http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/f9595a79cfb64d5a06533cd08f40e1f8431ac517.jpg The Complete Reprise Sessions

Gram Parsons

The Complete Reprise Sessions

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4.5 0
June 6, 2006

"In the early Seventies, when many people thought rock and country went together like cod and ice cream, Gram Parsons was proving them wrong with the melodic blend he liked to call ""cosmic American music."" As he said, ""I think pure country includes rock & roll — I don't think you have to call it country rock."" Parsons went to Nashville to play the Grand Ole Opry and went to France to hang around with Keith Richards. Onstage, he liked to wear a Nudie suit — one side sported a cross, the other marijuana leaves.

When Parsons died at age twenty-six in 1973, his friends stole his coffin, brought it out to the Joshua Tree desert and set it on fire. Parsons left behind a huge legacy but little music: basically, one great Byrds country album (1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo), a couple of albums with the Flying Burrito Brothers and two exquisite solo albums — light on twang, heavy on heartbreak — 1973's GP and 1974's Grievous Angel.

What made those two discs so special wasn't just Parsons' gift for turning a lonely phrase. He had recruited members of Elvis Presley's touring band and hired an unknown young woman by the name of Emmylou Harris. Although she was ostensibly singing backing vocals, song after song seemed like a lovelorn duet. Their intertwined harmonies sounded like they were getting as close as possible, just so they could twist the knife in each other's hearts. When they sang ""Love Hurts,"" you believed them.

Since GP and Grievous Angel have been repackaged many times, most economically on a single CD, what distinguishes this three-disc collection? The first two discs have the two albums, larded with excerpts from an uninformative Parsons interview. It's the third disc that has the unreleased treasures: alternate vocal takes for fifteen songs, from ""Streets of Baltimore"" to ""In My Hour of Darkness."" On these scratch vocals, you can hear Parsons and Harris finding their way inside each song, sometimes singing a bit more tentatively, other times with a greater sense of wonder at how their voices meld. None of these outtakes will make you hear any of Parsons' music in a new way, but all of these songs are worth hearing a second time."

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Money For Nothing”

    Dire Straits | 1984

    Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

    More Song Stories entries »