Red Distribution // 2004 // 103 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Lacey Worrell (Retired) // February 9th, 2005
"Willie Nelson's career as a legendary country musician, political activist, and humanitarian has made him an American icon."
Covering a staggering breadth of territory -- country, rock, blues, jazz, and even reggae -- Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws & Angels is not just for country music fans. Featuring such diverse performers as Kid Rock, Los Lonely Boys, Merle Haggard, and Bob Dylan, it is a celebration of music in its purest form. Unlike VH-1's Divas Live shows, which are basically a documentation of attempted one-upmanship and posturing, Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws & Angels allows the music, rather than the individual personalities, to carry the show.
Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws & Angels originally aired on the USA Network in mid-2004, following on the heels of two previous concerts that were similar in format. Nelson teams with famous artists to perform a variety of standards of different genres. This DVD also includes a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that showcases sound checks and interaction between some of the featured artists.
The songs and performers included on this collection are as follows:
* "Georgia on a Fast Train," featuring Joe Walsh of The Eagles and country music star Toby Keith
* "Ramblin' Fever," with country music legend Merle Haggard; Toby Keith and Joe Walsh remain onstage for guitar accompaniment
* "You Win Again," featuring legendary folk singer Bob Dylan
* "Shotgun Willie Nelson/Shotgun Bobby," a bluesy, mid-tempo jam with sometime rocker/rapper Kid Rock
* "Funny How Time Slips Away," a gospel-tinged number with legendary soul crooner Al Green
* "Rainin' in My Heart" -- Al Green remains onstage to sing this song about loss and pain.
* "One with the Sun," a duet with Alabama native and Nashville darling Shelby Lynne
* "Stormy Weather" -- Lynne stays onstage to sing this jazz standard and has some fun stroking Nelson's almost waist-length hair, much to Nelson's delight.
* "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" -- Acclaimed singer-songwriter Carole King joins Nelson for a more plaintive, up-to-date take on the Shirelles' classic.
* "Still Is Still Moving to Me" -- Jamaican-born reggae artist Toots Hibbert provides a rollicking change of pace.
* "Midnight Rider" -- Featuring singer-musician Ben Harper, this is a dark, rock-fueled anthem.
* "Pressure Drop" -- Toots Hibbert takes the stage again, with Harper providing background music. This is one of the only songs where Nelson is not present.
* "I'll Never Be Free," a duet featuring country singer LeeAnn Womack
* "Opportunity to Cry," a slow, bluesy jam with the Holmes Brothers that brings the audience to its feet
* "Mama Tried," a fast-paced number showcasing the talents of Merle Haggard and Toby Keith
* "Pancho and Lefty" -- Haggard and Keith remain onstage to perform another number with Nelson.
* "Overtime" -- Lucinda Williams receives a rousing reception from the audience as she joins Nelson to sing her hit song.
* "Cisco Kid" -- Nelson is joined by his protégés, Los Lonely Boys, to sing this rock number.
* "Comes Love," a duet with Rickie Lee Jones; watch how Nelson grins like a boy when Jones does a little dance during the trumpet solo.
* "We Had It All" -- The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards joins Nelson onstage.
* "Trouble in Mind," featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard, Toby Keith, with Lewis taking the lead
* "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," a duet between Jerry Lee Lewis and Kid Rock
* "I'll Fly Away" -- The gospel standard, which was also featured on the best-selling soundtrack for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, is given a distinctly up-tempo interpretation.
* "On the Road Again" -- This closing number includes all the performers; be sure to watch Toots Hibbert closely, for he discovers very early on that he doesn't know all the words to the song but dances along gamely anyway.
Anyone watching this DVD will be impressed with 71-year-old Nelson's humility and grace in sharing the stage with other artists. Let's face it: The man is a living legend, having garnered so many accolades and showing so much originality that one would not deny him a little showboating. The fact that it does not occur to him to do it is what makes his performance so endearing and real. Whether he is singing with a legend like Bob Dylan or with newcomers Los Lonely Boys, he is more than happy to sit back and let the others shine.
There is a real emphasis on musicianship, so Britney Spears fans, be warned: You won't find any scantily clad backup dancers or special effects, only music played by people who play it very well. The entire production is unpretentious, and the diversity in the performers will hold viewers' interest.
The standout performances include the absolutely lovely "Opportunity to Cry" with the Holmes Brothers, the interaction between Kid Rock and Jerry Lee Lewis on "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On," and Toots Hibbert's "Pressure Drop." Hibbert's inclusion has been questioned because of his style, which is so different from that of the other performers, but his reggae-infused performances are a refreshing change of pace on this disc. Kid Rock also proves his right to stand with the greats in his performances. I first saw Kid Rock years ago as a snarky talent show judge on MTV's Spring Break, where he appeared to be nothing more than another smart-mouthed rocker, but his recent duet with Sheryl Crow on "Picture" and his ability to switch from rap to rock to country prove that he is no one-trick pony.
Considering this was a television special, the picture and sound quality are remarkably good, and this DVD will certainly encourage repeated viewings. The behind-the-scenes featurette is difficult to hear, however, as a sound check is going on during much of it. Kid Rock and Al Green appear to share a laugh and a joke, but it is very difficult to make out what they are saying. Fans of the individual artists, however, will appreciate the disc's detailed menu, which enables viewers to watch the entire concert or choose a particular performance.
Whenever so many artists appear in one concert, there are obviously some performances that are stronger than others. As a collection, however, it is some of the best music you will find anywhere. Willie is an unabashed fan and supporter of talented newcomers Los Lonely Boys, which is most likely why he chose to take a back seat during the performance of "Cisco Kid"; however, the song is so loud and Nelson is so minimally showcased that the number sticks out as one of the most awkward.
Given Toby Keith's presence and the big hit he had with Willie Nelson in 2004, "Beer for My Horses," it's a shame that particular song wasn't included. It is an up-tempo number that would have been a nice change of pace from many of the slower songs.
If you're appalled by the current state of popular music and find yourself longing for more substance, check out Willie Nelson and Friends: Outlaws & Angels.
Willie Nelson is commended by the court for his ability to draw together an eclectic mix of performers that make playing and singing music so easy, fun, and enjoyable. Check it out.
Review content copyright © 2005 Lacey Worrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Red Distribution
* Full Frame
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
* Official Site