05/31/1982 at 01:00 AM EDT
Gene Autry; Spade Cooley; Flatt & Scruggs; Lefty Frizzell; the Sons of the Pioneers; Bob Wills
Columbia Records inaugurates a spin-off label with these six LPs by some of the most popular and/ or formative figures in country music. The material runs from Jan. 11, 1935 (Autry's version of Tumbling Tumbleweeds) to April 5, 1959 (two Flatt & Scruggs tunes). Stylistically, it goes from the commercial, pre-rhinestone cowboy pop of Cooley, with supersmooth vocalist Tex Williams, to the jazz-influenced Western swing of Wills' band. Most of it is irresistible, though the recordings are often tinny and dull-toned and some tracks used were alternate takes. (Most of the songs have been issued previously, on 78s if not LPs.) The songs are not always the artists' best material. The Sons of the Pioneers album doesn't include Cool Water, Autry's is without Have I Told You Lately That I Love You, and Wills' lacks San Antonio Rose. But there is plenty of likable material for new country music fans and collectors: for example, Autry's Don't Fence Me In and the Sons' Send Him Home to Me (with Roy Rogers just part of a vocal trio). The albums, sold individually, are worth at least one wahoo! apiece.