Posts Tagged ‘Chris Hillman’

The Byrds: Turn! Turn! Turn! —

The signature guitar orchestra led by McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker dominates the music of the opening title track, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”. These guitars are complimented by perfectly harmonized vocals, and Clarke’s rolling drum pattern under the chorus sections. While it is filled with so much sustained guitar textures, it stops on a dime several times between each verse/chorus sequence, including a false ending before a coda with extra intensity. The song was originally composed by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, with many of the lyrics were lifted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, possibly written by King Solomon in the 10th century BC. With that, the song holds the distinction as the #1 pop hit with the oldest lyrics.

Like the opener, “It Won’t Be Wrong”, is another upbeat track but with more standard love song style lyrics. Co-written by McGuinn and Harvey Gerstand, this track features some interesting style changes which make it unconventional and a bit strange. Clark’s, “Set You Free This Time”, is a country/pop flavored track, especially in its vocal approach. In fact, this is the first song to feature solo lead singer, with harmonies used sparingly and with Clark’s fine harmonica solo as the song fades out.

“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, is the first of two Bob Dylan covers on the album and is set up like a spiritual with the chorus/hook featuring heavy harmonies. Musically, this song has much the same jangly vibe and strong drums as previous tracks, but with an added heavy bass presence by Hillman. The first side concludes with an original rendition of the traditional folk tune, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, a finger-picked acoustic song with stripped down arrangement and a slight, distant organ by Melcher under the later verses.

“The World Turns All Around Her”, is a fine, pop-oriented composition by Clark which may only suffer from lack of strong rhythm presence in production mix. “Satisfied Mind”, follows as a country-esque cover of a folk song by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Along with the fine sparse instrumentation and harmonica lead, this track is highlighted by profound and philosophical lyrics;

Money won’t buy back your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold / The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind…”

Clark’s, “If You’re Gone”, is different than any other track on the album. Vocal-centric with a slow-rock backing, the song has distinct and interesting, almost haunting, chanting low-register vocals. While not quite as potent as their cover of, “Mr Tambourine Man”, the Byrds’ cover of, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” ,still dekuvers somewhat of an interesting arrangement of the Dylan classic.

Further, the group members were pleasantly surprised when Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney showed up during the recording of this track. “Wait and See”, is the only song to feature Crosby as a co-writer, along with McGuinn, while the group chose to do a souped up version of the popular campfire song, “Oh! Susannah”, to close the album.

Turn! Turn! Turn! peaked in the Top 20 of album charts in both the US and UK.

The Byrds

  • Jim McGuinn – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
  • Gene Clark – rhythm guitar, harmonica, tambourine, vocals
  • David Crosby – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Chris Hillman – electric bass (backing vocal on “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”)
  • Michael Clarke – drums (tambourine on “He Was a Friend of Mine”)

Additional personnel

  • Terry Melcher – organ on “He Was a Friend of Mine”

Intervention Records is thrilled to announce The Flying Burrito Bros. classic 1970 sophomore effort Burrito Deluxe on 180-gram vinyl.

Burrito Deluxe is the second and final hot Burrito made while the band was still led by former Byrds member Gram Parsons. The Flying Burrito Bros. are widely viewed as the inventors of country rock and are one of the most influential bands of all time. “Burrito Deluxe” is another classic full of great tunes written and sung by Parsons and Chris Hillman.

The original LP art is restored by IR’s Tom Vadakan and the old-style, “tip-on, brown-in” LP jacket is printed by Stoughton and features super deluxe red foil accents on the front cover. For years now, we’ve touted Intervention Records’ superlative work in the vinyl reissue front.  The team’s attention to detail, impeccable artwork, and stellar sonics across genres have given them a reputation in the reissue world as one of the best.  Their established quality in the LP world happily extends to the digital realm, as well.

Is this the album that made country cool? Former Byrds Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman picked up where they left off with Sweetheart of the Rodeo with this stunning masterpiece of a debut album by The Flying Burrito Bros. While Parsons had already pushed rock in a country direction during his brief stint with The Byrds and The International Submarine Band, The Gilded Palace of Sin is why the Burritos are widely viewed as the inventors of country rock. Indeed with this album, Hillman and Parsons carved a substantial place in music history as one of the most influential albums and bands of all time.

