Picks and Pans Review: 40 Greatest Hits

updated 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/08/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Hank Williams

Few figures in popular music have equaled the impact Williams had as both performer and composer. Once you get past Chuck Berry, Duke Ellington, Stevie Wonder and the Beatles, in fact, it's hard to think of anyone (Buddy Holly, Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, maybe). As a singer, Williams, who died in 1953 at age 29, established the basis for his rockabilly successors and was a major early figure in the separate country-to-pop crossover movement. Among the songs he wrote or co-wrote are many still widely performed today: I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love With You); Half as Much; Move It on Over; A Mansion on the Hill; I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry; Cold, Cold Heart; Hey, Good Lookin'; Honky Tonk Blues; Jambalaya; Kaw-Liga; I Saw the Light; and Your Cheatin' Heart. This two-record set includes all those marvelous tunes and 28 others. Williams' band provided just basic support. His singing style was as twangy as a plucked rubber band, and he always sounded as if someone were pinching his nostrils shut, but he packed a tremendous amount of life into his music. You don't have to be a cultural historian to appreciate this package either. Williams' genius created songs that were fun, yet subtle and pointed: This album is the musical equivalent of the collected works of Mark Twain. (Polygram)

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