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Gram Parsons
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  • Grievous Angel,


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    Gram Parsons

    GP 8 ( 1973 )
    Still Feeling Blue / We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning / A Song For You / Streets Of Baltimore / She / That's All I Took / The New Soft Shoe / Kiss The Children / Cry One More Time / How Much I've Lied / Big Mouth Blues

    Hanging out with Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones had taken its toll on Gram. He was down, and nearly out, his nerves shot by alcohol and his career drifting. Chris Hillman, former band-mate in both The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers conspired to introduce Gram to Emmylou Harris. There was an instant spark when they sang together, and it gave Gram a renewed sense of conviction - leading ultimately to the recording of 'GP' and its follow-up, 'Grievous Angel'. Gram Parsons had been born into money. So, when Warners turned down his request of hiring three members of the Elvis Presley touring band, he simply paid for their session fees himself. It's pertinent to remember, Gram had no real public profile and had sold a negligible quantity of records. Being born into money gave him license to almost do as he pleased. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds once remarked that when Gram joined as David Crosby's replacement 'it was almost like Mick Jagger had joined The Byrds!'. But, Gram was bitter. He'd played a pivotal role through his work with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers in starting 'Country-Rock' only to see the likes of The Eagles reap the commercial fortunes he felt should have been his. 'GP' sounds very accomplished musically thanks to the team of top session players Gram had recruited. The real sparks come from the vocals of both Gram and Emmylou, and of course, the songs themselves. Whether the quiver and frailty in some of Grams vocals here really was down to his alcohol abuse, or for other reason - it gives these songs, especially the ballad performances, a huge emotionally resonating quality.

    'Still Feeling Blue' makes good use of Byron Berline's fiddle playing as well as featuring attractive Pedal Steel work. It's a fast-paced song, very celebratory in musical feeling and with Emmylou joining Gram in the chorus parts. 'We'll Sweep Out The Ashes In The Morning' features slightly wayward Parsons vocals - and it becomes very easy to believe listening to this that his alcohol abuse was part of the reason. Emmylou joins him here throughout the song, pretty much singing co-lead. In fact, she sings far better on this song than Gram himself, but when they do sing together, it sounds pretty nice. A far better song than 'We'll Sweep Out The Ashes' arrives with Grams own 'A Song For You'. This is where his quivering, frail voice works to best effect, very tender and emotional. Emmylou sings harmony, and the whole song is utterly gorgeous. 'Streets Of Baltimore' is one of several covers here, and perfectly well done but lacks the extra sparkle of Grams own compositions. 'She' is another spine-chilling ballad, this time with a stupendous Parsons vocal full of emotion. The lyrics are evocative with mentions of 'delta sun' and 'she sure could sing' over the top of beautifully understated, perfectly appropriate musical parts. 'That's All It Took' is the kind of hokey country tune Elvis Presley might have performed. It's not very entertaining, although perfectly well performed. 'The New Soft Shoe' is another Parsons original, and sounds like many of his songs, totally otherworldy and beautiful - more affecting vocals here in particular. 'Kiss The Children' opens with some entertaining fiddle playing, great little pure country guitar parts and is a fun, less serious song. 'Cry One More Time' is a little blues, rather strained and breaking the mood of the album a little. 'How Much I've Lied' contains more accomplished playing, the closing 'Big Mouth Blues' a little funky country blues, although like 'Cry One More Time' doesn't sound at all matched to some of the other material here, the Gram Parsons originals in particular.

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    Readers Comments

    Sara Temps saratemps@ntlworld.com
    "Kiss the Children" is a little less serious than "The New Soft Shoe"? It's about a man saying goodbye to his girlfriend before he committs suicide, for crying out loud!

    Tom Syversen SYVERSEN@nortel.com
    I actually see "Kiss the Children" as more of Gram reflecting on his dad, who had committed suicide just after sending his wife and the kids to FLA for X-mas. A piece from "Fallen Angel" mentions that Coon Dog had left a tape recording with only "I love you Gram" on it.


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    Grievous Angel 9 ( 1974 )
    Return Of The Grievous Angel / Hearts On Fire / I Can't Dance / Brass Buttons / $1000 Wedding / Cash On The Barrelhead-Hickory Wind / Love Hurts / Ooh Las Vegas / In My Hour Of Darkness

    If 'GP' failed in places with some of the cover material, the cover material here on 'Grievous Angel' are amongst the highlights of the set, more of which later. We open with a Parsons tune the soft, beautifully sung 'Return Of The Grievous Angel'. Two of the cover versions follow, one of which at least is wonderful. 'Hearts On Fire' repeats the trick of matching Grams frail, honest sounding vocals to Emmylou's gorgeous harmonies. Vocal performances full of genuine soul and emotion, and absolutely wonderful to listen to. 'I Can't Dance' is a more guitar led rocking song but sounds better than similar attempts at diversification that were present on 'GP' still being performed with a pure country heart. 'Brass Buttons' is a Parsons original and totally beautiful, a classic composition that proves absolutely how well Parsons could write. This soft ballad is followed by another even better one with the drop dead, spine chillingly gorgeous '$1000 Wedding'. Grams vocals here are totally assured, but still soft, tender and emotional. Another evocative set of story-telling lyrics really capture a mood and place images in your mind. Besides, the music is beautifully performed and the song beautifully sung.

