Monday, October 15, 2007

No. 192: The Gilded Palace Of Sin

Band: The Flying Burrito Brothers
Album: The Gilded Palace of Sin
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: One of the first, if not the first, alt-country record shows Gram Parsons' excellent ability to take outlaw country and put it to a rock and roll beat. Fresh off his work with the Byrds on "Sweetheart Of The Rodeo", Parsons' new band was building more off Bob Dylan's "John Wesley Harding" than anything else.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Like "From Elvis In Memphis," this is not a record made for me. Alt-country is still country and Parsons' twang just doesn't appeal to me.
Best song: Influenced by Merle Haggard, "Sin City" is an amazing mix of rock and twang. "My Uncle" is a cool anti-draft song.
Worst song: "Gentle On My Mind" isn't fantastic.
Is it awesome?: It's not my style, but people seem to love it.

Something you probably didn't know: Gram Parsons studied a year at Harvard. Despite his growing up in the American South (Florida), his time in Boston was supposedly when he started listening to country music, borrowing friends' Merle Haggard records.

Parsons' legacy looms quite large. His death at Joshua Tree National Park in 1973 has become a turning point in music and the park itself is now a symbol of authentic psychedelic Americana.

This is, in large part, the record that started it all. While Parsons had recorded with The International Submarine Band and – more importantly – the Byrds in the mid-1960s, "The Gilded Palace Of Sin" is the first unadulterated Parsons work. He and co-writer Chris Hillman wrote songs that both captured the zeitgeist of American youth while maintaining the authenticity of country music.

Parsons' lyrics are excellent, as well. "Sin City," a song that's as much a satire as it is a recollection, pokes fun at the religious South:

Take it home right away
You've got three years to pay
And Satan is waiting his turn
The scientists say it'll all wash away

Similarly, the protest songs of "My Uncle" and "Hippie Boy" end each side. It's an interesting dichotomy between the protest of this record (A son of the South protesting the war) and the fury of The Stooges and Velvets at the same time. Basically, well-written protest songs come in many shapes and forms. These are just two of them and are examples of the Parsons/Hillman songwriting duo's talents.

That's not to say the band was simply a songwriting project; The Burrito Brothers had chops. The cover of the standard "Do Right Woman" is pretty and well-done, while the fuzzbox/rotating organ speaker setup gave the pedal steel a cool sound on songs like "Sin City" and "Dark End Of The Street."

It's a pretty amazing record, though one I won't have on repeat. It's about as influential as this type of record is; Without it, alt-country doesn't exist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gentle on My Mind? I don't think it is on the album...fantastic album, though, I agree!