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Return to Sin City - A Tribute to Gram Parsons

3.8 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons celebrates an artist who made his greater mark in the years following his death and has become a contemporary music icon. The late, great Gram Parsons refused to let anyone call his music "country rock." With the soul of a true cowboy, he just couldn't be fenced in. His vision was much more grandiose than the words "country rock" would allow. The cosmic American music of Gram Parsons celebrated diversity. Sure, the broken hearted sentiment of country music was firmly rooted in his musical upbringing. But so was the burning urgency of soul music's dramatic melodies as well as the sweet, uplifting, revelatory harmonies of gospel choirs and of course the hip shaking, hand clapping strut and boogie of rock and roll music. Thirty years after his untimely death in Joshua Tree, CA., musicians and music lovers still name check Gram Parsons with the utmost awe and respect. He saw beyond labels and boundaries in music and in life. In his time he influenced the music of his prot#g# Emmylou Harris, as well as his friends the Rolling Stones and the Byrds. He was the first longhair country boy-just ask any of the outlaws from Willie Nelson to Kris Kristofferson-someone who could bring country music to the closed minds of those who previously dismissed it as "hillbilly" or "hick" while turning on many a good ol' boy to the sounds of sweet soul music. Staying true to her father's vision of diversity in music, his daughter Polly organized Return to Sin City: A Tribute to Gram Parsons. She recruited both close friends and ardent fans of her father and his music as well as contemporary artists inspired by his work and vision. "He changed the face of country music without anybody ever knowing it. After he died, there was this whole different aspect of country music which pervades to this day." -Keith Richards, According to the Rolling Stones.


Return to Sin City - A Tribute to Gram Parsons offers clear evidence that Parsons, who died at age 26 and whose output consisted primarily of just five recordings (one with the Byrds, two with the Flying Burrito Brothers, and two solo albums), commands a degree of respect and influence these days that’s far greater than the modest success he enjoyed before his death in 1973. Recorded in Los Angeles, this 106-minute, 21-song concert features some big names (Keith Richards, Norah Jones) and slightly lesser lights (Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, John Doe) performing tunes Parsons wrote and/or recorded before his career was cut short by drug and alcohol problems (executive produced by Parsons’ daughter, Polly, the concert and DVD will help raise funds to battle substance abuse). And if the material’s country-rock flavor (Parsons disdained that label, preferring to call it "cosmic American music") sounds a bit hackneyed nowadays, well, it’s not his fault; after all, Parsons was only around to help invent the genre, not run it into the ground. On this night, it’s left to the artists with unique voices and personae to lift the flavor of the proceedings from the merely pleasant to the truly inspiring, and that’s precisely what Doe ("Hot Burrito No. 2"), Earle ("Luxury Liner"), Williams (a raw, somewhat ragged, and unabashedly vulnerable "Sleepless Nights"), Yoakam ("Sin City"), and Richards (who croaks his way through "Love Hurts," a duet with Jones, and "Hickory Wind") do. After that string of remarkable performances, closing the show by bringing everyone (including the great guitarist James Burton) onstage for "Wild Horses" and "Ooh Las Vegas" may be a tad anti-climactic, but Return to Sin City is still a fine way to remember a music legend. --Sam Graham

Special Features

  • Audio commentary by Polly Parsons and Shilah Morrow

Product Details

  • Actors: John Doe, Steve Earle, Norah Jones, Keith Richards, Dwight Yoakam
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: March 22, 2005
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000777I74
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,035 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael K. Hall on April 2, 2005
Format: DVD
So first I'll say that I'm a huge Gram Parsons fan. I grabbed this one quickly not really caring that some of the best Parsons interpreters of the past are missing. I thought, what the the heck, Dwight is here. Norah is always good and I had heard her do "She" before (Austin City Limits, I think) and Steve Earle is always solid.

Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed! I'll take the good first, though. It is certainly a good looking concert without all the usual annonying audience cutaways that plague concert films. Credit must go to director Mark Lucas and editor Ernie Fritz. (This creates a slight problem though, in that the audience almost seems dead in places with very little crowd reaction in the sound mix - not that I wanted to see the crowd, but hearing a little excitement would have been nice).

The solid performances were Farrar, Earle and Raul Malo. Norah Jones was great on "She" but the "Love Hurts" duo with Keith Richards was cringe inducing at times, although she was fine. Dwight Yoakam was rock solid on "Wheels" which he had covered on one of his albums, but I think "Sin City" was just a mess. The biggest pleasant suprise was Lucinda Williams who performed two solid songs (Sleepless Nights and a Song For You). I'm a middling fan of hers, but she was great.

