Monday, September 08, 2008

The Last Of The Gram Parsons Originals - Gram's Solo Albums

Well, there you have it. This is probably the last of my series on the “original” version of Gram Parsons’ songs. This installment focuses on Gram’s solo albums.

The first three songs (1-3) were covered on Gram’s first solo LP, GP, released in 1972. The next three (4-6) were covered on his second solo LP, Grievous Angel, released posthumously in 1974. Songs 7-9 are the original verions of songs Gram and Emmylou recorded as outakes from the Grievous Angel sessions (available on various compilations, including Sleepless Nights). Finally, songs 10-11 are two that Gram played at his 1973 radio show recorded for WLIR in Hempstead, NY.

1. Tompall & The Glaser Brothers - Streets Of Baltimore (buy)
2. Gene Pitney & George Jones - That's All It Took (buy) (An odd pairing here, don't you think?)
3. J. Geils Band - Cry One More Time (buy)
4. Tom T. Hall - I Can't Dance (buy)
5. The Louvin Brothers - Cash On The Barrelhead (buy)
6. The Everly Brothers - Love Hurts (buy)
7. The Everly Brothers - Brand New Heartache (buy)
8. The Everly Brothers - Sleepless Nights (buy) (Great tune!)
9. The Louvin Brothers - The Angels Rejoiced Last Night (buy)
10. Merle Haggard - California Cottonfields (buy)
11. Larry Williams - Bony Maronie (buy)

So have we learned anything from this exercise? I guess we can conclude that Gram Parsons--the avatar of country rock, if you will--had four basic influences: (1) the honky tonk country of Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Buck Owens, (2) the close harmonies of country-pop brother groups like the Everlys and the Louvins, (3) the sixties soul music from the likes of William Bell, Aretha Franklin, and James Carr, and (4) good old rock'n'roll from the likes of Elvis Presley, Larry Williams, and the Rolling Stones.

There may be a few more Gram Parsons covers that I've missed (some Sweetheart outtakes maybe?). If you can think of any that should be included for purposes of completeness, let me know and I'll post 'em up.

*** An astute commenter notes that I left off "We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning" by Carl Butler & Pearl. I forgot to mention that. The fact is that I don't have it. Does anybody out there have it? ***

See also:
The Safe At Home Originals
The Original Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
The Flying Burrito Brothers Originals, Part I
The Flying Burrito Brothers Originals, Part II

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You missed Carl Butler and Pearl's "We'll Sweep Out the Ashes In the Morning" but thanks! Especially happy about "That's All It Took"

Allen from Calgary

Paul said...

Oh yeah! I don't have that one. Anybody???

gaston monescu said...

great posting, just awesome.
came here via thehypemachine.com
ill be checking back on you guys...

Anonymous said...

I WISH I had the original of We'll Sweep Out the Ashes. The cover may be my favorite Gram Parsons song of all. But Streets of Baltimore and California Cotton Fields are great, and so is That's All It Took. Thanks, Paul, for another great post.

Marc

Anonymous said...

This is excellent! Thanks so much.

Paul said...

The missing track will be posted next week, when my new CD arrives in the mail.

godoggo said...

None of those influences strike me as especially cosmic, though, man.

Paul said...

The four influences above supplied the "American Music" portion of "Cosmic American Music." The "Cosmic" portion of the equation was supplied by another kind of "influence" that was not musical.

Vaughn said...

Thanks for all of these compilations.
I've been a Gram devotee for sometime now but hearing these versions (in a sense, what Gram heard) gives a greater depth of understanding to what he was trying to do with his art. He was a success to these ears, in a major way.
Old-school Country music owes as much to Gram as he owed to it. He was a curator as well as a creator. He exposed many to some of the best music this country has to offer through his "Cosmic" influence. And most of those changed by what he has wrought don't even know who Gram Parsons is. I think he would have found perverse joy in that.
Long live Gram Parsons!

Paul said...

Well said, Vaughn!

PAUL said...

Thanks a lot Paul for this great series of Gram related posts. Keep doin what yer doin.

Nigel Smith said...

This is really wonderful. I feel like I've found a diamond mine. Thanks a lot.

Nigel

PS - If any of you want to hear/download some great boozing songs, I've just posted a half dozen on my blog:
Carnival Saloon: Six-Pack To Go

Anonymous said...

