Picks and Pans Review: A Horse Called Music

updated 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Willie Nelson

The title is just a bit better than A Turkey Called Music, but that's about the only thing wrong with this basic, solid, welcome-home-Willie country album.

Nelson, as he always does at his best, makes the songs sound lived-in, and they're a reflective batch of tunes at that, full of common sense and convincing feeling. While three of them were written by Nelson, only one, "Is the Better Part Over," is new. "Mr. Record Man" and "I Never Cared for You" date back to the '60s, before Willie became his scraggly, mythical, modern self. The new versions are lively, though, and the songs by other writers are well chosen by producer Fred Foster, who hadn't worked with Nelson for almost 25 years.

"Nothing I Can Do About It Now" is an ingratiating, uptempo lament that Beth Nielson Chapman custom-wrote for Nelson: "I could cry for the time I've wasted/ But that's a waste of time and tears." The song is spiced up by David Briggs's accordionlike synthesizer and garnished appropriately by Chapman's delicate harmony vocal.

There's another appealing Chapman song on the album, "If My World Didn't Have You," as well as the romantic Mike Reid-Kye Fleming tune "There You Are" and the title track, written for Nelson by Wayne Carson, co-writer of "Always on My Mind." The string section backing on a couple of tracks won't be to everyone's taste, and the tune "Spirit" is an odd, The Last of the Mohicans sort of American Indian tale. Willie, though, sounds splendid, like his old resonant self, and maybe even a bit less nasal than usual. If he had added "Back in the Saddle Again" to this album, it would have been totally appropriate. (Columbia)

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