Open main menu

The Silver Tongued Devil and I

The Silver Tongued Devil and I is the second album by Kris Kristofferson, released in 1971 on Monument Records.

The Silver Tongued Devil and I
KristoffersonTheSilverTonguedDevilandI.jpg
Studio album by
Kris Kristofferson
Released1971
GenreCountry
Length32:49
LabelMonument
ProducerFred Foster
Kris Kristofferson chronology
Kristofferson
(1970)
The Silver Tongued Devil and I
(1971)
Border Lord
(1972)
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
Allmusic5/5 stars [1]
Christgau's Record GuideC–[2]
The Village VoiceC–[3]

BackgroundEdit

Although his debut album did not sell in high quantities, Kristofferson became the hottest new songwriter in country music in the early seventies. A posthumously released version of “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin topped the U.S. singles chart, while another Kristofferson composition, “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” reached number 8 on the pop charts the previous year for Sammi Smith. Ray Price scored a number one country hit with a string-laden “For the Good Times,” and the song also made it to number 11 on the pop charts. “For the Good Times” would win the Academy of Country Music’s Song of the Year in 1970, while the Country Music Association would bestow the same award on “Sunday Morning Coming Down," the first time a writer won Song of the Year from both institutions for two different songs in the same year. During this period it was commonplace to find at least one Kristofferson cut on an album released by a country artist; Waylon Jennings included no fewer than four of his songs on his 1971 LP The Taker/Tulsa. Kristofferson was held with the kind reverence by his fellow country singers and songwriters that rivalled Bob Dylan in the mid-sixties. Tom T. Hall commented that Kristofferson could “tell a story in one line that most of us can in five,” while Bobby Bare, who scored a country hit with Kristofferson’s “Come Sundown,” observed “The writers before Kris were mostly making up crap as they went along.”[4] In his 1988 memoir fellow Highwayman Willie Nelson called Kristofferson “one of the best songwriters of all time. He shows more soul blowing his nose than the ordinary person does at his honeymoon dance.”[5]

Recording and compositionEdit

Kristofferson's second Monument release was again produced by Fred Foster and includes songs that had already been recorded by other artists, such as "The Taker" (Waylon Jennings in 1971) and "Jody and the Kid" (Roy Drusky in 1968 and Roger Miller in 1970). Musically, The Silver Tongued Devil and I veers between a pop-country and a soft-rock sound, featuring a mix of understated acoustic and electric backing delivered with a loose feel, with occasional string accompaniment sweetening the more sentimental numbers.[6] As noted by William Ruhlmann in his AllMusic review of the LP, “In his newly written material, Kristofferson continued to examine the lives of society's outcasts, but the anti-establishment tone of some of Kristofferson was gone along with much of the wry humor, and in their place were touches of morbidity and sentimentality.” Love and relationships remain pivotal themes on his second album, with “The Taker” and the title track painting a cynical picture of the ways men treated women, while the tender “Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” describes a lover in somewhat nostalgic terms, using images drawn from nature and references to inter-personal intimacy. Music critic David Hickey marvelled at “the long, perfectly metrical tightly structured quarter note lines of 12 and 16 syllables, double the standard country-line length. They are so tight and clear that it is like having another rhythmic instrument in the band…[7]

Other songs on Kristofferson's second album pay tribute to friends and heroes. "The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)" contains some of his most incisive and analytical lyrics which brilliantly nail the flawed and contradictory natures of the artists he had mixed with[7], and the spoken introduction includes several of the artists who inspired the song. Two of those mentioned, Johnny Cash and Dennis Hopper, later performed the song on The Johnny Cash Show. Others include Donnie Fritts, Kristofferson's keyboardist, Bobby Neuwirth, and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Jerry Jeff Walker, also mentioned, didn't take kindly to Kristofferson's portrayal and mimics the spoken words before the song "Pissin' in the Wind" from the 1975 Ridin' High album. In the documentary Harry Dean Stanton, Partly Fiction Kristofferson says that the song was inspired by Harry Dean Stanton. In his book Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville, Michael Striessguth writes of the LP, “Young fans of the album connected tracks such as “The Pilgrim (Chapter 33)” and “Breakdown (A Long Way from Home)” with a general theme about the border between conformity and outlaw life.”[8] However, the singer later reflected:

