Despite the difficulty of summarizing Willie Nelson's work, Columbia did a fine job of excerpting his first 13 albums for the label with 1981's "Greatest Hits." The 20-track 2-LP set, expanded to 23 tracks on this reissued CD (adding "All of Me" "Remember Me" and "Midnight Rider"), features a broadly picked set of Nelson's offerings, including chart topping singles, live takes, Tin Pan alley standards, honky-tonk two-steps, duets, and remakes of earlier RCA material. It's a surprisingly fulfilling trip through Nelson's eclectic catalog, programmed for musical, rather than chronological, continuity. The recitation of hits, and well selected album tracks (including Jimmy Buffett's "Railroad Lady" and Lefty Frizzell's "Look What Thoughts Will Do"), flesh out a rich musical picture.
Nelson's Columbia albums largely stand as self-contained works, each with its own theme and purpose. Taken as either a series or in anthology, they form an eclectic and original musical tapestry. "Greatest Hits" successfully sums up a broad slice of Nelson's albums. For an overview, "Greatest Hits," is a fine introduction.