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George Jones

It Don't Get Any Better Than This – 1998 (MCA)

Reviewed by Jon Johnson

George Jones' latest very nearly lives up to its title. The album finds Jones in firm control of his magnificent voice and tackling top-drawer material that's as powerful and as consistent as anything he's done since his classic Billy Sherrill-produced work of the Seventies. And, love him or loathe him, Sherrill is on board as the new album's engineer.

The album kicks off in patented Possum fashion with "Wild Irish Rose." Written by Bobby Braddock (co-writer of "He Stopped Loving Her Today" and who contributes two other songs), the song is very nearly an update of Jones' 1980 masterpiece, tackling similar subject matter (the death of a tragic figure long in bondage; in this case a homeless veteran) with a similar arrangement, and even containing a spoken word bit. It works on every level.

Almost better is the rendition of George Strait's 1993 hit, "When Did You Stop Loving Me?" It aims at the majesty and sweep of Jones' Seventies salad days...and succeeds. Strait's version is very good, but this is better.

The title track (a summit between Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare and one "Johnny Counterfeit") and the gospel "I Can Live Forever" deserve mention.

It's a striking fact that in his later years Jones has found it in himself to deliver an album every bit as big as his stature. Jones delivered more than anyone could have probably expected.