Gram Parsons - vocals, guitar, organ; Chris Hillman - vocals, guitar, mandolin; Sneaky Pete Kleinow - pedal steel guitar; Chris Ethridge - bass; Michael Clarke - drums
Gram Parsons' vision of a "Cosmic American Music" is well represented here on this early live Flying Burrito Brothers recording. Sandwiched on an Avalon bill between AUM and the Grateful Dead, this set captures an era of the group that few have heard, immediately following the release of their groundbreaking 1969 debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin - just as they were first beginning to give definition to Parson's authentic vision.
Although bands like Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds had explored country music during the preceding years, it was Parsons, along with ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and pedal steel player extraordinaire Sneaky Pete Kleinow, who essentially created what would come to be categorized eventually as the country/rock (or later, alt-country) genre. Although the Burrito's glory days with Parsons were brief and went virtually ignored at the time, their influence cannot be underestimated. The small body of work they left behind was a virtual blueprint for countless other groups.
Several of the best songs from the band's debut album are featured in this set, including a soulful and haunting rendition of "Dark End Of The Street" and the classic "Sin City," a song which veritably epitomized Parsons' stylistic approach. As good as these original songs are, the most astounding thing about this show is the sheer abundance of interesting, unreleased covers. Early on in the set, they perform a great medley of country songs featuring Hank Cochran and Willie Nelson's "If You Can't Undo The Wrong, Undue The Right" paired up with the Wilburn Brothers' 1957 hit "Somebody's Back In Town." The band had a keen ear for adapting contemporary songs as well as classic rock 'n' roll into their vision. Check out their read on Delaney and Bonnie's "We Gotta Get Ourselves Together," or on Little Richard's "Lucille," in an arrangement reminiscent of the Every Brothers. They also tackle Roy Orbison's "Sweet Dream Baby" with great success.
This show has a lot to offer and gives the listener a unique insight to what Parson's was trying to achieve on stage during such a transitional time. The band would actually become a tighter live performing unit following Parson's departure, but they never achieved quite the same impact they had during this brief early period. This is groundbreaking stuff by musicians who were unafraid to walk the line between country and rock at a time when those two genres, for the most part, were mutually exclusive.