And then there were the Byrds, and the Byrds created country rock, and they gave birth to the Flying Burrito Brothers. And there was also Buffalo Springfield, and both gave birth to many bands like Poco, Eagles, Amazing Rhythm Aces, CSN, and every band that was called country-rock in the 70's were somehow tangled up between them. Members of those bands moved from one band to the other and created fertile territory for this kind of music. Bands, bands and more bands but rarely a solo act. The only solo act to really succeed in country-rock was Gram Parsons. And here, many years later, we have a CD by the other Parsons, who was also a member of the Byrds and The Burritos.
Having the same initials and the same name as Gram must have been a hard act to follow. Gram died young and became one of the greatest legends of rock. Gene Parsons made a few records in the Seventies that never really made him famous. He was just the ex-Byrd who had a new record. Another Byrd, Roger Mcguinn, was doing better, but not by much. Others, like Chris Hillman, started new bands and did better.
In the year 2000 Gene Parsons gave a live solo concert as part of the Mendocino College artist-in-residence program. According to the liner notes, Gene never did a solo concert, and was surprised he had to do one as part of his residence. The concert includes mostly covers and some old songs Gene Parsons wrote in the 70's. It's sixty-two minutes long with Parsons accompanying himself on guitar and banjo. Parsons also produced the CD with Meridian Green.
This show must have been a very pleasant evening for Parsons and his listeners. He talks quite a lot before each song, and the good mood seems to be all over this recording, but... as a CD it just does not work. I wish there were some flutes or violins here; some more music. Parsons has a hard time supporting the songs here all by himself, although he has a nice voice and is definitely a great guitar player. Some songs work quite well, like Willin' (the Little Feat song written by Lowell George), and the self-penned I Must be A Tree. The songs in which he plays the banjo and sings are hard to listen to. The ones with guitars fare somewhat better.
I don't want to sound harsh, and Parsons is a nice singer and player. This CD just reminds me of the LPs I used to buy in the early 80's in the cut-out bins for 49 or 99 cents - country rock LP's in which the singer always had a pair of boots and a guitar in his hands. I played them once or twice the same evening and they are now somewhere in the attic. Great collectors records no one will ever buy. It also reminds me of another Byrds release "Bank From Rio" by Roger McGuinn, a CD better forgotten.
So, this CD is for Byrds completists, and also for people who want to learn how to play the banjo or get a good lesson from a guitar teacher. Mr. Parsons, please, next time bring a band with you. For the real thing we better go back to the bands in which Parsons played.
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