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:
George Jones and Tammy Wynette – Golden Ring (1976)
My love for the music of George Jones knows no bounds. His voice is one of my all-time favorites, and the consistent quality of his music is pretty damn impressive when you consider just how many songs he recorded over the course of his long career. Tammy Wynette, a country legend herself, plays a huge role in ol’ George’s career. They were married for several years in the late 60s and early 70s, and they made beautiful music together both during their marriage and well after it ended in a nasty divorce.
1976’s Golden Ring is my favorite record they made together, and the title track is arguably the best George & Tammy duet you’ll ever hear. “Golden Ring,” a huge hit at the time, is just one of those perfect country songs—like Jones’ own “The Grand Tour” and Wynette’s own “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”—and tells a complete, heartbreaking story in just three minutes. The golden ring in question, of course, is the couple in the story’s wedding ring, and we follow them from their happiest days to their most tragic. One of my favorite little moments from this one has always been the piano that randomly plays the “Here Come the Bride” melody for just a moment; it’s such a minor detail, but it helps paint the picture of how in love the couple was at the time.
Golden Ring houses another hit: the lovely “Near You.” Wynette’s voice stands out on this one, though Jones sounds great as ever; there’s just something about the feeling she gets across and the inflection in her voice that always sticks out to me.
“If You Don’t, Somebody Else Will” also stands out, primarily for its uptempo arrangement. So much of Golden Ring is slow that it’s nice when things change up a bit, even if it just lasts one song.
The rest of the album is outstanding as well. “Cryin’ Time,” “Tattletale Eyes,” and “Keep the Change” all stand out, though there’s nothing else quite as strong as the one-two punch of “Golden Ring” and “Near You.”
If you like mid-70s country, you need this album in your collection. Golden Ring is a solid listen from start to finish, and it’s the last album Jones and Wynette recorded together when they were both still at their absolute peak. Just try not to think about how they got divorced right before it actually came out—or, I guess if you just like everyone to be sad all the time, think about it all you like. Your mileage may vary.