I disagree about the not especially cosmic influences. The Everly Brothers 'Roots' is certainly one of the most blissed out, cosmic American records I have ever heard, and one of the best country rock albums of the era. And if Gram coined the termthen in my opinion Michael Nesmith epitomised the sound wonderfully on his 'Magnetic South' and 'Loose Salute' albums. Can anyone think of the ultimate 'Cosmic American' album of all time, one that truly captures the spirit, ambition and vision that Gram Parsons had in mind. 'American Beauty' would be another album that springs to mind with Gene Clark's 'No Other' perhaps being the best and most ambitious intepretation of Gram Parson's cosmic vision to date. Can anyone think of a better example, or a more recent one?

Vaughn said...

I always thought 'WORKINGMAN'S DEAD' was a better album than 'AMERICAN BEAUTY' in that regard (it's all subjective) but The Band's eponymous THE BAND(the brown album) certainly set the bar high on that scale.
Other candidates are 'The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark'(too bad Gene Clark couldn't have held on to that longer). Also, the Rolling Stone's EXILE ON MAIN STREET is their amazing take on the Gram formula and probably wouldn't exist if Keith hadn't met Gram (of course Gram might STILL exist if he hadn't met Keith)

Anonymous said...

I can see where your coming from with 'Workingmans Dead' and most people would probably sgree with you but 'American Beauty' has always been my favourite of the two. Totally agree about the Band's brown album which certainly fits the bill perfectly, as does 'The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard and Clark' which is another shining example of the unique majesty of Gene Clark at his best. 'Exile's a good shout also.
How about 'Up On the Sun' and 'Yankee Hotel Foxtrot' as two more recent albums that encompass the continuing progression and ambition of Gram's cosmic vision.

Vaughn said...

The Meat Puppets are a great choice! To be honest, I have a real bug up my ass when it comes to Wilco, I'm much more a Son Volt fan than am of them (I can't even define why exactly, and I really do love Wilco's, 'California Stars' song off of MERMAID AVENUE). There's just something about Wilco that I find arch. I feel the same about Conor Oberst too.
Now Gene Clark, there's the man, I have become such a Clark fantatic over the last ten years, I can't get enough of him.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't disagree about Wilco to be honest. I just thought that YHF was an ambitious, forward thinking album that was very much a 'cosmic rock' record in the spirit Gram Parsons envisioned. I really enjoyed YHF at the time but find myself returning more oten to Son Volt. Not just Trace either. Wide String Tremelo has grown to become a real favourite of mine too
as well as some of their more recent stuff. Not as immmediately welcoming as Wilco, maybe Jay Farrar just has more depth in his music. This summer I spent alot of time listening to Farrar's 'The Slaughter Rule' soundtrack and I highly reccomend it to any Jay Farrar fan that hasn't heard it yet.

Vaughn said...

Yes Anonymous, the Jay Farrar/Son Volt thing is a slow burning sound that burrows itself into psyche. TRACE is amazing but it set a standard that the rest of his work always had to measure against and most of it isn't "like" that record. The Son Volt Retrospective is a great collection, especially the acoustic versions. I'm a sucker for that version of 'Medicine Hat' off that.
Sorry Paul if we've taken over this comment section.

Paul said...

No need to apologize guys, I'm loving the discussion, just too busy to join in right now. Keep it going. That's what this site is hear for.

Anonymous said...

The Son Volt Retrospective certai-
nly has some great stuff on it. Medicine Hat is probably one of my favourite Son Volt songs and I also
enjoyed their versions of the Basement Tape's 'ain't no more cane'and their haunting take on Big Star's 'Holocaust'.
How about we end this discussion by naming our favourite Uncle Tupelo album while we're on the subject. In my experience UT fans usually fall into two camps, those that believe that they never bettered 'No Depression's raucous blast into a new era and those that
believe they peaked with 'Anodyne' the album they bowed out on.
Although all were of the highest quality for me personally my favourite is 'Still Feel Gone' which I felt was more cohesive than the debut, also containing some of the band's most powerful songs. Anyway, thanks vaughn for your comments and thanks Paul for letting us drag this post into all manner of directions. But we've ended with Jay Farrar, who in many ways is a natural heir of the Gram Parson's tradition even if he's probably more Woody Guthrie thse days.

Vaughn said...

Well, I think I'm a 'Anodyne' man. It has a few of my favorite Farrar songs on it (Chickamauga, Slate) and my favorite Tweedy song (Madrid) not to mention the definitive take of 'Give Back the Key to My Heart' by one of my beloved shaggy dogs, Doug Sahm (who I was fortunate enough to see perform with Son Volt at the Liberty Lunch in Austin in the mid-90's). Cheers to you for your opinions!