, Bare had been recording for 25 years, yet when he strapped on a Fender Telecaster and recorded live in the studio a rough and rowdy album with a bunch of Nashville's finest musicians, he was set to hit new highs in an illustrious career.

Down & Dirty is both a glorious last hurrah for the "outlaw movement and a touchstone for the "new country" of bands in the spotlight at that time, such as Big & Rich, Gretchen Wilson etc.

Bare's band rocks and rolls, swings and strolls through 13 tracks from a rejuvenated Bare. The humor is in large supply, the poignancy is everywhere, but it's the tune selection that makes this is such a killer record.

For every outrageous Silverstein song ('Numbers,' 'Qualudes Again') there is a tender, sensitive or just plain poetic masterpiece. In the words of Bill Graham, "Bobby Bare is the Bruce Springsteen of country music".

Stand outs include, 'Tecumseh Valley,' written by the legend himself, Townes Van Zandt, 'I Can't Watch The Movie Anymore' written by Jerry Foster and Bill Rice, 'Some Days are Diamonds (Some Days Are Gold)' written by another great, Dick Fellar, both 'Rock Stars Lament' written by Fred Koller, and 'Crazy Again' written by Bob McDill.

Drunk & Crazy
1. 'Drunk And Crazy'
2. 'Food Blues'
3. 'The World's Last Truck Drivin' Man'
4. 'I Can Almost See Houston From Here'
5. 'If That Ain't Love'
6. 'Rock And Roll Hotel'
7. 'This Much Rain'
8. 'Song Of The South'
9. 'Appaloosa Rider'
10. 'Bathroom Tissue Paper Letter'
11. 'Willie Jones'
12. 'Gotta Get Rid Of This Band'
13. 'Drinkin' And Druggin' And Watchin' TV'
14. 'Your Credit Card Won't Get You Into Heaven'
15. 'I've Never Gone To Bed With An Ugly Woman'
16. 'Desperados Waiting For A Train'

Now, for the record (no pun intended), this album is most definitely the "darker side" of Bare's comic wit, as they show through in his lyrics quite like never before.

They are not politically correct either, but for those of us who can take a joke and not get your panties in a wad, it's still pretty damn hilarious, sorry!

That said, lyrics like "Baby I'm sorry I done you like that, I called you a name and I gave you a whack, then I spit in your eye and gave your wrist a twist, but if that ain't love what is?" and "I called up the police, swore that you stole my car, then showed some nekid pictures of you down at the bar, then I pointed out the part of me that you used to kiss and if that ain't love what is?" are a wee bit naughty, I fully admit, but again, it's all meant as a joke by family man Bare.

Like I say, if you understand it's a joke and you take it the way it was intended you'll love it, as you would have done all his other work, on and off from Silverstein.

The highlights for me include the Charlie Daniels song 'Willie Jones,' which also features Charlie Daniels singing along with Bare, and his rendition of Bob McDill's 'Song Of The South' too.

The story of how Bare met Silverstein paints an equally rich picture of a fast friendship.

"One night, I think it was in November during the CMA week, there was a big party out at Harlan Howard's house," Bare recalls. "All the big songwriters were there and Shel was there too. I had met him before through Chet [Atkins]."

"So we were talking and I told Shel I wanted to do a concept album but nobody really got the idea. This was on Saturday night. On Monday morning about 10 AM I got a call from Shel saying 'I've got you an album.'"

"I said, 'When can I hear it?,' and he says 'How about this afternoon?,'" Bare adds. "He was calling from Chicago. And he got on a plane and brought the album with him. He had spent the weekend putting the whole thing together, including the title - Lullabys, Legends and Lies."

"I know one of the songs was 'The Winner,' which I thought was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. I went into the studio and we did three or four of the songs and I told him, 'Yeah, Shel, this is going to work.'"

Sadly, Silverstein died from a heart attack on May 10th, 1999. He was 68 years old.

Bare, an Ohio native, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. His lengthy recording career has included a stint with the Old Dogs, a supergroup which also featured Jerry Reed, Waylon Jennings and Mel Tillis.

'Bobby Bare Sings Shel Silverstein plus' (8-CD Deluxe Box Set) Unwrapping Video!

Official 8CD Box-Set Purchase Link