This compilation is an excellent selction of the works of Gram Parsons, moving from The International Submarine Band to 'Sweetheart of the Radio'-era Byrds and ending with his solo classics 'GP' & 'Return of the Grievous Angel' with The Fallen Angels backing... As with many Rhino re-releases/compilations (Husker Du's 'Everything Falls Apart', Captain Beefheart's 'Safe as Milk')the packaging, liner notes and selections are excellent...The cover captures Gram in THAT suit- and is better than the cheap covers of the double Burritos set and GP/Return..CD's...More rarities & live tracks would have been nice-and the need for more collected Gram-after last year's Burrito's collection confuses...Still, this would be a great place to start-any chance of giving it a UK release? (think of it as an equivalent to Neil Young's 'Decade' compilation)...The tracks new to me- 'Drug Store truck drivin'man', 'Brand new heartache' & 'The Angels rejoiced' are a joy...Any record with 'Blue Eyes','100 Years from Now', 'Hot Burrito's 1 & 2','Juanita', 'Love Hurts' & 'In My Hour of Darkness' is a must have...And as Gram is highly influential at present (see Alt Country,New West etc.)there is a need for divine collections like this. The angels rejoiced indeed!!!
Gram Parsons was always going to burn out rather than fade away, and when he did the sensational manner and events surrounding his demise, and his reputation as a dilettante playboy, threatened to overshadow his musical vision and legacy. There's no doubt that he changed the face of popular music, particularly at the country end of the spectrum, and if you harbour any doubt of this, then this double CD is the place to put your doubts to rest.
Disc one begins with half a dozen examples of his work with the International Submarine Band, mostly singles from the album Safe At Home, made for Lee Hazlewood's LHI label, released in 1967, and one previously unheard rehearsal take from the album sessions. Already his template of "Cosmic American Music" was in place, crucially adding a strong helping of deeply unfashionable country music to a hybrid of southern soul, R&B, gospel and rock. This was the year of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, Strawberry Fields Forever, A Whiter Shade Of Pale, I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night, We Love You, Purple Haze and Abba Zaba; and Gram was singing Merle Haggard, Hank Williams and Bobby Bare.
Shortly afterwards he had joined and completely transformed the Byrds, who had reduced to a trio at the time of their last album and were in need of direction. Their last single had been a middle of the road cover of Carole King's Goin' Back, but with Gram on board they soon released a country version of You Ain't Going Nowhere and followed with the ground-breaking country album, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Much derided at the time it is now acknowledged as a great classic. By the time the album came out, Gram had already moved on, and because of an injunction since he was still under contract to Lee Hazlewood most of his lead vocals were replaced on the released version. Two of the three that survived are represented here, the sublime Hickory Wind, co-written by Gram, and You're Still On My Mind. They recorded sixty takes of George Jones' You're Still On My Mind, before choosing Take One as the master.
Also included are the original masters with Gram's vocals on (I Like) The Christian Life, his own One Hundred Years From Now and the southern soul song written by William Bell, You Don't Miss Your Water (Till The Well Runs Dry), all obviously Gram's choices for the album, though replaced on the record by Roger McGuinn, who sounded especially embarrassed on the Louvin Brothers tune, The Christian Life. Its sentiment sat awkwardly with his involvement with the Subud religion that had led to his name change from Jim the year before. Gram's version, on the other hand, is sung with absolute conviction. His contributions to this album alone would afford him a place in rock history, but he was to carve out a bigger name for himself with his next band, the Flying Burrito Brothers (in which he enlisted former Byrd member Chris Hillman and Sneaky Pete Kleinow who had also guested with the Byrds); and his two solo flawless albums, GP and Grievous Angel.
Incredibly, Burritos songs like Wheels and Christine's Tune (Devil In Disguise), with its buzz-saw pedal steel, now considered standards, were never released as singles, though Hot Burrito No. 1 was the flipside of the non-album single The Train Song (not included). They are among eight selections from the eleven-track 1969 Burritos debut album The Gilded Palace Of Sin rightly included, along with four from its inferior 1970 sequel, Burrito Deluxe. By this time Gram was fully embracing the rock lifestyle and hanging out with the Rolling Stones, even getting first dibs on the song Wild Horses, which appeared on Burrito Deluxe some months before Sticky Fingers. A third album was abandoned in 1970 when Gram was fired from the band although some rehearsal tracks subsequently appeared on a compilation called Close Up The Honky Tonks, and two of the best re-surface here: Merle Haggard's Sing Me Back Home and the Bee-Gees' To Love Somebody.
The second disc is devoted almost entirely to his solo repertoire found on GP and Grievous Angel, albums no one should be without, especially since both feature Emmylou Harris providing the perfect foil with her duet vocals. Many of the players on these records were to feature in her own Hot Band after Gram's passing, when she carried the flame for his music, including musical director Glen D Hardin and guitarist James Burton, both fresh from a stint in Elvis Presley's band. It is worth noting, though, that the song Return Of The Grievous Angel appears in a remix prepared for a 1982 British single. Additionally there are three live recordings made with his touring band the Fallen Angels and Emmylou, including a nod to his old band the Byrds with Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man, a song he had written with Roger McGuinn. The collection is completed with three outtakes from Grievous Angel which are among the most sublime recordings he and Emmylou ever made: Brand New Heartache, Sleepless Nights and The Angels Rejoiced Last Night. Fabulous.
Although some of the selections are relatively rare, only one track is previously unreleased, a factor to take into account for those whose collection already includes some of this invaluable material, but a beautifully compiled bargain for those whose doesn't.