Gram Parsons may have been one of rock's first great trust fund hippies, but he couldn't match the kind of paycheck Elvis Presley was able to offer for a Vegas gig. So when he hit the road in 1973 to promote his superb solo debut, G.P., James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, and most of the band that anchored that album were otherwise engaged. He instead threw together a rough-and-ready crew of roadhouse pickers he dubbed "the Fallen Angels" (Emmylou Harris, thankfully, was available to make the trip), and they began making their way through America's rock clubs and honky tonks. Live 1973 was recorded live for radio broadcast in the midst of that tour, and if you imagine it sounds a good bit rougher and leaner than G.P. (which includes six of the 12 cuts featured here), you'd be right. On "We'll Sweep Out the Ashes" and "Cry One More Time," the Fallen Angels aren't quite up to the task of re-creating the studio arrangements, but they're surprisingly strong on the quieter numbers, especially "The New Soft Shoe" and "Love Hurts" (the latter of which earned a Grammy nomination), and when they pick up the tempo for some end-of-the-set covers (including Merle Haggard's "California Cottonfields" and Dave Dudley's "Six Days on the Road"), guitarist Jock Bartley and pedal steel player Neil Flanz sound like the core of a great bar band. Parsons and Harris' duets are rougher around the edges on-stage than on vinyl, but they sound as emotionally keen as ever, and Parsons and drummer N.D. Smart II made a pretty good comedy team. Live 1973 isn't an essential release like G.P. or The Gilded Palace of Sin, but anyone already familiar with Parsons' body of work will love it.
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