I know at the time, I was just trying to put together my best songs in a way that all made sense. It was like I had stepped onto a train or something, and it was going. And I was just goung along, trying to stay ahead of it! Trying to do what I’d been doing for four years or whatever, trying to put together music that made sense and just keep doing things instinctually, and I’m glad it turned out as good as it did.[8]

"Epitaph (Black and Blue)", co-written with Fritts, is a brief, mournful remembrance of Janis Joplin, who died on October 4, 1970. In 2016 the singer explained to Graeme Thomson of Uncut:

Janis having a hit with “Me And Bobby McGee” changed everything. I think it probably got me in the movies, too, because Dennis Hopper loved that song so much and he cast me in The Last Movie. Everything just seemed to fall into place. From then on it was all a big blur. The only problem I had was whether my band were going to show up for work or not! “Epitaph” was written when Janis died. I hadn’t been able to listen to her singing “Bobby McGee” since it happened. I finally played it in the publisher’s office, there was no one else there so I kept playing it over and over to get used to it, so I wouldn’t break up. Donnie Fritts came in, we started fooling around with a piano, and we wrote and recorded “Epitaph” that night. It’s the kind of song you write because you have to, not because you want to.

Kristofferson also recorded the Bobby Bare-Billy Joe Shaver-penned “Good Christian Soldier,” thereby showing “a willingness to help fellow writers, in particular those who had paid their dues alongside him.” [7]

ReceptionEdit

The Silver Tongued Devil and I reached the Top 20 on the pop chart and the Top five on the country chart. AllMusic states that the album marked Kristoffreson’s “transition from being a successful songwriter to a successful recording artist.” At the time of its release, Dave Hickey raved in Country Music magazine, “There has never been, and probably never will be a better songwriter album.”[8]

Track listingEdit

All songs by Kris Kristofferson except as noted

  1. "The Silver Tongued Devil and I" – 4:18
  2. "Jody and the Kid" – 3:06
  3. "Billy Dee" – 2:57
  4. "Good Christian Soldier" (Bobby Bare, Billy Joe Shaver) – 3:22
  5. "Breakdown (A Long Way from Home)" – 2:44
  6. "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" – 3:47
  7. "The Taker" (Kristofferson, Shel Silverstein) – 3:16
  8. "When I Loved Her" – 3:03
  9. "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33" – 3:12
  10. "Epitaph (Black and Blue)" (Donnie Fritts, Kristofferson) – 3:23

PersonnelEdit

Additional personnelEdit

  • Fred Foster – producer
  • Gene Eichelberger – engineer
  • Tommy Strong – engineer
  • Mort Thomasson – engineer

ChartsEdit

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
Country Albums 4
Pop Albums 21

Singles - Billboard (North America)

Year Single Chart Position
"Loving Her Was Easier" Country Singles 4
"Loving Her Was Easier" Pop Singles 26

In pop cultureEdit

A copy of the album appears in the 1976 Martin Scorsese film Taxi Driver, which also quotes a phrase from "The Pilgrim, Chapter 33": "He's a prophet, he's a pusher, partly truth and partly fiction, a walking contradiction." Kristofferson appeared in Scorsese's previous film Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

Some view this as a de facto soundtrack for Kristofferson's first film, "Cisco Pike", which features many songs from the album.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Ruhlmann, William. The Silver Tongued Devil and I at AllMusic
  2. ^ Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: K". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved February 28, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
  3. ^ Christgau, Robert (October 14, 1971). "Consumer Guide (19)". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  4. ^ Miller, Stephen 2008, p. 90.
  5. ^ Nelson, Willie; Shrake, Bud 1988, p. 27.
  6. ^ Miller, Stephen 2008, p. 102.
  7. ^ a b c Miller, Stephen 2008, p. 101.
  8. ^ a b c Striessguth, Michael 2013, p. 89.