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For those of you who are listening and read my last couple of reviews, I made a bold (or at least unusual) statement for a reviewer. I am not omniscient. There are a couple of bands I miss from time to time. Probably a couple of genres as well. There is just too much music out there to hear it all.

What is this punk rock thing anyway? Hip Hop... never heard of it. In case you are extra dense—I am just kidding

But speaking of music genres, Gram Parson is such an influential artist he has become synonymous with the term country-rock. And he has also been my biggest oversight until now, following the release of Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels - The Gram Parsons Anthology.

Previously, I had only been familiar with his contributions to Sweetheart of the Rodeo with the Byrds. I'd never heard The Flying Burrito Brothers (other than a couple hits on AM radio) or his work as a solo artist, for that matter. Considering the fact that I eat up Wilco, Son Volt, and Palace like Junior Mints, (all deeply influenced by Parsons) you can understand the gravity of my error.

Tragically, this one man, who single-handedly created the genre of country-rock and has influenced artists as important as the Rolling Stones, died of an overdose of morphine and tequila in 1973.

Born Cecil Ingram Connor in 1947 into a family who owned a large chunk of Tropicana, Gram Parsons (he later took his stepfather's last name following his dad's suicide at the age of 12) sings about heartbreak, women, booze, and gambling the way only a Southerner could. So how in the hell was this rich kid from Florida (the one non-southern, southern state) so authentic? Makes one want to believe in reincarnation. No one with this much talent comes from Florida.

This latest trans-label release from Rhino covers all the highlights of his career and with 46 songs and 2 disks is nearly a comprehensive documentation of Gram Parsons' work.

The first disk covers his 1960's material with The International Submarine Band, The Byrds, and his early Seventies work with The Flying Burrito Brothers. The ISB and Byrds songs have a stronger rock feel than his later work which is more indebted to the sounds of traditional country. Maybe I'm sucker for the steel guitar, but on disk one The Flying Burrito Brother's tunes are my favorite. But that's not to deny that the disk is consistent overall. In fact this is one of those collections that you know immendiately will become classic to you. There is not a bad song to be found. Even the Burrito Brother's cover of "Do Right Woman," so strongly performed by Aretha Franklin is given new life in the hand of this master.

My respect for Parsons only increased after giving the second disk a spin. The first half showcases his first solo CD, simply titled G. P. Often sharing vocals with Emmylou Harris, his work during this period is simply classic. The disk also includes work from his second and, tragically, last recording Grievous Angel, that is slightly less consistent than G.P., but pretty darn impressive nonetheless. There are even a couple of tracks from his live disk with the Fallen Angels included showing that Parsons was not just a great studio musician, but quite a showman as well.

If you are already an avid fan, there probably isn't too much on this disk to get excited about because "Knee Deep in the Blues" is the only unreleased track. If Parsons is a new name to you, this collection will surely be your best music purchase this year.

Bottom line - if you are like me and are not familiar with a majority of his work, do yourself a favor and pick it up today. It will instantly become a classic to you as well. (Unless you suck).

- Robert Lanham


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