I confess. Sometimes I find it hard to separate the myth of Gram Parsons from the actual musician. I don’t think there’s any denying the talent of the man. A gifted songwriter to be sure, but at times, the performances don’t match the legend, as happens sometimes when an artist dies at such a young age and so early in their career.
This retrospective has 25 cuts. It compiles everything from their two albums with Parsons, The Gilded Palace of Sin, and Burrito Deluxe, plus a few extras. It’s not a whole lot different than the 1988 compilation Farther Along, except for the addition of four more songs.
Alright, all that said, let’s talk about the songs. Parsons plaintive voice and great feel for anything that might have a gospel edge highlight the tunes. He does an amazing job with songs you wouldn’t associate with a country band. “Do Right Woman” and “Dark End of the Street” are two soul tunes that translate into this genre easily for Parsons. “Sin City” is a well-written morality tale by Parsons and fellow Burrito Chris Hillman.
The first half of this disc is full of wonderful moments like these. Things get a little-less fun in the second half. History says Parsons had somewhat lost interest in the Burritos by the time the second album was being produced, and that’s obvious. Except for a great cover of “Wild Horses,” things tend to be a little dull.
Most of the guitar work to mention from this stuff comes from “Sneeky” Pete Kleinow on pedal steel. That’s especially true on cuts where his sound is overdriven to the point of sounding like it’s flying through your speakers. A good example of that is “Christine’s Tune.” The sound is as big as a freight train, and the licks are right on target.
I guess the mythology of the Burritos may cloud my mind. I’d read so much about them and Parsons that I always expect to hear more great stuff. I think his work with the Byrds on Sweetheart of the Rodeo is as good as a lot of this. Plus, his solo work after wasn’t bad, either.
This disc offers the complete picture as far as the Parsons-led Burritos go. Plus, there’s a nice 12-page essay on Parsons and the band by Robyn Flans. It’s a good way to wrap up a pioneering country/rock band for history’s sake.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Nov. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.