The Gilded Palace of Sin was 100% Analog Mastered by Kevin Gray at CoHEARent Audio from the best source available- a phenomenal sounding 1/2″ safety copy of the original stereo master tapes. All of the top-end energy and “snap” of the original A&M LP is preserved, while the bass foundation is fully restored to make this new Intervention reissue the definitive listening experience for this classic LP! , For their sophomore album, the band’s original songs were joined by a country classic (“Image of Me,” popularized by Conway Twitty), a gospel standard (“Farther Along”), and tunes by Dylan (“If You Gotta Go”) and the Stones (the first recording of “Wild Horses”). “Burrito Deluxe” featured Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, Bernie Leadon, and Michael Clarke plus guests including Leon Russell (tickling the ivories on Leadon and Parsons’ “Man in the Fog” and the Glimmer Twins’ “Wild Horses”).  It would prove Parsons’ final album with the group.

Image may contain: 3 people, people on stage and people playing musical instruments

The Byrds – 1965 – Founded in 1964 by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, the original Byrds also included Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Crosby. The band, featuring McGuinn’s sublime, jangly, 12-string Rickenbacker and beautiful three-part harmonies was one of the most influential Rock bands of the era, and arguably with the Doors and Crosby, Stills and Nash, the three greatest American Rock groups of the 1960s. The original band recorded three albums: “Mr Tambourine Man,” (1965), Turn! Turn! Turn! (1966), and “Fifth Dimension,” (1966).

These albums contained some of Gene Clark’s finest compositions” “Set You Free This Time,” “Here Without You,” “She Don’t Care About Time,” and “Feel A Whole Lot Better.” He departed the band in 1966 followed by Crosby in 1967.

After an appearance with Stephen Stills at the Monterey Pop Festival, Crosby helped form the Rock super group Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1968. 

The early Byrds albums are best known for their cover versions – their take on Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ launched their career, while their second album was named for Pete Seeger’s biblical ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ While Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman would write strong material for The Byrds later, the one Byrd who was an accomplished writer from the beginning was Gene Clark.

Due to group infighting in the band, Clark was limited to only three songs on their second album,Turn! Turn! Turn!This meant that the excellent ‘She Don’t About Time’ was relegated to b-side status, backing the title track. It’s one of my favourite Clark songs for The Byrds. For me the song’s most startling feature is McGuinn’s lift of Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ for the guitar solo, and how seamlessly it fits in. The song inspired George Harrison to write The Beatles’ ‘If I Needed Someone’.

As a Byrds fan, it took me a while to get to Clark’s solo career, but it’s often excellent please check out the records like No Other and White Light both are very strong.

As a bonus feature, here’s another strong Byrds song that never made it onto a studio album. David Crosby’s non-album single ‘Lady Friend’ was released in 1967. It’s an interesting spin on The Byrds’ usual sound, with the harmonies and McGuinn guitar the group were known for, but also a brass arrangement. It failed on the charts, and was never included on a studio album.

Down the Road

Though Stephen Stills’ talents as a singer, guitarist and songwriter are plain to hear on his solo records, he thrives in a collaborative environment, so it’s little surprise that after CSNY dissolved, he formed another band – Manassas. The second and final album under that name, 1973’s “Down The Road” was cut at Miami’s Criteria Sound Studios and Caribou Ranch in Colorado, and features tasty Stills-penned roots rockers like “Isn’t It About Time” and the title track, along with “Lies” by Chris Hillman (who’d landed in Manassas between stints with The Byrds).

“Manassas was such a terrific band. It really had some structure and reminded me of the Buffalo Springfield at its best,” Stills once recalled, so we’ll give the group’s “Down The Road” another spin to wish the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer a happy 75th birthday.

This was always going to be a 3 or 4 star album because the first Manassas album was almost impossible to match, let alone better. The scope of that work was immense and I really believe it represented the best music Stills has ever produced – even better than the first CSN album. Standouts are “Pensiamento”, quite simply the best Latin rock song in his considerable cannon, the country-rock “Do You Remember The Americans?” and a couple of nice collaborations with Chris Hillman on “Isn’t It About Time” and “So Many Times”. With a band including Paul Harris, Al Perkins and Hillman, the musicianship is always going to be first rate but a couple of songs do let it down a tad, noteably “Business On The Street” and “Rolling My Stone” which sound a little laboured.

