Listening to it now, it’s hard to imagine that Alan Jackson’s debut single, “Blue Blooded Woman”, released all the way back in 1989, failed to become a hit. It has all the hallmarks of the more than 50 Top ten tracks that would come in the years to follow (including 35 that reached the top of the charts). The direct, no-frills delivery, classic country wit, killer guitar hooks and licks and a chorus that would not quit. Maybe it’s time now, now that Jackson has amassed a country music empire, that someone go back and take that tune to the top of the charts. That track stands toe-to-toe/shoulder-to-shoulder with 58 other tracks on this three disc set that goes by all too fast.
The string of hits begins with “Here In The Real World”, which emerged in 1990 and began Jackson’s chart reign and as good as that track is, it’s nowhere near as great as “Don’t Rock The Jukebox”, a tune that speaks perfectly to that moment in the early ‘90s when rock and country were still sniffing around each other, trying to decide if they could co-exist. They could co-exist, of course, and they didn’t have to be the same and that’s one of the greatest appeals of the music found here: It’s pure country, without apology and without pop compromise.
Jackson continued his reign with “Dallas”, “She’s Got The Rhythm (And I Got The Blues)”, and, of course, the one that gets ‘em all moving for the dance floor, “Chattahoochee”. Jackson’s name appears in the writing credits for virtually all the material that occupies the first disc save for a few covers of classics such as “Mercury Blues” and “Summertime Blues”, and another of the greats, “Gone Country”.
This box augments that string of top charters with three previously unreleased tracks, including a cover of “Seven Bridges Road “ and two co-writes with Randy Travis, “Born Too Late” and “If Tears Could Talk”. They’re good but no match for the main events nor much of a match for the next round, which includes “A House With No Curtains”, “I Don’t Even Know Your Name”, “Tall, Tall Trees” and “Between The Devil And Me”. The yield of chart toppers lessened as Jackson moved into mid-late 1990s but the top tens sure didn’t. Those that didn’t bother the number one position are still songs most artists would have been proud to record and Jackson never loses his mojo throughout.
Three more bonus tracks, including “Seguro Que Hell Yes” and “Wings” are strong showings but they predict the missteps that come to the third set. It’s easy to think that “Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” might have come a little closely on the heels of 9/11 to work in the future and although Jimmy Buffett doesn’t ruin “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere”, he’s no Allan Jackson.
Still, “Small Town Southern Man”, “As She’s Walking Away” (with Zac Brown Band) and “Drive (For Daddy Gene)” rescue us from despair. “Love Is Hard” and “Ain’t Just A Southern Thing” are mostly love or leave material but the collection as a whole is more than fan (or curiosity seeker) could ask for. A booklet filled with photos and testimonials from Jackon’s best peers makes the physical product all the more enjoyable.
Here’s to many more hits from Mr. Jackson.