Monday, November 28, 2011

Flying Burrito Bros 1: The Gilded Palace Of Sin

Gram Parsons was only in the “new” Byrds long enough to spearhead the recording of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Even before that album was released, he had left the band, soon to be followed by Chris Hillman, and together they formed the Flying Burrito Brothers.
This outfit expanded on the country tendencies of the Byrds by infusing it with a distinct rock sound, best summed up by the fuzz tone used by pedal steel guitarist “Sneeky Pete” Kleinow, which cuts through even the corniest tracks like a saw. On top of it all, Parsons and Hillman croon like the Everly Brothers. This blend appears at the top of The Gilded Palace Of Sin on “Christine’s Tune” (later retitled “Devil In Disguise”).
Their approach to country was anything but orthodox, as even the straighter sounding songs can be deceptive. The wonderfully melodic “Sin City” skewers the LA music scene, while the jaunty “My Uncle” concerns draft evasion while a mandolin trills away. “Wheels” and “Juanita” celebrate, respectively, the open road and the redemption of a teenage girl. “Do You Know How It Feels?” is relatively straight, setting us up for the closing, slightly surreal monologue about a “Hippie Boy”, complete with a chorus of “Peace In The Valley”.
Each side gets its own unique centerpiece as well. On the first, there’s a pair of Memphis R&B covers, “Do Right Woman” and “The Dark End Of The Street”, which had been hits just a few years before and would later feature in The Commitments. Side two has two songs that were apparently written so fast that they barely got titles. “Hot Burrito #1” is a lovelorn lament later claimed by Elvis Costello as “I’m Your Toy”. “Hot Burrito #2” isn’t as easy to sum up except for the insistence on love and the exasperated “Jesus Christ!” at the end of each chorus.
The Gilded Palace Of Sin is one of those albums that gets better with each listen, coming across as so effortless and easy. And as with most things involving Gram Parsons, it wouldn’t last.

The Flying Burrito Bros The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)—4

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