There wasn't anything horrible in the way of peformances, just some questionable choices, mixing songs with performers which were not exactly well served. John Doe was particuarly out of place, and while I can understand the historical significance of Keith Richards, he's never been known for his great stage work. Susan Marshall was adequate, I suppose, but not my cup of tea.
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Format: DVD
According to Polly Parsons, who barely knew her father, she wanted to continue his music out there, to celebrate it. So she gathered musicians who were close friends and fans and those newer artists who were inspired by Parsons' works. She also wanted to find out who her father was and her way to connect to him and his life's work.

Why no Emmy Lou, Chris Hillman??
We may never know the story behind why Parsons' duet partner Emmy Lou Harris and songwriting partner Chris Hillman were not involved in this tribute. Usually when nothing is mentioned about such notables missing, something went askew during negotiations.

Audio Commentary: Not helpful or insightful, excessive chat.

Mixture of folks:
This is a great concert! Just plain and simple...a great concert! I was introduced to a few people I hadn't known, particularly, John Doe. Alas, John Doe is alive and known! I enjoyed his contributions as well as other unknowns to me, Jay Farrar and Jim James. Known mostly for his songwriting, Jim Lauderdale was excellent doing "Big Mouth Blues." And a superb rendition of Do Right Woman, Do Right Man by Susan Marshall.

There are other powerful performances, that include Dwight Yoakam doing "Wheels" and "Sin City." Other wonderful contributions were by Steve Earle "Luxury Liner" and "My Uncle" and Mavericks' Raul Malo "Devil in Disguise".

I am not a fan of Lucinda Williams, but the "Sleepless Nights" and "A Song For You" were excellent, as well as the sweet voice of Norah Jones doing "She." .

Keith Richards/Norah Jones on "Love Hurts"...Ouch it hurts!!
What can anyone say about Keith Richards, other than a lot! A friend of Parsons, he chose to duet with Norah Jones on "Love Hurts", painful rendition.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is one I'd been looking forward to since reading reviews of the concert in July of 2004. The result is somewhat disappointing, though largely because of what is not included. Reviews at the time raved of Norah Jones' performances of "Streets Of Baltimore" and "Cry One More Time" with hot guitar work from James Burton, but these songs aren't here. The audio is at times of bootleg quality, particularly on the Jim Lauderdale take on "Big Mouth Blues". There are worthy performances from Jones, John Doe, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Keith Richards and others. Unfortunately there are the obligitory muddled jams at the end of the program in which "Wild Horses" and "Ooh Las Vegas" are delivered in excrutiatingly sloppy fashion that even James Burton cannot save.

The original concert may have been a worthy tribute to Gram Parsons, but this dvd presentation will likely disappoint.
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Format: DVD
This "tribute" is not only disappointing, but rather repulsive. The most unremitting torch of Gram Parson's music and legend was and remains Emmylou Harris, who was not only absent, but unmentioned throughout the video, even in the introduction. This instead was the Polly Parsons show, Gram's biological daughter, who declares that all she can think about during the encore is that she was not wearing any panties while dancing on stage...a true mark of respect and intent. If you are interested in a true tribute, purchase the CD, Return of the Grievous Angel.
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Format: DVD
Yes, I'll echo the disappointment of the perplexing absences of Chris Hillman and even more glaringly, Emmylou. You'd think those would be the first two names on anyone's Gram Parsons tribute list. In fact their absences, especially Harris', are so conspicuous that one is left with a strange sense of incompleteness when its over. No explanation at all.

Notwithstanding that, this is a great DVD. Steve Earle absolutely rips the place up during his two songs, and a great unexpected treat is the John Doe-Kathleen Edwards duet of Sweeping out the Ashes.

And everybody should lighten up about Keith Richards. He did fine on Hickory Wind and the duet with Norah Jones was a lot of fun. She looks kind of afraid at times.. "Oh God he's not gonna touch me is he..." It was hilarious, and the music was not bad at all. And I loved the Wild Horses/Las Vegas finale.

Some complain that the varying stylings here make for an inconsistent show. I disagree. Gram Parsons' disrespect for those phony musical boundaries are what made him great and so memorable and influential all these years later. These performances reflect that nicely.

Chris and Emmylou, you were indeed missed. But I loved it anyway.
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