It seems that the closer I look at Gram Parsons' wafer-thin recorded legacy, the more potent it becomes. He may have numbered only half-a-dozen long players in his cruelly truncated career (the item currently under discussion, The Byrds' "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo", from which his vocals were removed for contractual reasons, the first two Flying Burrito Brothers albums and two solo sets, the latter one released posthumously) but within them is contained the germ that can be held responsible for both the mid-70s radio friendly AOR boom and the current resurgence of alt.country bands that keeps publications like "Uncut" and "Mojo" in reviewing fodder.
Parsons was a member of The International Submarine Band in between stints as a Shiloh (a more traditionally country outfit) and a Byrd, and they released only one album, on Lee Hazlewood's LHI label, in March 1968. (The record was never even granted a British release until 1985.) It mixes material by Merle Haggard ("I Must Be Somebody Else You've Known") and Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues", "I Still Miss Someone") with borderline folk ("A Satisfied Mind") and rock 'n' roll ("That's All Right"), as well as marking the first appearance of some Parsons originals that would go on to become staples of the genre in their own right ("Luxury Liner", "Do You Know How It Feels To Be Lonesome?"). Musically it has Nashville roots but it also possesses that beat group chug and soul revue roughness that makes it something entirely other: think one pace back from "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" and you'll be pretty much there. And amidst contemporary cover quotes from luminaries such as Glenn Campbell and Don Everly, Duane Eddy wins the prophecy gong with "Gram Parsons should become a big country Artist; a big Artist period!". However you choose to measure the dimensions of artistry, it's a statement that's hard to disagree with.
The cover sticker boasts of the use of "the original LHI stereo masters", but this time Sundazed's normally admirable quest for authenticity may have come unstuck. The songs in common with Raven's excellent compilation CD "Warm Evenings, Pale Mornings, Bottled Blues" sound congested and distorted here, although the previously unreleased track "Knee Deep In The Blues" escapes unscathed, presumably being sourced from different tapes. If you can live with the muddled sonics, however, "Safe At Home" remains a fascinating listen.
The Flying Burrito Bros