‘Strait’ Box Set Skimpy on Soul, Content : GEORGE STRAIT: “Strait Out of the Box”, MCA/Nashville * * 1/2

There are Strait fans who on demand can recite from memory a complete list of the Texan’s nearly three-dozen No. 1 country hits and who swear he’s the greatest country singer ever. This four-disc package is already well on its way to becoming the biggest-selling country box set ever. Even Garth Brooks tips his hat at the mention of Strait.

So it’s amazing that Strait is such a colorless singer. He’s got a pleasant, appealing style that mirrors his own understated personality. But he doesn’t put a vocal stamp on a song the way the greats of country music have over the years.

Every song on this set that caught my ear also made me think of another singer who could have brought more feeling and bite to it. I thought of Lefty Frizzell (“I Heard You Calling My Name”), John Anderson (“Haven’t You Heard”), George Jones (“Let’s Fall to Pieces,” “The Fireman”), Garth Brooks (“I Cross My Heart”) and time after time Merle Haggard (from “Famous Last Words of a Fool” to “Unwound”).

The surprise of the package (which at 3 1/2 hours is skimpy for a four-disc set) is a pairing with Frank Sinatra on “Fly Me to the Moon,” a misguided match that was apparently made for, but wisely left off of, one of the Sinatra “Duets” albums.


Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e x cellent).