Review of George Jones, Still the Same Ole Me

If George’s career had ended in 1979, he would still be regarded as one of the greatest singers in country music history. But 1980′s award winning ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ became his signature song and the biggest hit of his career. I Am What I Am, the album from which it came, remains his best selling studio album. Our review of that album has been unavoidably delayed, but keep reading.
Still on a high after the massive success of I Am What I Am and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’, George’s follow-up record was released in 1982. Although not quite as good as the latter, it sold well and has been certified gold, and continued his run at the top of the charts. The vocals are outstanding, and Billy Sherrill’s production is more restrained than it sometimes was. The material is pretty strong, with some oustanding tracks, although it probably suffers in comparison to its predecessor.
The dramatic opening track ‘Still Doin’ Time’, written by John Moffatt and Michael P Heeney, was George’s first #1 after ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’. A downbeat admission by a man metaphorically paying for his sins by drinking away his life, “Still doing time In a honky tonk prison”. It’s pretty much vintage George Jones, but is the only track to reference alcohol. In real life he was approaching the turning point when with the help of his fourth wife Nancy he was able to stop drinking.
The title track, ‘Same Ole Me’, was the only other single released to promote the album, and reached #5. Featuring the Oak Ridge Boys on harmony vocals, it is an older man’s tribute to long lasting love, although it was written by a young one, winning Paul Overstreet one of his first cuts. George also finally included ‘Someday My Day Will Come’, his single from a few years earlier, which had been left off I Am What I Am, no doubt because of its relatively poor chart performance.
One of my personal favorites here is ‘Good Ones And Bad Ones’, a plaintive survey of women the protagonist has loved, which George later covered in duet with Mark Chesnutt:

A good one will love you for all that she’s worth
A bad one will take you for more
A good one will cherish the key to your heart
And a bad one a key to your door
A good one will love you for richer or poorer
Bad makes bad even worse
A good one will love you till death do you part
And a bad one makes sure you go first

The delicately mournful ‘Couldn’t Love Have Picked A Better Place To Die’ This is my other favorite. This is quintessential sad George Jones, as he bemoans the fading of love with a masterly vocal, comparing his loss to that of “lovers who want to be free”. The Jordanaires provide harmony vocals on this track, and on ‘I Won’t Need You Anymore’, a romantic declaration of eternal love (written by Troy Seals and Max D Barnes), which George elevates with his vocal to something special.
The mid tempo ‘Together Alone’ (another featuring the Jordanaires) takes a sardonic look at a couple with disparate tastes and interests and no apparent common ground (save their eventual side-by-side graves). It’s a rather depressing picture of loveless lives, which he suggests is far from uncommon. Also looking at the grim realities of life is ‘Daddy Come Home’, a melodic song about the impact of divorce on the children involved. The use of a child (in fact his and Tammy’s daughter Georgette, aged nine) to sing the chorus solo makes it feel rather manipulative, but it is the only track I have reservations about on this record.
‘You Can’t Get The Hell Out Of Texas’ is a rare (and enjoyable) venture for George into western swing as he pays light-hearted tribute to his home state as “the hell raising center of the earth”. Also good is the rueful surprise of ‘Girl, You Sure Know How To Say Goodbye’, where she sweetens the blow of leaving him:
You kissed me in a way you never did when love was right
You hypnotized the hurt right out of me
I stood and watched you walk away
Oh honey, and I couldn’t even cry
Girl, you sure know how to say goodbye

It remains one of George’s highest selling albums, being certified gold in 1990. Although sales figures fell, his success continued for the next few years. He only scored one more #1 single, 1983′s ‘I Always Get Lucky with You’, but a string of top 10s, including classic hits like ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes’, kept him commercially relevant all through the pop-influenced years of the early to mid ’80s.
Written by Occasional Hope.

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