Gram Parsons Grievous Angel

Gram Parsons: Grievous Angel

Album #186 - January 1974

Episode date - July 3, 2024

The Alternative Top 40
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    Gram Parsons’ posthumous album at the age of 26 could very well represent the single best marriage of country with rock and roll ever recorded.

    “Grievous Angel” captures Parsons at his most mature, with a richness of ideas that never patronizes his (at the time, admittedly small) following or compromises his musical diversity. All of his musical ideas are well represented here, while his professional relationship with Emmylou Harris blossomed into instinctive perfection. The coup of hijacking Elvis Presley’s rhythm section of James Burton, Glen Hardin, Emory Gordon and Ronnie Tutt certainly didn’t hurt either.

    The songs range from some of his saddest and most reflective (“Brass Buttons”, “$1000 Wedding”) to his most celebratory and fun (“Ooh Las Vegas”, the faux-live medley). Add in a spot-on perfect rendition of “Love Hurts” that rivals (if not surpasses) the Everly Brothers original and “In My Hour of Darkness,” a closing anthem of hope that resonates with all the beauty and insight of a prayer, and it becomes apparent that this record is unstoppable in its own class. “Grievous Angel” stands as evidence that American music might have developed differently had Parsons lived, and that his influence is nothing less than profound.

    Considering the circumstances that surrounded this album, it’s a wonder that it achieved its state of near perfection. Truth be told, it’s a wonder that it even exists at all. From many sources, it’s reported that Parsons had relapsed heavily into drug and alcohol abuse when these tracks were recorded. Emmylou Harris pretty much served as his keeper by organizing sessions and rehearsing the band. More remarkably, it turns out Parsons’ addictions also affected his ability to write, so the album was mostly cobbled together from leftover material that had been previously rejected.

    Sensing that he lacked enough songs for the album, he hastily composed “Return of the Grievous Angel” and “In My Hour of Darkness”, a rather stunning accomplishment considering that he had been struggling with composing up to that point. Just days after completing the album, Parsons headed to Joshua Tree, a favorite spot of his in the California desert, where he died from an exceptionally large dose of morphine. The subsequent story makes for one of the most remarkable, legendary and yet true stories in the annals of rock and roll history.

    Apparently, after attending the funeral for his friend Clarence White, Parsons told his manager that if he had his way, he’d like to be cremated in the Joshua Tree desert.  In observance of his request, manager Phil Kaufman somehow managed to steal Parson’s remains from Los Angeles airport, where it was being sent to his family in Louisiana. He then drove to Joshua Tree, where he set the corpse ablaze by pouring a five-gallon pail of gasoline into the casket.

    Featured Tracks:

    Return of the Grievous Angel

    Hearts on Fire

    I Can't Dance

    Brass Buttons

    $1000 Wedding

    Medley Live from Northern Quebec

    Cash on the Barrelhead

    Hickory Wind

    Love Hurts

    Ooh Las Vegas

    In My Hour of Darkness

    January 1974 - Billboard Charted #195

     

     

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