‘Rebel’ Rod’s Re-visitations – Willie Nelson’s classic “Phases and Stages”
Back in 1974 Willie Nelson was still considered to be all washed up by Nashville standards, but Nashville couldn’t have been more wrong. He had just come off a successful album in “Shotgun Willie” and the man was in a rhythm. “Phases & Stages” not only kept that rhythm completely in time it even upped the tempo.
Nashville’s loss was the world’s gain. I do not believe there has been a better-written concept record about a relationship between a man and a woman than this one.
“Phases and Stages, Circles and Cycles, Scenes that we’ve all seen before. Let me tell you some more.
Washing the dishes, scrubbing the floor, caring for someone who don’t care anymore”
It is a story told by alternating the woman’s point of view, then the man’s point of view. The first two lines in the intro tell us this isn’t going to be a fairy-tale love story. It’s going to be very real in every way. It’s a story that contains infidelity, drinking away the problem, instead of confronting it, only to magnify all of the problems that are completely consuming the relationship.
I truly believe that anyone who listens to this brilliantly written piece of art set to music will absolutely find himself or herself inserted into the story at some point.
I too have been uncannily proficient at screwing up relationships and running away from problems, along with making lousy choices in and during relationships. Willie Nelson was able to capture every minuscule detail so proficiently, there is little to no doubt he didn’t just think this up and write about it. He lived it.
I, along with countless others, have always said there is a very narrow gap separating “real” country music, and believe me, this is as “real” as it gets, and the blues. This wonderfully piece of true “Americana” serves to prove that point.
The blues are about life’s many trials and tribulations. So is this entire record, not just a song or two here and there, but the whole thing.
One would have thought, and I know I did back in 1974, this was his apex. Of this type, I would say that is so. Many would argue “Red Headed Stranger” was better. Not I though. As good as that record is, I believe it lives in the shadow of this one.
True, there are features I love about “Red Headed Stranger” as well. It’s mostly Willie and his guitar, and he carries the entire record nicely performing it almost completely solo, but that sort of performance could not have worked as well telling a story like “Phases and Stages”. Could you imagine this story being told without the wailing pedal steel or without Johnny Gimble and his fiddle? The answer is a resounding, no!
Just dig it out of your collection, or if you shamefully don’t possess this truly classic recording, then do yourself a favor and buy it. NOW!