    'Cash On The Barrelhead' is twinned in a medley with 'Hickory Wind' a song first heard on The Byrds 'Sweetheart Of The Rodeo' record. Now, there is nothing wrong with a little medley, especially when both parts of the medley are so well performed. But, the fake audience applause and concert atmosphere is grating a little. Still, a few more gems to follow and close the record, which apart from this 'Cash On The Barrelhead' medley is nearly totally gorgeous from beginning to end. 'Love Hurts' is almost enough to make a man break down in tears - and it's rarely been sung or performed better than it is here by Gram and Emmylou. 'Ooh Las Vegas' is hugely entertaining with funky bass and guitar lines and a celebratory atmosphere captured very well indeed. Even here when Emmylou joins Gram for some harmony parts it still sounds drop dead gorgeous, although this certainly isn't a ballad! One thing that strikes you listening to 'Grievous Angel' in particular is how many songs sound like all-time classic songs, and then looking at the writing credits, were written by Gram himself! 'In My Hour Of Darkness' was actually co-written by Gram with Emmylou. And, it's a total classic song! It's even performed beautifully as well, it's almost sick! Talent bursting out all over the place, and Gram wasn't even in the best of health during these recordings. There are a few lines from 'In My Hour Of Darkness' that become a little prayer to me in times of need, as the song and lyrics suggest. It's a beautiful song, a beautiful record, and it's a crying shame he'd never live to make another.

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    Readers Comments

    Duke Doyleecqueenrock@yahoo.com
    What an amazing record- "$1000 Wedding" makes me want to cry, not to mention "Love Hurts" and "Hearts On Fire." "In My Hour Of Darkness" goes down as one of the best musical hymns.

    gazza garyhess44@hotmail.com
    The stones chewed this guy up and spat him back out again but god he made amazing records . love hurts is just awesome and £1000 wedding , hearts on fire and in my hour of darkness are not far behind. The way gram just trails of the notes is just beautiful - one of the best singers ever.


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    this page last updated 28/11/07


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    Made In Devon. street 'Common People' but it's a fine, soaring song full of feeling and a strange kind of romance. A pulp-kind of romance. The video was great, with Jarvis going up a stair-lift to heaven. 'The Fear' opens the album all spooky and dark - the lyrics are good Jarvis lyrics and keep you listening. 'Dishes' is simply glorious with an opening line from Mr Jarvis Cocker "I'm not Jesus, but I have the same initials". The song proceeds through a series of great lines and the music ably supports with keyboard lines to the fore. 'Party Hard' explodes and rocks, 'Help The Aged' has the required Pulp small-screen romance. 'This Is Hardcore', the title song, was also released as a single and tanked in comparison with any of the singles from 'Different Class'. Well, it's six minutes long, defiantly un-commercial, but glorious and ambitious with it. Cinematic and disturbing music and lyrics, little dark tinkling Piano sounds adding to the nature of it all, and the album is reaching a peak right about now.

    Everything goes horribly wrong. This is an album that tails off badly, everything sounds like Pulp and Jarvis in particular are merely going through motions. 'Tv Movie' and 'A Little Soul' are soft, reflective songs. 'A Little Soul' was eventually released as a third single by the record company in a desperate bid to inject some life into the promotional campaign for 'This Is Hardcore', but needless to say that effort failed. It's a charming enough song, though nothing special by Pulp standards. 'I Am A Man' is horribly clumsy sounding, 'Seductive Barry' horribly over-long sounding, running to eight and a half minutes. 'Sylvia' is nearly six minutes long, contains a few pleasing vocal and musical sections, but really lacks enough interesting ideas to justify being nearly six minutes long. 'Glory Days' sounds like Bruce Springsteen, and the closing 'Day After The Revolution' is all guitars going nowhere, a song going nowhere and an album fading fast after such a promising opening. 'This Is Hardcore' probably isn't deserving of a grade as low as six, but given the disappointing second half to the record and the fact I don't have the urge to listen to the first half that often compared to other Pulp records, leaves me feeling that it might just be appropriate.

