The two solo albums he made before his death in 1973 at age 26--the patchy but essential GP and the warm, lovely Live 1973--are steeped in songs about longing, the best of them sung with neotraditionalism's Tina Turner, Emmylou Harris. GP isn't as great as 1974's posthumous Grievous Angel, but it's more diverse, with Parsons striving to render the J. Geils Band's glossy Detroit-soul ballad "Cry One More Time" as something of a piece with Tomhall Glaser's "Streets of Baltimore"--a song about a Tennessee farmer who migrates to the coast only to lose his woman to "those city lights." The thematic inversions must have been as sexy to Parsons as Harris's voice, but his almost reportorial delivery and pure talent transcend historicity's tendency to frame his ambition as hokey.
Today, Parsons's songs don't exactly sound fresh, but at least they feel lived in--which is more than you can say for many of his inheritors. (Jon Dolan)