Gram Parsons

The Early Years, Vols. 1 & 2

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Most fans are presumably aware that Gram Parsons must have been doing something before he formed the International Submarine Band in 1966 and began drawing the blueprints of country-rock, but not many of them have actually heard the recorded evidence that's surfaced from Parsons' earliest recordings. The Early Years, Vols. 1-2, an augmented reissue of two out of print LPs from the archivists as Sierra Records, would be useful if only for preserving some of Parsons' first musical endeavors, but it also offers an entertaining snapshot of Gram's fledgling years as a folkie. The first ten songs were taken from a demo Parsons recorded in 1965 at a radio station with the Shilos, a Kingston Trio-type folk group he sang with for a few years. While the audio is less than ideal, the demo makes it clear the Shilos were one of the more accomplished groups following this path, with crisp instrumental work, excellent harmonies, and strong, subtly impassioned lead vocals from Parsons, and his originals "Big Country" and "Zah's Blues" show he was already making his mark as a songwriter. Next are eight living-room recordings from late 1965 of Parsons performing solo with his guitar in a friend's apartment in New York City. Once again, the fidelity is imperfect, but the performances are thoughtful and full of soul, and the songs, especially "Race with the Wind," "That Kind of Livin'," and "A River Is Made Out of Raindrops" show he was growing by leaps and bounds as a tunesmith. The set also includes a pair of tunes Parsons cut with the Like, his short-lived rock band, and they're smart, tuneful folk-rock, with "November Night" suggesting Parsons' country influences and Dylan infatuation were beginning to make themselves known. And the album closes with a few tunes Parsons recorded with actor turned singer Brandon de Wilde, and while Parsons was a far better singer than de Wilde, their recordings of "Do Right Woman" and "Together Again" are the first glimpses of the style that would become Gram's hallmark. (A limited run of this disc also includes a bonus EP, with four more songs from the 1965 solo recordings and two live cuts from 1970.) While nearly all of this material has been available before, The Early Years, Vols. 1-2 finally brings it together in one convenient package, and if this is a good bit different than the music that made Parsons a legend, these rough tapes show the talent was always there, and was capable of expressing itself in a variety of ways.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:09
2 2:59
3 3:40
4 2:28
5 5:49
6 3:46
7 2:08
8 2:11
9 2:33
10
2:59
11
4:27
12 3:45
13 3:11
14 3:40
15 2:00
16 2:38
17 1:59
18 2:37
19 2:12
20 3:16
21 2:07
22 4:06
23 4:01
blue highlight denotes track pick