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Gram Parsons
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  • GP,
  • Grievous Angel,


    Gram Parsons
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  • Flying Burrito Brothers,
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    Gram Parsons

    GP 8 ( 1973 )
    Still Feeling Blue / We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning / A Song For You / Streets Of Baltimore / She / That's All I Took / The New Soft Shoe / Kiss The Children / Cry One More Time / How Much I've Lied / Big Mouth Blues

    Hanging out with Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones had taken its toll on Gram. He was down, and nearly out, his nerves shot by alcohol and his career drifting. Chris Hillman, former band-mate in both The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers conspired to introduce Gram to Emmylou Harris. There was an instant spark when they sang together, and it gave Gram a renewed sense of conviction - leading ultimately to the recording of 'GP' and its follow-up, 'Grievous Angel'. Gram Parsons had been born into money. So, when Warners turned down his request of hiring three members of the Elvis Presley touring band, he simply paid for their session fees himself. It's pertinent to remember, Gram had no real public profile and had sold a negligible quantity of records. Being born into money gave him license to almost do as he pleased. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds once remarked that when Gram joined as David Crosby's replacement 'it was almost like Mick Jagger had joined The Byrds!'. But, Gram was bitter. He'd played a pivotal role through his work with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers in starting 'Country-Rock' only to see the likes of The Eagles reap the commercial fortunes he felt should have been his. 'GP' sounds very accomplished musically thanks to the team of top session players Gram had recruited. The real sparks come from the vocals of both Gram and Emmylou, and of course, the songs themselves. Whether the quiver and frailty in some of Grams vocals here really was down to his alcohol abuse, or for other reason - it gives these songs, especially the ballad performances, a huge emotionally resonating quality.

    'Still Feeling Blue' makes good use of Byron Berline's fiddle playing as well as featuring attractive Pedal Steel work. It's a fast-paced song, very celebratory in musical feeling and with Emmylou joining Gram in the chorus parts. 'We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning' features slightly wayward Parsons vocals - and it becomes very easy to believe listening to this that his alcohol abuse was part of the reason. Emmylou joins him here throughout the song, pretty much singing co-lead. In fact, she sings far better on this song than Gram himself, but when they do sing together, it sounds pretty nice. A far better song than 'We'll Sweep Out The Ashes' arrives with Grams own 'A Song For You'. This is where his quivering, frail voice works to best effect, very tender and emotional. Emmylou sings harmony, and the whole song is utterly gorgeous. 'Streets Of Baltimore' is one of several covers here, and perfectly well done but lacks the extra sparkle of Grams own compositions. 'She' is another spine-chilling ballad, this time with a stupendous Parsons vocal full of emotion. The lyrics are evocative with mentions of 'delta sun' and 'she sure could sing' over the top of beautifully understated, perfectly appropriate musical parts. 'That's All It Took' is the kind of hokey country tune Elvis Presley might have performed. It's not very entertaining, although perfectly well performed. 'The New Soft Shoe' is another Parsons original, and sounds like many of his songs, totally otherworldy and beautiful - more affecting vocals here in particular. 'Kiss The Children' opens with some entertaining fiddle playing, great little pure country guitar parts and is a fun, less serious song. 'Cry One More Time' is a little blues, rather strained and breaking the mood of the album a little. 'How Much I've Lied' contains more accomplished playing, the closing 'Big Mouth Blues' a little funky country blues, although like 'Cry One More Time' doesn't sound at all matched to some of the other material here, the Gram Parsons originals in particular.

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    Readers Comments

    Sara Temps saratemps@ntlworld.com
    "Kiss the Children" is a little less serious than "The New Soft Shoe"? It's about a man saying goodbye to his girlfriend before he committs suicide, for crying out loud!

    Tom Syversen SYVERSEN@nortel.com
    I actually see "Kiss the Children" as more of Gram reflecting on his dad, who had committed suicide just after sending his wife and the kids to FLA for X-mas. A piece from "Fallen Angel" mentions that Coon Dog had left a tape recording with only "I love you Gram" on it.


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    Grievous Angel 9 ( 1974 )
    Return Of The Grievous Angel / Hearts On Fire / I Can't Dance / Brass Buttons / $1000 Wedding / Cash On The Barrelhead-Hickory Wind / Love Hurts / Ooh Las Vegas / In My Hour Of Darkness

    If 'GP' failed in places with some of the cover material, the cover material here on 'Grievous Angel' are amongst the highlights of the set, more of which later. We open with a Parsons tune the soft, beautifully sung 'Return Of The Grievous Angel'. Two of the cover versions follow, one of which at least is wonderful. 'Hearts On Fire' repeats the trick of matching Grams frail, honest sounding vocals to Emmylou's gorgeous harmonies. Vocal performances full of genuine soul and emotion, and absolutely wonderful to listen to. 'I Can't Dance' is a more guitar led rocking song but sounds better than similar attempts at diversification that were present on 'GP' still being performed with a pure country heart. 'Brass Buttons' is a Parsons original and totally beautiful, a classic composition that proves absolutely how well Parsons could write. This soft ballad is followed by another even better one with the drop dead, spine chillingly gorgeous '$1000 Wedding'. Grams vocals here are totally assured, but still soft, tender and emotional. Another evocative set of story-telling lyrics really capture a mood and place images in your mind. Besides, the music is beautifully performed and the song beautifully sung.

    'Cash On The Barrelhead' is twinned in a medley with 'Hickory Wind' a song first heard on The Byrds 'Sweetheart Of The Rodeo' record. Now, there is nothing wrong with a little medley, especially when both parts of the medley are so well performed. But, the fake audience applause and concert atmosphere is grating a little. Still, a few more gems to follow and close the record, which apart from this 'Cash On The Barrelhead' medley is nearly totally gorgeous from beginning to end. 'Love Hurts' is almost enough to make a man break down in tears - and it's rarely been sung or performed better than it is here by Gram and Emmylou. 'Ooh Las Vegas' is hugely entertaining with funky bass and guitar lines and a celebratory atmosphere captured very well indeed. Even here when Emmylou joins Gram for some harmony parts it still sounds drop dead gorgeous, although this certainly isn't a ballad! One thing that strikes you listening to 'Grievous Angel' in particular is how many songs sound like all-time classic songs, and then looking at the writing credits, were written by Gram himself! 'In My Hour Of Darkness' was actually co-written by Gram with Emmylou. And, it's a total classic song! It's even performed beautifully as well, it's almost sick! Talent bursting out all over the place, and Gram wasn't even in the best of health during these recordings. There are a few lines from 'In My Hour Of Darkness' that become a little prayer to me in times of need, as the song and lyrics suggest. It's a beautiful song, a beautiful record, and it's a crying shame he'd never live to make another.

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    Readers Comments

    Duke Doyleecqueenrock@yahoo.com
    What an amazing record- "$1000 Wedding" makes me want to cry, not to mention "Love Hurts" and "Hearts On Fire." "In My Hour Of Darkness" goes down as one of the best musical hymns.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    The stones chewed this guy up and spat him back out again but god he made amazing records . love hurts is just awesome and 1000 wedding , hearts on fire and in my hour of darkness are not far behind. The way gram just trails of the notes is just beautiful - one of the best singers ever.


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    this page last updated 28/11/07


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