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Album Review

Safe at Home, Gram Parsons' first full-length album (and the only LP he would record with the International Submarine Band), today sounds like a dry run for the country-rock he would later perfect with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers; it's also a major changeup from the psychedelically shaded pop/rock of the ISB's hard to find debut singles. In many ways, the album sounds more purely "country" than Parsons' best-known work; the Burritos' crucially important R&B edge had yet to make its presence felt in Gram's music, and on these sessions the rock influence is often more felt than heard (probably due in part to the presence of Nashville session veterans who pitched in on piano and pedal steel). But Parsons' considerable gifts as a songwriter were already evident on tunes like "Blue Eyes" and "Luxury Liner," and while there's a touch less grace in Gram's vocals than on his best work, his passion, understated wit, and deep love for country music are always in the forefront. And while Gram is the star of this show, his bandmates — John Nuese and Bob Buchanan on guitars, Jon Corneal on drums, and future Burrito Chris Ethridge on bass — are solid, soulful, and firmly in the pocket throughout. If Safe at Home sounds like a rough draft for Gram Parsons' later triumphs, it's also a fine record on its own terms, and leaves little doubt that the International Submarine Band's leader had something special right from the start. [Sundazed's 2004 reissue of the album adds an unreleased bonus track, the Marty Robbins/Guy Mitchell hit "Knee Deep in the Blues," and a new liner essay from Parsons biographer Sid Griffin, as well as brief notes from Tim Connors of the "Byrdwatcher" website. Bob Irwin also remastered the album, and it sounds notably different from Shilo's previous CD release; each version has different amounts of studio chatter prefacing songs, and the Sundazed edition has more echo and a slightly wider stereo "spread," though there also seems to be a touch more distortion in the high end, especially audible in the vocals, though it's still a listenable presentation of an album that's lost none of its charm with the passage of time.]

Safe at Home, Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band
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