Friday, February 08, 2008

The Flying Burrito Brothers Live At The Avalon

One of the great things about having a music blog is that they send you free records. Sometimes you even like them! Case in point, the good folks at Amoeba Music sent over a copy of the new Flying Burrito Brothers' live release. For marketing reasons its being billed as "Gram Parsons with The Flying Burrito Brothers - Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969."

Gram Parsons gets special billing today because of his historical stature. His work is to country rock what Bill Monroe's is to bluegrass and Bob Wills' is to western swing: It defines the style. Through his work with the International Submarine Band, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and his solo albums (featuring Emmylou Harris), Gram wrote the book on country rock.

If you're already a fan of the genre, you'll like the new Avalon Ballrom set. It's rock musicians playing country music to hippies. The sound quality is good and the set list leans to the country side. The highlight for me was the FBB's cover of "You Win Again," which is one of the greatest Hank Williams songs. Also on the album is an outtake of Gram working through his classic tune Thousand Dollar Wedding. It's interesting to hear an early rendition of what later would become a signature song. (Buy the album to hear that one).

It's also worth noting that the packaging is nice with liner notes by, of all people, noted rock groupie Pamela Des Barres. Hey, she was there, so she should know...

Check out a few choice cuts from the Avalon concert:

The Flying Burrito Brothers – You Win Again (Live) (buy album).

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Train Song (Live) (buy album).

As enjoyable as the live set may be, its not the place to start if you are new to Parsons/Country-Rock. I would recommend starting with the two-for-one CD with his solo albums G.P. and Grievous Angel. Two other seminal country-rock albums that every country and rock fan should own are the Flying Burrito Brothers' Gilded Palace of Sin and The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo, both of which feature Gram prominently (or at least his influence).

Gram Parsons – She (buy album).

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Sin City (buy album).

The Byrds – The Christian Life (Rehearsal Take) (buy album). This bonus-track version features Gram on vocals.

Just for fun, here's the original version of The Christian Life, by The Louvin Brothers:

The Louvin Brothers – The Christian Life (buy album).

Check the sidebar area for more mp3s


scott pgwp said...

Hey Paul - did you see this post over at This Recording? It's a nice Gram post from a week or two back, including audio snippets of interviews and more mp3s (which I'm sure you have already).

Both the Gram and the FBB two-for-one discs are on my to-buy list. Which do you like more? I'm leaning toward the FBB because I have an affinity for Chris Hillman.

Paul said...


Thanks for pointing out the GP post. I read This Recording but somehow missed that day (too many good blogs to keep up with!).

You need to get both albums. I probably favor the Gram two-fer, but only by a hair over the FBB and probably just for sentimental reasons. Both are great. Tiebreaker is Emmylou on the GP disc.

scott pgwp said...

Emmylou is quite the tiebreaker, isn't she.

brendan said...

damn thanks for this post. I've been going back and forth on whether to try this one out. now i can make an informed decision! after some rank & file of course.

and i'm quite happy with the FBB anthology. essential stuff by all means.

Paul said...

This is an e-mail that I got from Tom Silvestri:

Hey Paul, great job spreading the word on the live Burritos CD! But please stop spreading the myth that Gram invented country-rock. Gram himself admitted once that he didn’t even know what the Byrds had already done along those lines when he joined the band, I think that’s in the Ben Fong-Torres book. This situation has gotten so out of hand that a friend and I from back in the day had to compile a CD (not for profit, just as a birthday gift for someone) called Pre-Gram Parsons ‘60s Country-Rock. Here’s what’s on it:

I’ll Cry Instead, I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party, Act Naturally, I’ve Just Seen a Face, Run For Your Life, What Goes On – The Beatles

Nashville Cats, Wild About My Lovin’ – The Lovin’ Spoonful

Satisfied Mind, Mr. Spaceman, Time Between, The Girl with No Name, Wasn’t Born to Follow, Change Is Now, Old John Robertson – The Byrds

Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing, Go and Say Goodbye, A Child’s Claim to Fame, Bluebird, On the Way Home, I Am a Child, Kind Woman – Buffalo Springfield

Hey Grandma, Ain’t No Use – Moby Grape

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight – Bob Dylan

Clarence White (who was one of the first musicians Hillman met, at the legendary Ash Grove club and guitar school, when he moved to L.A.), Gene Parsons (who formed Nashville West with White before Parsons did the International Submarine Band album and who, along with White and Poco’s Rusty Young, were considered for an early Burrito Brothers line-up with Hillman and Gram), and of course Richie Furay (who actually met Gram in the Bronx, of all places, when Gram was ditching Harvard and Furay was singing in Greenwich Village with Steve Stills in the Au Go Go Singers), McGuinn, Stills, Neil Young, and so on were forging country-rock long before Gram. And Gram fucked it up pretty badly after all, much as I love him; was never much onstage even as a singer in technical terms, though he of course he had extraordinary country soul in his voice. As Hillman said, I think also in the Torres book, “He wanted to be a star, but he didn’t want to work for it.” So let’s not go overboard.

P.S. I couldn’t figure out how to enter this comment with the other ones on the Burritos CD. If you can figure out how to do it and want to enter it there, be my guest.

Paul said...


Thanks for your great (and very well-informed) comment. You obviously know your country-rock history very well.

I just want to clarify that I didn't mean to imply that Gram Parsons "invented" country rock, only that his work embodied or defined the style. Bill Monroe did not invent bluegrass and Bob Wills did not invent western swing, but those are the artists that we most associate with those genres, fair or not.

The whole discussion reminds me of the oft-debated question about the first "rock opera." Was it Tommy, as popular legend would have it, or Arthur, as Ray Davies claims. Or was it The Who before the Kinks with A Quick One? Or SF Sorrow before that? The world may never know... But Tommy gets credit.

Anyway, thanks for the great e-mail. You are right that country and rock were blending before Parsons joined the Byrds. I think this discussion will be fodder for another post in the near future!

brendan said...

That sounds like a pretty great early-country-rock mix. GP is just the poster boy, he's easy to latch on to, what with the Nudie suits and rock'n roll lifestyle.

Paul, I got your Rock Opera debate in my drafts box!