From the vault: 1969

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am

Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers

Archives Volume 1

(Amoeba Records)

Hats off to the dedication of Amoeba Records' co-founder Dave Pinz. After years of searching, he found tapes of these legendary shows buried in a vault that contained 16,000 hours of Grateful Dead recordings - and was guarded by a guy named Bear.

It took some convincing to get Bear (aka the Dead's soundman Owsley Stanley) to cough them up, too, but he eventually saw reason, knowing perhaps that he was holding back a slice of history.

Gram Parsons (right) remains one of music's most enigmatic characters, dead by a drug overdose at 26 with a legacy that continues to influence musicians to this day.

He's long been credited as the first to mix rock and country, a blend picked up first by the Byrds (with whom he briefly played) and then the Rolling Stones, among countless others.

Here he's playing with the band he founded after leaving the Byrds, opening for the Dead at the height of their powers in the San Francisco of 1969. Parsons' devotees will be overjoyed as the two concerts reveal the singer at the top of his game, combining his own tunes with country standards infused with his rock leanings.

There are some timeless, priceless gems. Parsons' harmonising with fellow ex-Byrd Chris Hillman on Dark End of the Street is pure sweet sorrow, while his own standards - Hot Burrito #1 and #2 - highlight Parsons' talent as a songwriter touched by both wit and emotion. Even Do Right Woman comes up sounding better for the Parsons touch.

As well as the two live shows, Pinz has managed to dig up some home recordings that also add to

the Parsons legend.