Eyeballin': The Willie Nelson Special featuring Ray Charles
This 1985 TV special was filmed at the Austin Opry House, and finds the two music icons sharing the stage - and a lot of laughs - for part of the proceedings in a 14-song set. Not surprisingly, it's the tunes with both of them side-by-side at the piano, that shine. An emotional "Angel Eyes," epic "Seven Spanish Angels" and rollicking "Mountain Dew" stand out, the ebullient Charles stealing the show and a grinning Nelson all too happy to let him do it. The two also trade verses on "Georgia On My Mind," a Charles standard that Nelson included on Stardust. (Note: this reviewer's 9-year-old daughter, commenting on Willie's braids, said he "looked like a little girl with an old beard"). Oddly, the set list leans away from country for jazzier ("My Window Faces the South") and ballad fare ("There Will Never Be Another You," "Who'll Buy My Memories?", accentuated by sittin'-in guitarist Jackie King). The Family Band sounds oddly restrained and muted even during "On the Road Again" and "Whiskey River" (a set closer here).
And you can tell that this is from a different decade, but not because of the hairstyles in the audience or the neon backdrop. Paul English is playing with actual sticks! Not the definitive Nelson concert by any stretch, The Willie Nelson Special is still a fun, time-capsule chestnut, worth looking at for the Nelson/Charles portion alone.
Eagle Rock, 60 mins., $11.98.
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