photo: Rick Diamond
by: Stephen L. Betts
The 80th birthday of songwriter, actor and country-music icon Kris Kristofferson will be celebrated next month with the release of The Complete Monument & Columbia Album Collection, a 16-CD deluxe box set from Sony Music’s Legacy Recordings. Due June 10th, the collection will consist of 11 of Kristofferson’s studio albums spanning the entire decade of the Seventies. At the same time he was recording his own material, Kristofferson’s massive song catalog was mined for hits by artists ranging from Janis Joplin (“Me and Bobby McGee”) to Ray Price (“For the Good Times”) and beyond.
All of the albums in the collection, released from 1970 through 1981, will be individually packaged in facsimile sleeves reproducing the original album artwork. Five additional albums in the set will spotlight rare and unreleased live and studio recordings encompassing Kristofferson’s years recording for the Monument and Columbia labels, with three concert recordings (two of them previously unreleased) from 1970-1972 and two full discs of rarities – non-LP singles, studio outtakes, previously unavailable demos – and more.
The package will also include a deluxe booklet featuring essays and liner notes penned especially for the project, including an introduction to Kristofferson contributed by his fellow Country Music Hall of Fame member Fred Foster, the founder of Monument Records who signed the Texas native and former Army pilot to a songwriting contract at Combine Music and a recording pact with the Monument label. Producer/musician Don Was contributes an aesthetic appreciation titled “Kris Kristofferson True American Hero,” and the set also features an insightful essay on Kristofferson’s artistry penned by longtime Rolling Stone contributor Mikal Gilmore.
One week after the boxed set is issued, the Grammy-winning legend will release a double album, The Cedar Creek Sessions, 25 songs recorded over a three-day period in the summer of 2014. The set includes stripped-down versions of some of Kristofferson’s most revered tunes, including “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” a dark, meditative tune he penned while living in a tenement and going through a divorce. Johnny Cash would go on to record it in 1970, winning Kristofferson CMA Song of the Year honors for it.
In March, the Nashville tribute concert, “The Life and Songs of Kris Kristofferson,” featured performances by Willie Nelson, Reba, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris and more.
The Complete Monument & Columbia Album Collection:
Kristofferson (Monument, 1970)
The Silver Tongued Devil and I (Monument, 1971)
Border Lord (Monument, 1972)
Jesus Was a Capricorn (Monument, 1972)
Spooky Lady’s Sideshow (Monument, 1974)
Breakaway—Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge (Monument, 1974)
Who’s to Bless…and Who’s to Blame (Monument, 1975)
Surreal Thing (Monument, 1976)
Easter Island (Monument/Columbia, 1978)
Shake Hands With the Devil (Monument/Columbia, 1979)
To the Bone (Monument/Columbia, 1981)
Live at The Big Sur Folk Festival (recorded 1970, previously unreleased)
The WPLJ-FM Broadcast (recorded 1972, previously unreleased)
Live at the Philharmonic (recorded 1972/released 1992)
Extras (previously released non-LP singles, outtakes and appearances)
Demos (previously unreleased)