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    Aaron glenn@mitchell1818.fsnet.co.uk
    Well this album is most likely in my top ten albums of all time its just so perfect I think ‘Common people’ is on a par with the likes of ‘bohemian rhapsody’ its just so well structured how can a band churn out heart wrenching choruses track after track ‘Different class’ = Master piece 10

    cop c087714martyn@yale-wrexham.ac.uk
    have you lost the plot!!! Along with His n hers, Hardcore is their best album. Both are miles better than the trite glam of different class. come on, pull yourself together man


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    We Love Life 9 ( 2001 )
    Weeds / Weeds II / The Night That Minnie Timperley Died / The Trees / Wickerman / I Love Life / The Birds In Your Garden / Bob Lind / Bad Cover Version / Roadkill / Sunrise

    A smattering of guitars and shaking percussion, crystal clear vocals, harmonies. Deadly eloquent lyrical matter, Jarvis sings beautifully - and there you have the opening song on 'We Love Life'. It's a dramatic, wonderful opening. 'We Love Life' is the sound of Pulp giving it one last try, one last hurrah, before going off and doing something else that maybe isn't Pulp. I hope they do decide to continue, because 'We Love Life' is the sound of a band re-born. The Scott Walker production team, including Scott himself, aid the Pulp cause here introducing all sorts of sonic delights to the Pulp equation, and getting good performances from Jarvis especially. The opening 'Weeds' flows into 'Weeds II (the origin of the species)' and smiles are raised high. This is a glorious piece of Jarvis story-telling over beautifully exotic musical backing. Echoed drums and guitar chords introduce the sing-a-long 'The Night That Minnie Timperley Died' and something occurs to me at this stage. Upon initial release, a few fans claimed that 'We Love Life' was Pulp back to the sound of 'His N Hers', but that's not exactly true. 'We Love Life' sounds to me like the britpop years never happened at all, almost a return to the freshness of Eighties Pulp. Of course, factor in the Scott Walker production, which is no kind of throwback to anything Pulp have done before, and 'We Love Life' becomes something else altogether. But, if this is to be the final Pulp long-player, it would end things nicely, everything coming full circle. 'The Night That Minnie Timperley Died' sees Jarvis on absolute top-notch vocal form, by the way - it's a great track. By the time 'The Trees' arrives, song four, i'm all over the place. Smiling, crying, shivering, grinning - this is such a fabulous, life affirmingly glorious piece of music and writing, one of the greatest things Pulp have ever done, as simple as that. "The trees, those useless trees...." and then the Scott Walker shaking percussion comes in, orchestral sounding elements.... I think it's fair to say I absolutely adore this song, let's just leave it at that before I embarrass myself... but, oooh god! 'Wickerman' is simply glorious stuff, another Jarvis story-telling semi-spoken thing over wonderfully recorded music. Something like 'Davids Last Summer' from 'His N Hers' doesn't come anywhere close to being as good as this. Jarvis sings in places, alternating with the spoken parts - the music continues on and on, sounding pretty damn fantastic.

    A perfect Pulp album? Well, no, although it's still pretty damn great, and the finest thing they've done. So, side two includes a selection of near-filler amongst further great songs, and it works. 'I Love Life' has a very sweet and nice sounding Jarvis vocal, 'The Birds In Your Garden' opens expectedly with the sound of birds twittering and tweeting before a keyboard sound comes floating through the air you're inhabiting. And the comparison I made earlier with Eighties Pulp pops up again here, there's just a freshness to the sound. 'The Birds In The Garden' has all of the romance of the very finest Pulp songs and a truly beautiful vocal and vocal melody - another winner! 'Bob Lind' has many exotic, interesting and hard to place musical sounds amongst a jaunty, jingly guitar pattern. The song itself isn't terribly memorable or interesting this time round, unfortunately - but it remains pleasant listening at the very worst, even if it's a little lightweight. 'Bad Cover Version' is the nearest we get to Britpop Pulp of yore, although the group ruined their chances of have a hit, by releasing a re-recorded version with half of the grace of this version, which is pretty graceful and very Pulp, if not the best song here. 'Roadkill' opens with acoustic guitar, pretty guitar - but it soon becomes clear that not much else is happening here. Still, no matter. The closing 'Sunrise' is another brilliant song with good lyrics, strong vocals and interesting melodic musical textures. 'We Love Life' isn't flawless then, but then again, Pulp are only human. 'We Love Life' is a very natural and warm sounding album, and some way to bow out, presuming that's what the group are going to do. As I said earlier in this review, I hope that's not the case. <

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    Aaron glenn@mitchell1818.fsnet.co.uk
    I dont think this really kicks in till the 'birds in your gardon'its worth buying it for the Chorus of that alone them we get the glorious single which is what I brought it for that’s awesome what a song what a band but as I say till ‘birds in the garden’ I don’t really get in to it aloe I can see why the other tracks are liked they are good don’t get me wrong they are but you no. its a worthy 8

    Matt whitneym1@hotmail.com
    Love it!! I'd agree with the man above that the first 3 tracks are somewhat incongruous - a more jarring sound and sometimes I'll skip them just wanting the brilliance of the next 4 tracks - Wickerman is astonishing - such an epic with the haunting sound of the carousel touching something in you that rarely comes out - yearning meloncholy passion... the whole album conjures such feelings that only pulp can, and viewed in context to pulps past it is so mature and developed - ahhhh!

    Richard White riccardo666@heroesandvillains.net
    I rate "Roadkill" as one of the finest songs on this album - its so sombre and dark, and must sound awesome live.


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    this page last updated 24/03/07


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