Gene Parsons

Melodies

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Something of a "comeback" album (after a several-year mid-'70s recording hiatus), Gene Parsons' Melodies is a quality record through and through, though it occasionally suffers from lifeless vocal performances and overly slick production. Parsons is at his best when he sticks to more traditionally oriented country and bluegrass material and instrumentals. Although he is best known as the drummer in the early-'70s Clarence White-era Byrds, Parsons is an excellent guitarist, bassist, and banjo player, and his considerable skills are on display throughout the record. Strangely, the problems only arise when Parsons tries his hand at the smooth, California country-rock that his old band pioneered. Simply put, Parsons, though his voice is pleasant and his singing technically competent, is not in the same league, vocally, as great stylists like Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons, or Don Henley. As a result, a few of the songs on the record sound like outtakes from a bad Firefall session, rather than the work of one of country-rock's founding fathers. In fact, some tracks (particularly "No Fire Here Tonight" and the Clarence White tribute "Melodies From a Bird in Flyght") anticipate the sound of the first wave of slick '80s Nashville country-pop (groups like Alabama, Shenandoah, and Exile). Despite this, however, the album has many high points, the best of which is Parsons' absolutely gorgeous interpretation of the Gram Parsons classic "Hot Burrito #1."

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