Pittsburgh Union of Record Geeks electronic

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Gram Parsons- The Complete Reprise Sessions (2006)

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard these records (Gram’s two solo albums, GP and Grievous Angel), a million times. You’re probably used to the old Reprise two-on-one CD. And there’s really no reason for them not to be packaged that way except to take your money. But whatever. Gram Parsons is a legend and a god, and these remastered discs do add clarity to the timeless voices of Gram and Emmylou and the playing of their crackerjack band. The gatefold cover of the GP disc is cool, too, but you probably have the lp already anyway.

Like I said, you probably already know all about these albums, and everything that can be said about them has already been said. A lot of it was probably a little generous in its praise, as these records (I’m sorry) are not the be all and end all of American roots music. They don’t hold a candle to Gram’s best work on The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo or The Flying Burrito Brothers’ The Gilded Palace of Sin, and they have some weak moments.

GP’s leadoff track “Still Feeling Blue” is pure country-rock gold, and “A Song for You” is beautiful, but “She” and “The New Soft Shoe” border on just plain boring; Emmylou’s soaring vocal barely saves country standard “That’s All It Took” from the same fate; and the cover of the J. Geils Band’s (?) “Cry One More Time” and Gram’s own “Big Mouth Blues” fall somewhere between middling and uncomfortable.

Grievous Angel is stronger from beginning to end, even remarkable in places. The leadoff “Return of the Grievous Angel” is one of best songs ever written/sung/played and “$1,000 Wedding” is perhaps Parsons’ most fully realized composition. The Parsons/Harris duet on “Love Hurts” deserves the acclaim it receives. But while Tom T. Hall’s “I Can’t Dance” may have been a barnburner live it doesn’t really fit here, though more than the original “Ooh Las Vegas.”

None of this is to say that either of these albums is anything less than essential, or that I wouldn’t shell out top dollar for anything Gram’s voice appears on.

The third disc of alternate takes is like most discs of alternate takes. It’s clear a lot of the time why these takes were not committed to vinyl, as Gram, Emmy, and the band feel their way through the songs. More than most artists, though, Gram occasionally provides a reward in this format. His voice is such that even a different inflection or emphasis on a word or syllable can add something new to even the most familiar song. Most of all on these takes, though, an accomplished backing band featuring legendary guitarist James Burton stands out on the looser early takes.

The third disc also has two essential outtakes from Grievous Angel, covers of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Sleepless Nights” and The Louvin Brothers’ “The Angels Rejoiced Last Night.” Of course, you may have already had these on a previous high priced Rhino compilation (Grrrr).

But, hey, it’s Gram. It’s worth it.


Post a Comment

<< Home