A band like Manassas, who were comfortable with rock, blues, country and Latin and stretch out and this album is too short to do them or their songs justice. Manassas were only a 2 album band, there’s little if any chance Stills would get them back together but they were still a million miles ahead of the competition, even in second gear.

By 1972, what we call classic rock was pretty much at its peak though nobody at the time knew it. Except maybe Stephen Stills. The band and the double-album he piloted and released that year both named Manassas now seem pivotal. Manassas brilliantly summed up the remarkable 1960s creative surge that revitalized rock’s roots and encouraged experimentation just when it was at its crest. Predominantly a vehicle for Stills‘ artistic vision, the band released two albums during its active tenure, 1972’s Manassas and 1973’s Down the Road. The band dissolved in October 1973.

The top-flight outfit Stills assembled in late 1971 and named for a bloody two-part Civil War battle (the album’s cover shot was taken on that battlefield) could nimbly navigate damn near every polyglot style rock was evolving– from blues “Jet Set” to bluegrass “Fallen Eagle”, country rock “Don’t Look At My Shadow” to Caribbean beats “Medley”, folk-rock “Johnny’s Garden” to metal “Right Now”. Jamming out complex, textured arrangements in the studio, they successfully translated them to stages in Europe and the US. But Stills always felt that Manassas struggled for recognition because his handlers wanted him back in the gold rush that Crosby Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) had generated.

Whatever the reason, Manassas remains one of rock’s half-forgotten treasures. But it’s arguably the best album and band Stephen Stills ever helmed.

Stills was Born in Texas, raised in Florida, Costa Rica, and the Panama Canal Zone as his military family rotated through duty stations. He absorbed all sorts of music along the way, and learned to play them on guitar, keyboards, bass, banjo, and assorted percussion instruments. The rootless kid found his mooring in sound. He beat up his family’s furniture until his dad finally got him drums to go with his drumsticks. After a week of college, he quit to be a musician.

His scuffling path through the folk revival introduced him to dozens of players, like Richie Furay and Neil Young, who would become his creative network. It also put him into play at the onset of rock’s 1960s creative surge. He was in Los Angeles trying to peddle his songs when he turned down a slot with the corporately manufactured Monkees (he recommended Peter Tork instead), and jumped headlong into the exploratory waves with his tempestuous band Buffalo Springfield. The Springfield surfed onto the national Top 40 charts with Stills’s brooding track For What It’s Worth. In the studio, on tracks as radically distinct as Kind Woman, Rock and Roll Woman, and Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing, they probed the new ideas firing young musical imaginations from London to California. Live, the band crackled with guitar-hero firepower, when Stills and Young opened up in redoubtable jams.

His songs were innovative, superbly crafted, stylistically diverse; Bluebird is a stellar example of his fondness for complex structures. His lyrics could be elliptical or nakedly autobiographical; often infused with dark romance (Hung Upside Down, Questions) his confessional story-telling updated his beloved blues. Onstage, he hurled himself at the microphone, when he wasn’t prancing or dancing; he was so intense, his full-throated vocals seemed to come somehow from his entire body. Bandmate Richie Furay called him “the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield.” Others, in a nod to his multi-instrumental chops, called him “Captain Many Hands.”

The unstable chemistry and battling egos that fired the Springfield’s creative ambitions inevitably blew it apart. But the band had barely disintegrated before Stills was off solidifying his guitar-hero credentials on Super Session, with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield. On Season of the Witch, Stills dialed up a distinctive voice on the wah-wah pedal Jimi Hendrix had turned him onto, floating sweet nothings and yearnings tinged with acerbity.

Thanks to his network, a series of accidents drew Crosby Stills and Nash together. Their 1969 debut met with critical hosannas and gold-record status, and marked the dawn of that record-industry supergroup, with high-powered handlers and big-ticket arena tours.

