The Gilded Palace of Sin The Flying Burrito Brothers A&M/Columbia Gram Parsons is one of rock's great 'could-have beens'. Blessed with an angel's voice, steeped in country and the blues, a gifted guitarist with an obsession for music, he died before his immense talents were given the opportunity to fully flower. His devotion to all things rock, especially the lifestyle, ensured he was only with us for a short while, dying at the age of 26 of a drug overdose. Even so, he left behind a body of music - and a host of rock-folkloric myths - that few others could match. One of his greatest bequests was country rock, which he created almost single-handedly in his first breakthrough band, The Flying Burrito Brothers. Described by Parsons (pictured) as 'cosmic American music', The Burritos' unique sound combined in equal measure country, rock and American folk, the latter a hangover from the band's origins in The Byrds. Parsons had been brought in to rejuvenate the former west coast folk-pop darlings after leading light David Crosby quit in 1967. Retooling the band's sound completely, the Parsons-fronted Byrds' only album - Sweetheart of the Rodeo - was conceived as a showcase of Americana through the ages. What emerged was a new music, which Parsons and Byrds bassist Chris Hillman developed into a fully fledged genre in The Burritos' 1969 debut. Based in what is known to country connoisseurs as the Bakersfield style, a sub-genre particular to California that eschews the slick production values of the Nashville variant in favour of a rawer groove, The Gilded Palace of Sin signified one of rock's big breakthroughs. 'We're a rock'n'roll band that sounds like a country band,' Parsons said as he tried to explain the thought processes behind his band's creation amid press brickbats. In Palace, Parsons subverted both country and rock - and neither camp was happy. Hot Burrito No1 and Hot Burrito No2 had their foundations in country's weepy heartbreak, but with a rockist edge they possessed an anger and aggression that suited the age of protest rock amid the Vietnam war's darkest days. Sin City, as another instance, featured the howling refrain 'It seems like this whole town's insane' which could be seen not only as a caustic observation of urban decay but also of the moral decline of a nation looking for a new direction at the end of the 1960s and the era's unfulfilled optimism. Another genre-busting track was Do Right Woman - a cover of Aretha Franklin's defiant proto-feminist song-as-manifesto - which raised eyebrows among fans of two genres not known for their embrace of gender equality. The Gilded Palace of Sin's sound was marked by Pete Kleinow's steel pedal playing, which not only gave the tracks their lilting country tones but also resonated enough with Parsons' fans from The Byrds' psychedelic wing to broaden the nascent country rock's audience into the hippy movement. To many it would be a sin to thank anyone for the emergence of bands such as The Eagles, but without Parsons, the west coast's biggest-selling rock act of all time could possibly have never existed. Ditto for the recent pop era's country-rock behemoths: had Parsons not strummed his lonesome guitar to a rock beat, Kings of Leon might never have followed suit and a dozen worldwide festivals would have been wanting for a top-billing act over the past decade.