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Given Gram Parsons’ habit of taking control of the bands he played with (and his disinclination towards staying with them for very long), it was inevitable that he would eventually strike out on his own, and his first solo album, 1973’s G.P., is probably the best realized expression of his musical personality. Working with a crack band of L.A. and Nashville’s finest (including James Burton on guitar, Ronnie Tutt on drums, Byron Berline on fiddle, and Glen D. Hardin on piano), he drew from them a sound that merged breezy confidence with deeply felt Southern soul, and he in turn pulled off some of his most subtle and finely detailed vocal performances; “She” and “A Song for You,” in particular, are masterful examples of passion finding balance with understatement. Parsons also discovered that rare artist with whom he can be said to have genuinely collaborated (rather than played beside), Emmylou Harris; Gram and Harris’ spot-on harmonies and exchanged verses on “We’ll Sweep out the Ashes in the Morning” and “That’s All It Took” are achingly beautiful and instantly established her as one country music’s most gifted vocalists. On G.P., Parsons’ ambitious vision encompassed hard-country weepers, wistful ballads, up-tempo dance tunes, and even horn-driven rhythm and blues. He managed to make them all work, both as individual tunes and as a unified whole. If it falls just short of being his greatest work (an honor that goes to The Flying Burrito Bothers’ The Gilded Palace of Sin) thanks to a couple songs that are a bit too oblique for their own good (“The New Soft Shoe” may be beautiful, but who knows just what it’s supposed to be about), this album remains one that is hauntingly and has only gotten better with the passing years.

Parsons fondness for drugs and high living are said to have been catching up with him while he was recording Grievous Angel, and sadly he wouldn’t live long enough to see it reach record stores, dying from a drug overdose in the fall of 1973. This album is a less ambitious and unified set than his solo debut, but that’s to say that G.P. was a great album while Grievous Angel was instead a very, very good one. Much of the same band that played on his solo debut were brought back for this set, and they perform with the same effortless grace and authority (especially guitarist James Burton and fiddler Byron Berline). If Parsons was slowing down a bit as a songwriter, he still had plenty of gems on hand from more productive days, such as “Brass Buttons” and “Hickory Wind (which wasn’t really recorded live in Northern Quebec; that’s just Gram and the band ripping it up live in the studio, with a handful of friends whooping it up to create honky-tonk atmosphere). He also proved to be a shrewd judge of other folks material as always; Tom T. Hall’s “I Can’t Dance” is a strong barroom rocker, and everyone seems to be having a great time on The Louvin Brothers’s “Cash on the Barrelhead.” As a vocal duo, Parsons and Emmylou Harris only improved on this set, turning in a version of “Love Hurts” so quietly impassioned and delicately beautiful that it’s enough to make you forget Roy Orbison ever recorded it. And while he didn’t plan on it, Parsons could hardly have picked a better closing gesture than “In My Hour of Darkness.” Grievous Angel may not have been the finest work of his career, but one would be hard pressed to name an artist who made an album this strong only a few weeks before their death — or at any time of their life, for that matter.

-Mark Deming, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
G.P. (1973)
GRIEVOUS ANGEL (1973)
320kbps

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3 Comments

  1. both great lps..thankscould you check the link on the first one?

  2. YESSSSSS!these are a few of my favorite albums…absolutely classic.

  3. link’s fine, duder


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