Graham Nash said, “Stephen had a vision, and David and I let him run with it.” Or maybe he just steamrolled over them. A year after Déjà Vu, what was now CSN&Y exploded, and its members released solo albums. Stephen Stills went gold, scored a hit (Love the One You’re With), and was the only album ever to feature both Eric Clapton (on Go Back Home) and Jimi Hendrix (on Old Times Good Times). But it and its followup drew ho-hum reviews; so did his tours. Critics and fans wondered if Stills was yet another self-indulgent rock star running out of gas.

Stills describes himself as “aggressive,” “obnoxious,” and the like, all meaning he’s a control freak—an auteur, if you like. In those days, he was usually packing an enviable pocketful of new tunes. He could out-sing almost anyone and play one-man band if he wanted. You can see how he’d be a hard guy to face off with about creative issues.

Yet he knew he needed feedback. He wanted to improvise with players whose ideas and chops stood up to his own. Then he could let jamming unleash creative interactions to enrich his ideas. That was how he worked during the Springfield’s best days.

A twist of fate gave him his shot. In 1971, he was coasting along on a lackluster but lucrative tour when he happened to cross paths with Chris Hillman. As Hillman recalls, “Stills was playing a concert in Cleveland with the Memphis Horns. I was sitting in the audience, going, ‘Jesus Christ. They’re making 25,000 bucks and they’re shitty. The Burritos are better than this.’ I went backstage, and that’s when we renewed the friendship.”

Their bond dated back to 1960s LA, when Hillman—among the most catalytic figures in rock history—got Buffalo Springfield the gig as the Whisky A Go Go’s house band. That launched them to stardom.

Besides, Stills knew that Hillman was far more than a catalyst. After a whiz-kid run as a bluegrass mandolinist, he played innovative bass, doubled on guitar, sang lead and harmony, and co-wrote songs with the Byrds. When Roger McGuinn unceremoniously dumped his friend Gram Parsons after Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Hillman left, and the Flying Burrito Brothers were born. Parsons and Hillman penned a few matchless songs that other composers would likely swap body parts for, like Sin City and Wheels.

But the Grievous Angel was riding hard on the road to ruin; sloppy business dealings, erratic performances, and over-the-top drug use and boozing got him fired from his own group before Burrito Deluxe was released in early 1970. Hillman tried steering the band, but its personnel kept changing; the near-chaos made the Burritos musically unpredictable and financially disastrous.

So when Hillman and Stills accidentally crossed paths in Cleveland, they both glimpsed opportunity. Stills’ bounteous talents and fierce competitive drive almost ensured he would overshadow nearly any setting he was in, but he was discouraged by his solo ventures. He needed a creative ally he respected, someone who’d push back but not combust or split.

Hillman, who may be rock history’s best-ever second banana, firstly dealing with McGuinn and Parsons were hard-to-beat baptisms of fire was secure enough in his own creativity to deliver. He would co-write two songs for Manassas (Both of Us, It Doesn’t Matter), help Stills wrangle others into shape, and supply his subtle, pure-toned harmonies throughout.

As Stills explained, “I basically wanted a partner, somebody who had a sense of songs. Chris invented the phrase ‘lyric police,’ and was a tremendous help. But I was still on that real powerful, energetic ‘Let’s go, I know what I’m doing’ kinda thing. Chris realized it was my band, and that was OK for him.”

A few weeks later, Stills called Hillman and invited him down to Miami’s famed Criteria Studios, where engineer-producer Tom Dowd had shepherded Derek and the Dominos‘ monumental jam-fuelled Layla sessions the year before. As it happens, the producers for what would become Manassas worked on it too.

The stage was set to replace the sterile studio feel Stills hated with the onstage improvising looseness he loved. He had his co-pilot. So who else would joust with Captain Many Hands? .From the shambling Burritos came two key other talents for the band, Violinist Byron Berline was a bluegrass vet who’d clocked time with stars like Bill Monroe and Dillard and Clark. Fallen Eagle, a breakneck bluegrass protest song against ranchers killing our endangered national symbol, puts his dazzling, keening fiddle and Hillman’s virtuoso mandolin in the forefront.

