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When What Goes Around Comes Around was released in late 1979, Waylon Jennings was riding a hot streak of seven number one albums in a row. This didn't reach the top spot only because it was shut out by the phenomenal crossover success of Kenny Rogers' Kenny, so it sat at number two for 14 weeks -- so, even if it didn't really reach the top of the charts, it came close enough to count. The generally accepted conventional wisdom about Jennings' late-'70s/early-'80s records is that they pale in comparison to his early-'70s records, which is true on the surface but does albums like What Goes Around a disservice. Yes, the neon-and-laser studded cover of this record is ridiculous, but the music isn't splashy and the album, as a whole, is more cohesive than I've Always Been Crazy, even if it isn't as weighty as Ol' Waylon. Reading between the lines, it's easy to hear Jennings getting a little weary under the hot spotlight of stardom -- there's the storming opener of Rodney Crowell's "I Ain't Living Long Like This," which easily became an anthem for the waning days of outlaw, but there's an underlying sense of sadness that runs through the record, particularly the ballad-heavy second half. That Jennings doesn't contribute many originals -- he just co-writes the silly but charming vaudeville of "It's the World's Gone Crazy (Cotillion)" with Shel Silverstein -- but that doesn't matter because the choice of songs is strong, displaying that Waylon still hadn't lost his expert ear for songs that suited his styles. True, it isn't a set of stone-cold classics that compares with Honky Tonk Heroes, but "I Ain't Living Long Like This" is iconic, "Come With Me" is moving, "Another Man's Fool" is a sly barroom number, and his take on Mickey Newbury's "If You See Her" is beautiful. Since Waylon's first-rate work is so good and so bountiful, it's easy to overlook the relatively modest pleasures of a record like this, but only a fool would dismiss it out of hand, because there's a lot of good music here -- more than enough to justify his continued hot streak.
Various Artists
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