http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/575981d22098cf118dfd7a5f1bd7eed5a331bafa.jpg Sleepless Nights

Gram Parsons

Sleepless Nights

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
June 17, 1976

Sleepless Nights has been collected from two sources. Nine of the tracks come from early 1970 sessions in which the Flying Burrito Brothers, led by Gram Parsons, sought to record a nononsense country album, covering such standard fare as "Green, Green, Grass of Home," "Crazy Arms" and "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down." The remaining three songs are from the sessions for Grievous Angel, the final Parsons solo album, spotlighting him and Emmylou Harris in duets of the Everly Brothers' "Brand New Heartache," the gospel-etched "The Angels Rejoiced Last Night" and Bordeleaux Bryant's achingly lovely "Sleepless Nights."

The tracks with Harris, with their superb accompaniment and splendid singing, are the strongest, but the Burritos' tracks form the main body of the work, and with few exceptions the renditions are sluggish and dispirited. The reasons are found in the historical backdrop: Parsons was about to leave the Burritos, a broken and disappointed man. He and fellow Burrito-to-be Chris Hillman had left the Byrds after Sweetheart of the Rodeo, not because the group didn't want to go 100% country but because a new vehicle for Parsons's vision of a synthesis of country, rock and R&B was felt necessary. In a spotty career, the Burritos' first album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, was the only time everything clicked for Parsons. Its commercial failure was something that Parsons never seems to have gotten over. Burrito Deluxe was a very uneven followup, sometimes brilliant ("Cody, Cody," "Older Guys"), other times glaringly amateurish. (How Parsons blew "Wild Horses," which Keith Richard had handed him well in advance of the Stones' version, is something I'll never understand.)

Sleepless Nights, then, as a relatively straightforward country album, was probably intended as a last ditch attempt to save the Burritos by relegating them to the role in which they'd been pigeonholed from the beginning. But the band sounds musically weak, and Parsons himself seems to be inching toward the exit sign. Only one song, "Sing Me Back Home," the story of a prisoner walking down death row, captures the Burritos' original magic. Sleepless Nights isn't recommended to anyone unfamiliar with Parsons's work, but rather for those who lived and died with the Burrito Brothers as they vainly struggled to break new ground in pop music.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    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

    “Wake Up Everybody”

    John Legend and the Roots | 2010

    A Number One record by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes in 1976 (a McFadden- and Whitehead-penned classic sung by Teddy Pendergrass) inspired the title and lead single from Wake Up!, John Legend's tribute album to message music. The more familiar strains of "Wake Up Everybody" also fit his agenda. "It basically sums up, in a very concise way, all the things we were thinking about when we were putting this record together in that it's about justice, doing the right thing and coming together to make the world a better place," he said. Vocalists Common and Melanie Fiona assist Legend on this mission to connect.

    More Song Stories entries »