Al Perkins had learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at nine, mastered the dobro and pedal steel, performed with country and western bands, then shifted gears to tour his native west Texas as a rock guitar slinger. He supports or duels with Stills on all his axes. On Jesus Gave Love Away For Free, his aching steel solos swell and sigh; on Don’t Look at My Shadow, they glide with glee. On “Jet Set,” he plugs into effects to go grungy and deliver slashing, whiplash blues in Duane Allman fashion to counter Stills’ gurgling wah-wah. He plays both steel and guitar on Song of Love.

Perkins, Stills, and Hillman take their guitar army acoustic for Johnny’s Garden, where their loosely braided, ever-shifting lines gently nudge Stills‘ yearning vocal. The rest of the cast came from Stills‘ solo albums and tours.

Bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels brought the Caribbean feels Stills craved, as the burbling line on “Song of Love” demonstrates. But he could nail the bottom hard on blues-rockers like “Jet Set.”

Keyboardist Paul Harris, a session vet, could play almost any style; with Hillman’s adept rhythm guitar, his keys became the session’s sonic glue.

Latin percussionist Joe Lala co-founded Blues Image (Ride Captain Ride) and sang with gritty, soulful conviction. He vocally challenges Stills on Cuban Bluegrass, and delivers the pulsating Latin rhythms Stills adored throughout.

Drummer Dallas Taylor was Stills’ running buddy—and a wild card. He played on CSN(and sometimes Y)’s first two albums and tours; they fired him because his substance abuse rivaled the Grievous Angel’s. But this bad boy had exactly what Stills wanted on drums: he could float, dance, or slam it home.

The musicians quickly gelled in the studio, and within several weeks had recorded enough material at Criteria to fill a double-LP album release. The band was capable of a wide musical range, with a repertoire including blues, folk, country, Latin, and rock songs. Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, a friend of both Hillman and Stills who visited Criteria during the sessions, was an early fan of the band, at one point expressing an interest in joining. (Wyman would contribute to the sessions by helping Stills re-write his to-date unrecorded song from 1968, “Bumblebee,” as the blues/funk tune “The Love Gangster,” with Wyman also playing bass on the track.) The band christened itself Manassas after Stills, who had a strong interest in American Civil War history, orchestrated a photo shoot for them in Manassas, Virginia, the site of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run.

What was slated to be Stills’ third solo album had morphed completely. The band’s chemistry clicked almost instantly, and its boundless energy and chops meshed with Stills‘ vision and discipline. A few weeks of jamming out arrangements fused the wildly diverse material and sounds into a sum greater than its parts. They came out of it as a fierce, tuned machine. (See for yourself on this high-quality German TV recording, where Stills wails on wah-wah for “Jet Set” and “Treasure of the Oneness.”)

No wonder Bill Wyman, who co-wrote Love Gangster with Stills and played bass for the track, said he’d leave the Stones to join Manassas. Hillman understood why: “We were always more of a band than people thought. Stills wouldn’t have been the same without us, that’s for sure. Manassas was the best band Stills ever played in.”

The album ends with a final stark jolt. Blues Man finds Stills alone with an acoustic guitar, like the host of a wild party sitting amid the wreckage after it’s over. He channels everything he ever absorbed from his revered blues masters into his gritty, anguished vocal and nimble fingerpicking to sketch a raw, painfully dark elegy for three of his friends. Jimi Hendrix, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), and Duane Allman had all recently died.

They weren’t the only ones: Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison were among the others. Many were wondering if rock’s creative surge had run its course. Did Stills? Who knows? But an era was indeed ending. And nothing Stills has done since approaches the epic scale and artistic heights of Manassas.

After the European leg of Manassas’ 1972 tour, Chris Hillman took several weeks away from the band to record a reunion album with his pre-Burritos band the Byrds, an effort that also included Stills’ ex-CSNY bandmate David Crosby, Manassas then regrouped and quickly completed their second album, Down the Road. Initial sessions for the album were again convened at Criteria Studios, but the band moved the sessions in midstream to Caribou Ranch in Colorado and the Record Plant in Los Angeles after Criteria staff engineers Ron and Howard Albert expressed concern that the sessions were not producing quality results. Down the Road was completed in January 1973. After completing Down the Road, Manassas became dormant for several months. During the break, Stephen Stills married Véronique Sanson, whom he had met in Paris during Manassas’ 1972 European tour.

