CD Review of The Grand Tour by George Jones
Recommended if you like
Randy Travis, Johnny Paycheck, Gram Parsons
American Beat
George Jones:
The Grand Tour

Reviewed by Will Harris


tep right up, come on in, and bask in one of the best albums of George Jones’ career. The early 1970s found quite a few country artists turning out career-defining releases, but few could match Jones, who managed to release three of them over the course of three consecutive years: A Picture of Me (Without You) (1972), Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Bad As Losing You) (1973), and The Grand Tour (1974). It’s nothing short of a crying shame that the first two records are currently out of print, but, thanks to American Beat, at least you can now delve into The Grand Tour. Jones had already been collaborating with producer Billy Sherrill for quite some time prior to this album, but this was definitely where the duo hit its stride, with Sherrill taking his gift of blending strings, pedal steel, and heavenly background harmonies and surrounding Jones with just the right amount of each.

The title track, which leads off the record, sets the stage for what kind of tear-in-my-beer songs you can expect, offering a tour of what feels like the emptiest house in the world: “As you leave, you’ll see the nursery / Oh, she left me without mercy / Taking nothing but our baby and my heart.” Damn, that’s harsh. While nothing else on the album plumbs quite the same emotional depths of those lines, things never really get happy-go-lucky, either; on the very next track, Jones is bidding adieu to a different damsel, and come the song after that, he’s informed a former paramour to “Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through).” Thankfully, Jones manages to sneak at least a few heartening sentiments into The Grand Tour, such as his take on Johnny Paycheck’s “Once You’ve Had the Best.” Even with that song, however, it’s apparent that the woman he’s calling “the best” has a few faults, since he opens by singing, “I'm so glad to have you back within these arms of mine,” then later concedes that “one mistake don't mean you've failed the test.”

You may be getting the impression that The Grand Tour isn’t exactly the happiest of albums, but given that it was recorded as Jones’s marriage to Tammy Wynette was in a tailspin, we should probably thank our lucky stars that we ended up with any upbeat numbers at all. Fortunately, “The Weatherman” offers considerable bounce (even if the title character predicts stormy weather, causing Jones to admit that “the forecast for this love of ours don’t look much better”), while the twangy closing number, “Our Private Life,” indicates that Jones knows it’s better to leave you with a smile on your face rather than a tear running down your cheek. Good thing, too, since the song that immediately precedes it, “Who Will I Be Loving Now,” is almost as sad as the title track!

No one ever said that sad automatically equals bad, of course, and even though it’s chock full of tear-jerking numbers, The Grand Tour still sits neck and neck with 1980’s I Am What I Am – a.k.a. the one with “He Stopped Loving Her Today” on it – as the definitive George Jones album. Now that American Beat has brought it back into print at a reasonable price, there’s no reason any country music fan should be without it.

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