Rick Roberts - vocals, guitar
Enamored by the folk-rock hybrid being forged by the Byrds, Bob Dylan, and others to follow in the mid-1960s, singer-songwriter Rick Roberts began honing his chops in small clubs during his teenage years, before hitchhiking to California in 1969. Landing in Los Angeles, Roberts began making his way performing on the club scene, becoming friends with many of the aspiring Laurel Canyon songwriters and musicians that would become the epicenter of the American music industry by the mid-1970s.
It was at one of these club performances that Roberts crossed paths with Flying Burrito Brothers' manager, Ed Tickner. The frontman and co-founder of the Burritos, Gram Parsons, had become professionally unreliable and his erratic behavior had the group looking for a replacement. This was a daunting task as Parsons had a strong following, and fans of the first two Burritos albums considered Parsons integral to the group's sound and an essential element of their mystique. With the encouragement of Chris Hillman and Tickner, Roberts, who had an expressive voice and was a talented acoustic guitarist, became the new lead singer for the band. Roberts also began contributing songs to the band's repertoire, giving the group a more accessible pop sound, which was heavily represented on their next self-titled album. Roberts' presence dominated the album and he had a hand in writing six of the ten songs. This personnel change took a while for existing fans to accept, but it made the Burritos more accessible to rock listeners and their live performances became stronger and far more consistent. Following the album and a subsequent tour, documented on the live Last Of The Red Hot Burritos album, the group's future was again in serious jeopardy. Ironically, the rest of the band departed for other projects, leaving Roberts the only established bandmember left. He reluctantly began recruiting a whole new lineup of Burritos and to his credit, they remained a compelling live band. This new lineup fulfilled the bands European touring obligations and even released a double live album on their European label, but by the time they returned stateside, the writing was on the wall.
At this point Roberts began recording his debut solo album, Windmills. This album showcased his expressive voice and guitar playing and many of his Laurel Canyon friends contributed to the sessions. Three of the Eagles—Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon and Don Henley—as well as Jackson Browne and pedal steel player extraordinaire, Al Perkins, all played on the recordings. Needless to say, the album had a country-rock feel not far removed from the Burrito Brothers. The songs on this album remain prime examples of California country-rock before it became formulaic and polished out of existence.
Opening for friend Roger McGuinn at the Performance Center in Cambridge, this solo acoustic performance captures the stripped down beauty of Rick Roberts music near this transitional moment in time, prior to the recording of his second album and Linda Ronstadt's monumental success covering his songs. This is also prior to the launch of the band Firefall, which would generate numerous pop-flavored country hits and bring Roberts greater recognition than ever before.
An excellent overview of Roberts' earlier material, the set emphasizes songs from the Windmills and three Burritos albums, with a few choice covers thrown in for good measure. From his solo album, Roberts delivers fine solo takes on "Deliver Me" and the grittier "Drunk And Dirty." More compelling is the set opening "Davy McVie," a song Roberts states is about cocaine, but that really addresses the trappings and fleeting nature of fame, and the beautiful "In A Dream," one of his finest songs. Roberts' tenure with the Burritos is also well represented by "Four Days Of Rain," "Why Are You Crying," (unfortunately incomplete and tacked on the end as an outtake), and the gentle sorrow-filled "Colorado," which had just been recorded by Linda Ronstadt, but was still yet to be released as her next single.
Three choice covers flesh out the set. Roberts gives a delightful reading of Bob Dylan's playful "If You Gotta Go, Go Now." Equally fun is his take on J.D. Souther's "The Fast One," also recorded by Ronstadt, which addresses the healing power of music, concluding with joyous yodeling. The remaining track, "It Doesn't Matter," is a precursor of things to come. This song would help launch Firefall in the not-too-distant future, and Roberts alters the Manassas arrangement just enough to make it his own. It is with that group that Roberts would experience his greatest commercial success, generating immensely popular singles with "You Are the Woman" and "Just Remember I Love You."