Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Gram Parsons The Complete Reprise Sessions (2006)

complete repriseAs I’ve studied the “genre” of Americana, read books on the subject and listened to the music, more than anyone else the name of Gram Parsons is mentioned. I’ve come to the conclusion that Parsons is to Americana – country rock, alt-country – what Hank Williams is to “traditional” country music. He was a brilliant songwriter and stellar performer, writing scores of beloved songs and spawning an entirely new genre. He also managed to kill himself with drugs and drink before his 30th birthday.

GP

The three-disc collection begins with Gram Parsons’ first solo album, GP. In the year between first discussing the idea with Keith Richards and actually beginning recording, Parsons made the discovery of the girl singer he’d been looking for, a young woman named Emmylou Harris. At long last, with producer Rik Grech and backed by Elvis Presley’s touring band (including James Burton, Glen D. Hardin, and Ronnie Tutt), recording finally began.

The album that resulted from those sessions remains a magnificent slice of what they called “country rock” in those days; in listening, it’s hard to believe this wasn’t always as pure country as country can get. Parsons himself says he doesn’t understand why people have to sub-catagorize music; if it’s good, it’s good. And this album is good. With songs as diverse as “Streets of Baltimore” and “We’ll Sweep Out The Ashes in the Morning,” as well as Parsons’ own songs, sung in Parsons’ sweet tenor with Emmylou’s distinctive soprano, it can’t help but be a constant joy.

The re-issue here comes with seven bonus tracks, including rare interviews and live performances of “Sin City” and “Love Hurts.” An amazing album, doubly astounding when considering that Parsons was only 25 years old at the time.

Grievous Angel

Parsons followed up his beautiful debut solo album with the equally stunning Grievous Angel, an album which deserves a place alongside other great country albums. Parsons wrote nearly every song on Grievous Angel, throwing in the lament “Love Hurts,” as well as Tom T. Hall’s “I Can’t Dance” and the Louvin Brothers’ “Cash on the Barrelhead.” Of course, a great deal of amazing country music was being recorded at this time under the heading of “country rock,” and in that arena Parsons was in grand company, as well.

Again with duet-mate Emmylou Harris, each song is finely crafted, a superlative study in the exact way duets should be performed. Harris and Parsons were an exquisite pair, unmatched in any genre of music before or since, their voices perfectly suited as they wove together on such songs as “Hearts on Fire” and the heart-wrenching “In My Hour of Darkness,” one of the most amazing songs I think I’ve ever heard.

I admit despite having known the Burritos and the Byrds, as well as the name of Gram Parsons, for years, I’d never listened to these two albums before, and I’ve been blown away. There are three bonus tracks on this disc, including one instrumental and two interviews.

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March 1, 2013 - Posted by | Gram Parsons The Complete Reprise Sessions |

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