By James Calemine
If you’re reading this review, chances are you’ve heard of Gram Parsons. However, you’ve not heard these two timeless shows. Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers opened three shows for The Grateful Dead in San Francisco during the spring of 1969. These two shows were recorded by the Grateful Dead’s sonic guru, Stanley “Bear” Owsley.
These two stellar “Bear” shows were discovered last year buried in the famous Grateful Dead vaults. Not many live Flying Burrito Brothers recordings exist. I obtained a bootleg of the April 6 show (Disc Two) years ago, but the quality on this package stuns in its clarity.
Both shows include essential original Burrito songs such as “Hot Burrito #1, “Hot Burrito #2” and “Sin City” along with covers of Little Richard’s “Lucille”, George/Stovall’s “Long Black Limousine” and Mel Tillis’ “Mental Revenge”. Bonus tracks include a demo recording of the Parsons gem “$1000 Wedding” recorded at Jim Seiter’s house in 1969, and the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved”–cut in New York City during 1967.
These live performances allow each musician to add little touches unheard on the studio versions. At this point, Parsons and Hillman’s partnership bloomed. Chris Ethridge still played bass in the band and the late Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel never sounded so heart-breaking. In the spirit of opening for the Grateful Dead in San Francisco, the Burrito’s even jammed a bit in “Hot Burrito #2”.
Parsons’ voice sounds remarkable. His greatness shines on these recordings. Other formidable cover songs in this package include Hank Williams’ “You Win Again”, George Jones’ “She Once Lived Here” and Willie Nelson’s “Undo The Right”.
Live At the Avalon Ballroom 1969 preserves a high-water mark during the bright, but brief, zenith of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ career. For any Gram Parsons fan, these recordings prove essential…