There are those better qualified than I to tell Gram Parsons' story. But as a fan of the man, I think you should own this record . . . . this is why.
In the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons had helped create a Frankenstein`s Monster — country rock. But his first Warner Brothers album "G.P." paid no allegiance to this style. With an impressive back-up band it was a traditional sounding album, mercifully free of gimmicks like fuzz-tone steel guitar. The songs are of lost or stolen love, crossed only occasionally with an R'n'B beat. But most importantly it featured some of the finest duet singing ever put on record. There is something about the combination of Parson`s frail and not always perfect pitching and Emmylou Harris's pure and true voice. If it should fail to move you — then you have a big problem. I would say that Emmylou Harris`s solo verse on "We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning" matches anything in her excellent solo catalogue.
Of course for the followers of Frankie's Monster in California and the Formula Kings of Nashville, this was much too close to real emotion and sales did not fare well.
On "Return Of The Grevious Angel," Parsons, the co-billed Harris and the soon-to-be Hot Band continued their devastating
duets — most notably "Hearts On Fire" and the much crucified "Love Hurts". But Parsons also returned to the mysterious, almost philosophical tones of his "Sin City" days. The title track "$1000 Wedding" and "In My Hour Of Darkness" have a dense and ominous sound. Gram Parsons died soon after making these tracks.
I`d be the last to romanticise his death, and I wish he had avoided his apparent self-destruction and continued to make music as great as this.
But it`s hard to deny the irony of hearing the beautiful "Hickory Wind" accompanied by the mock-adulation of a phony audience track — a bitter little comment on scant commercial success. It will be doubly ironic if you stop reading this sleeve note and actually buy the record. I promise you will not be disappointed.
- Elvis Costello
P.S. In these cases somebody's favourite is bound to be omitted, but I hope you approve of this re-presentation, with the duets on Side One and the songs and performances which to my mind put Gram Parsons up there with Hank Williams. If you've never heard the man before do seek out his other recordings. – you won't regret it.