Phases and Stages
Willie Nelson's Phases and Stages was released one year prior to Wainwright's Unrequited and takes a somewhat similar artistic approach. It is clearly a concept album with two distinct, but closely related, sides.
I chanced upon this album while browsing the dusty racks at Boomerangs, the new consignment shop on Brunswick, and I was immediately moved by the cover art. On the front, we see Willie Nelson, all red-lit and intent, fretting his guitar. On the back, another shot of Willie, much less forgiving. We focus on the lines around his common eyes, the strange shape of his angry mouth.
Willie tells us that Side A represents the woman's story with songs like "Washing the Dishes" and the agonizing "Pretend I Never Existed." Side B tells the man's story. We have "Bloody Mary Morning" and "I Still Can't Believe You're Gone." Both sides are punctuated by the gentle, whiskey-eyed refrain:
Phases and stages
Circles and cycles and scenes that we've all seen before
Let me tell you some more
After this, I moved on to Melanie.