Willie Nelson Albums Ranked

Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American musician, actor, and activist. The critical success of the album Shotgun Willie (1973), combined with the critical and commercial success of Red Headed Stranger (1975) and Stardust (1978), made Nelson one of the most recognized artists in country music. He was one of the main figures of outlaw country, a subgenre of country music that developed in the late 1960s as a reaction to the conservative restrictions of the Nashville sound. Nelson has acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and has been involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalization of marijuana. Nelson made his first movie appearance in the 1979 film The Electric Horseman, followed by other appearances in movies and on television. Nelson is a major liberal activist and the co-chair of the advisory board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which is in favor of marijuana legalization. On the environmental front, Nelson owns the bio-diesel brand Willie Nelson Biodiesel, which is made from vegetable oil. Nelson is also the honorary chairman of the advisory board of the Texas Music Project, the official music charity of the state of Texas. Here are all of Willie Nelson albums ranked.

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10. Yesterday’s Wine (1971)

“This concept album tells the story of one man’s life from birth to death in a deeply spiritual and moving way. The songwriting is second to none, and the production values took me by surprise, especially considering that the entire album was written and recorded inside of a week. This is a must for any fans of folk or outlaw country, or anyone who is looking for one of the best concept albums of all time.”

9. Spirit (1996)

“This is, without doubt, one of the most moving and majestic country-based albums of all time. Nelson, clear-eyed and unflinching, quietly addresses love, loss, pain, bitterness, healing and finally grace with little more than his voice, his guitar and a little piano and violin woven in. Forgive me, but there is a Zen-like quality to this record that makes it so much more than the sum of its parts. This could be exhibit A in why it is that for some artists, and some listeners, their albums should be listened to as a whole and not broken up into single bites, or shuffled around electronically into snippets. The songs are powerful and lovely enough to stand alone, of course, but as a whole, this is simply magnificent, moving, haunting music that should be heard, and not merely listened to.”

8. …And Then I Wrote (1962)

“Classic. One hell of a debut. I think this was the first, either way it’s classic must have album. Already he displayed an alternative sort of style in his writing. Very diverse. I recommend this record to anyone that is a fan of great song writing.”

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7. God’s Problem Child (2017)

“This is one of Willie Nelson’s best albums. He is eighty-four years old and his sense of humor is not diminished. I am a lifelong fan of the Grateful Dead and I say you don’t die; you join Jerry. ! really like this album and also his Stardust, Over the Rainbow and his Gershwin albums. His voice is still pleasant. Hey, I’m almost seventy-one and God bless Willie, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart for making these great albums. I’m a big classical, blues, jazz and rock fan, but when I hear good music, I play it! I’m a man after your own heart, Willie! I’m so happy that I woke up still not dead today to write this review and even though I’m legally blind, I still hear you!”

6. Across The Borderline (1993)

“Though it was a recent release(it’s from 1994) because most of the songs are so relevant to the hard times many are enduring now. Tracks like “Don’t Give Up” and “Heartland” are especially poignant, dealing with the job and home loss. Willie’s treatment of two Paul Simon tunes “American Song”(Simon’s lyrics set to an old hymn) and “Graceland” manage to infuse a sense of hope and humor into the inherent angst and weariness these great songs evoke. Surprisingly, or maybe not, given Nelson’s honest, heartfelt approach, this is hardly a downer recording. “

5. Teatro (1998)

“I fell in love with the Subaru Impreza commercial, in which Willie is singing a song with the lines, “You’re my buddy, my pal, my friend…” I started looking for the album that contained this song, so that I could buy it, and found Teatro. I had never heard of any of the other songs on it, but now I like most of them. Emmy Lou’s harmony is superb.”

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4. Shotgun Willie (1973)

“”Shotgun Willie” was released in 1973…it is a fine example of the classic song-writing skills of Willie Nelson…akin to his finer works such as ” Red-Headed Stranger” “Yesterday’s Wine” this album is a pleasure to listen to from start to finish… unlike some other artists who might try and suspend their albums with filler songs, Willie Nelson found his Monticello at this particular point in his long career… This was an instant classic the very moment it was conceived.”

3. Phases And Stages (1974)

“‘Phases and Stages’ is less a concept album than a novel set to music. The story chronicles the aftermath of a broken relationship, and is told, first, from the woman’s point of view, followed by the man’s perspective. Willie succeeds brilliantly in telling a good story while preserving his integrity as a country musician. I can think of few other instances when words and music have been woven together so seamlessly.”

2. Stardust (1978)

“Entertainer Willie Nelson described this deceptively simple album as a tribute to “the music I heard growing up.” Tunes like the title track, “Georgia on My Mind,” “Blue Skies” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” are indeed testimonials to the best of pre-rock and roll, “songbook” era pop music. Even better, Nelson knows how to sell things songs with his plaintive voice, assisted by just a handful of instrumentalists. I think everyone interested in pop music or Americana should own this album”

1. Red Headed Stranger (1975)

“An engaging western story with a perfect blend of tunes. The first seven songs on the album tell the story of the red-headed stranger, the woman he loved but lost, the bay pony–and, of course, the law of the west that “you can’t hang a man for shooting a woman who’s trying to steal his horse.” But, there is more to this album than meets the ear. When the 27-second “Time of the Preacher Theme” slides in to the gospel tune “Just As I Am” with Bobbie Nelson on piano, this themed album takes on a deeper feel.”