I underrated the Naked Willie album when it came out a few years back. Dug out Willie Nelson & Family this morning (the recording of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” was made for that album in 1970) and then followed it with Willie’s “un-production” of three of the songs; I’m not sure they’re better without Atkins’ overdubbed horns, strings and backing vocals (the opener, “What Can You Do To Me Now” definitely loses some of it’s strange magic), but it’s a worthwhile project nonetheless. I have no problems with artists revisiting and revising their work as long as they don’t destroy the original in the process (fuck you, George Lucas), even if the resulting work may be only a curio. In the case of Naked Willie, it’s more than that; Nelson’s revisiting allows for a tighter connection between the man who recorded for RCA and the legend he would soon become at Atlantic and Columbia.
I’d love for RCA to put out a compilation that is the originals of the same songs in the same order, call it Well-Dressed Willie, and sell them as a two-fer with a great essay talking about the choices made at the time and the choices made in stripping away what Willie deems fluff. I’d buy it again in a heartbeat.