It’s time to shine the Vinyl Spotlight! Every now and then on Paloozapalooza, I like to focus on a random LP from my collection. This week, we have:
Merle Haggard – That’s the Way Love Goes (1983)
When Merle Haggard died back on April 6, his 79th birthday, the music world lost a legend. But instead of focusing on his death, I’ll stick to the task at hand and write about 1983’s That’s the Way Love Goes.
In 1981, Haggard moved to Epic Records (the home of kindred spirit George Jones) and released Big City, one of his biggest successes. That’s the Way Love Goes followed just a few years later, and it’s another home run, packed with slow country ballads that alternate between charming and heartbreaking.
The album kicks off with two top-notch Haggard originals, “What Am I Gonna Do (With the Rest of my Life)” and “(I’m Gonna Paint Me) A Bed of Roses.” The man was really into parentheses at the time, I guess. (Look, I can use ‘em too!) They’re both great songs, and “(I’m Gonna Paint Me) A Bed of Roses” will officially make it so you can hear someone say “Bed of Roses” without getting that awful Bon Jovi song stuck in your head.
“That’s the Way Love Goes” is maybe the best song here, a Lefty Frizzell cover that ranks right up there with classic Haggard ballads as “I’m Always on a Mountain When I Fall” and “Big City.” His voice was always impressive, from his earliest albums with the Stranglers and Bonnie Owens to 2015’s Django and Jimmie with Willie Nelson, but “That’s the Way Love Goes,” he somehow sounds even better than usual.
The next several songs are all solid, but nothing necessarily stands out; it’s early 80s Merle sounding like early 80s Merle, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With “I Think I’ll Stay,” though, things end with a bang. It’s another Haggard original, and even though it follows the same basic formula as the rest of That’s the Way Love Goes, it does have a few small touches that really shine. The little bass drum fill, for instance, where the rest of the band is completely quiet. And then there’s the brief fiddle solo about halfway through that comes out of nowhere.
Haggard made something like 4,000 (give or take) albums over his long career, but if you ever run across this one in the wild, I highly recommend taking it home. It’s a welcome edition to any country collection, and a great example of a country legend doing what he did best.
Listen to That’s the Way Love Goes below …