Written by Fantasma el Rey
The Willie Nelson Special is an hour of Willie at the top of his game in 1985, singing the songs that made him famous and loved by fans around the world. His stage show has no frills or popping pyrotechnics. It’s just 60 minutes of Willie in an intimate setting, making him seem even more down to earth as he presents classic country as it should be, stripped down, focusing on the music and its performers.
The show opens with the rollin’ jump of “On The Road Again” played for a minute over the opening titles and some scenes of Willie and the boys goofing around, playing golf, and shooting pool. Willie and his band are in a quiet, sit-down bar or a very small club and on a low-rise stage putting them right next to their fans. The venue is small and perfect for this type of show, providing good interaction between fan and artist. These are the kind of places I like best; they make it seem as though the show is just for you and the band is approachable, which most times they are. This makes the next selection perfect as Willie slows the show with the beautiful “Always On My Mind” and shows off his quiet Texas crooner vocals on a tune I’ve always loved.
From there the legendary Ray Charles steps up to the piano and shares the spotlight with his friend Willie. Ray opens with a little jam they’ve titled “Ray’s Improvisation,” a good little piece of jazz, and slides right into the slow duets of “Angel Eyes,” “Seven Spanish Angels,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and a tune that hit big for Ray, “Georgia On My Mind.” Closing the duets with Ray, Willie picks up his guitar and the two begin to cut lose on a swingin’ version of the country/bluegrass staple “Mountain Dew.” Willie’s band picks up the pace as Ray lets his fingers fly on the ivories as the two stars reel and rock their way through; both having fun with it.
The Willie and Ray segment is highlighted by a couple of flashes back to rehearsals the night before where it’s just the band, Willie, and Ray working on songs they plan to do. Its fun to see them laughing, having a good time, and really connecting with each other. Willie’s intro of Ray to the stage on show night is awesome as Willie makes a blind joke that really has Ray laughing and showing his wonderful sense of humor. A great segment and one that I’m glad was caught.