Sunday, February 24, 2008

jimmy eight cat's top reissues of 2007

continuing in no particular order

Flying Burrito Brothers, Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 (Amoeba Records)

Back in what I like to call “The Dating Years” (vs. the “Grateful That There’s No Male Equivalent of Spinster Years”) I briefly dated the girl of my dreams. My 23 year old dreams I might add, just wizened enough to think about the rest of my life, but not yet bludgeoned by decades of wretched choices, misplaced affection and a pathological tendency to for mistake deep-seated neuroses for charm. After what was probably the best month of my young, drunk, ambitionless life the whole thing crumbled one night for reasons that made little sense then and are irrelevant now. I ended up at the house of a friend who was also a collector, crying in whatever shitty beer happened to be on sale that week.

Digging through crates of records he pulled out “Gilded Palace of Sin” and “Burrito Deluxe”, the first two Flying Burrito Brothers’ albums. “You know, I think you’re about ready for Gram Parsons.” Christ was he right, Gram Parsons UNDERSTOOD.

In the years since Parsons’ death and ensuing beatification, it seems that every note he recorded with the Burritos has been released. They’ve all been with the “Burrito Deluxe” era band with founding bassist Chris Etheridge gone, Bernie Leadon on guitar and Chris Hillman switching to bass. And none of them have been live recordings.

This is something else entirely, a genuine historical find, not quite the Coltrane/Monk Carnegie Hall set, but not all that far from it. Lo-fi versions of these recordings have been circulating for years, but the tapes used here were recorded by soundman/LSD manufacturer Owsley Stanley when the Burritos opened for the Grateful Dead, and benefit from Owsley’s legendary attention to sound. This is the greatest Burrito’s line-up, with ex-Byrd Mike Clarke on drums and Hillman’s occasionally trippy guitar style and emotional harmony singing. And although this is billed as part of the Parson’s archive, it’s as much a testament to co-leader Hillman and serves as a tribute to pedal steel player Sneaky Pete Kleinow who died last January. Kleinow used the pedal steel as a rock instrument, and a lot of what people think of as being the Burritos’ sound is because of him.

Consisting of two separate shows, there is much repetition between the two discs, but that also means you get not only get eight songs the Burritos never recorded, you get two versions of six of them. And that means no matter what disc you listen to, you rebound from the heartache of “She Once Lived Here” with the kiss off of “Sweet Mental Revenge”. My 23 year old self would find comfort in that.

Obsessive record geek nit-picking: While the discs themselves list the “The Flying Burrito Brothers” as the artists, the cover bills “Gram Parsons with the Flying Burrito Brothers”. They were never called that and the band was at least as much Chris Hillman’s as his, if not more so. It’s not quite as irritating as the cash-in albums from the seventies from “Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground”, but it’s still retroactive renaming.

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