Stills was greeted by several sources of turmoil upon returning  to regroup Manassas, as, in addition to Hillman’s future commitment to work with Furay and Souther, Dallas Taylor had become severely addicted to heroin, and Calvin Samuels had left the band for personal reasons. Stills dealt with these issues by securing the services of Jefferson Airplane drummer John Barbata (who had previously replaced Taylor in CSNY during their 1970 tour and Kenny Buttrey during Young’s 1973 tour) as a backup for Taylor, and bassist Kenny Passarelli of Joe Walsh’s band Barnstorm to replace Samuels. Samuels would return to the band for the last leg of its 1973 tour. Following the tour’s completion in October, Manassas’s dissolution was complete.

One of Manassas’ last shows, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in early October 1973, was made notable by the band’s being joined onstage by first David Crosby and Graham Nash, and, later in the show, by Neil Young. When later asked about this occurrence, Chris Hillman would comment “I could smell a CSNY reunion.” CSNY would, in fact, regroup for a world tour in early 1974. Following this tour, Stephen Stills would start a new band in 1975 with Kenny Passarelli and Joe Lala, but this was short-lived; Passarelli would soon depart to join the Elton John Band, and Lala would subsequently leave as well. Chris Hillman’s Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, which would also include Manassas members Al Perkins and Paul Harris (and eventually Joe Lala, who would later join Chicago), released its first album in early 1974.

That initial double album, along with Eric Clapton’s Layla stand as the most important and best albums we’ve ever been a part of.” Of the band’s prowess on stage, Stephen Stills has said “Manassas was such a terrific band. It really had some structure and reminded me of [Stills‘ previous band] the Buffalo Springfield at its best. Manassas could play anything.

  • Stephen Stills, vocals, keyboards & guitar (CSNY, ex-Buffalo Springfield)
  • Chris Hillman, vocals, mandolin & guitar (ex-Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers)
  • Al Perkins, steel guitar & guitar (ex-Gram Parsons and Flying Burrito Brothers)
  • Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, bass, backing vocals (ex-CSNY and John Sebastian)
  • Paul Harris, keyboards (performed sessions and toured with John Sebastian during 1968-71, and sessions for B.B. King during 1969-70)
  • Dallas Taylor, drums (ex-Clear Light, CSNY and John Sebastian)
  • Joe Lala, percussion, backing vocals (ex-Blues Image and Pacific Gas & Electric)

Californian folk-rock band The Byrds enjoyed immediate success in 1965 with their first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. The song was a watershed moment in pop music – combining Dylan’s poetic, creative lyrics with Roger McGuinn’s chiming twelve string electric guitar. The song launched the genre of folk-rock, influencing acts like Tom Petty and R.E.M..

By the time of their fifth album, 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers, The Byrds were in turmoil, released in January 1968, on Columbia Records With three talented singer-guitarists competing for attention in their original lineup, band relationships were competitive and strained. Ace songwriter Gene Clark had already left the band, and David Crosby was fired in October 1967, during the sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The breaking point was the song ‘Triad’, about a ménage à trois, a song that the other members considered too risque at the time. Drummer Michael Clarke also left the band during the recording sessions, and much of the drumming on the album is from studio players Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers was completed by the two remaining Byrds; McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman, using studio musicians to fill out the sound. The Byrds had often recorded songs from outside songwriters, famously Bob Dylan, and this time two songs from the pen of Carole King and Gerry Goffin are covered. Even though he was fired during the sessions, David Crosby’s also influential on the record – as well as contributing three songs, his rhythm guitar and vocals are on half of the songs. He also plays bass on ‘Old John Robertson’.

1967 was the year of psychedelia, but albums like Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and The Band’s 1968 debut swung the pendulum back to an earthy, homespun feel. The Notorious Byrd Brothers splits the difference – psychedelia mingles with country touches like pedal steel. There’s also the band’s usual folk-rock, and other styles are explored – ‘Old John Robertson’ starts as jaunty country, but detours into a baroque string quartet. Closer ‘Space Odyssey’ is the most disparate. a Moog coloured sci-fi experiment.

It’s these experiments in texture that make The Notorious Byrd Brothers  among The Byrds’ best album. There’s enough of the Byrds’ usual folk-rock to make Notorious a representative album but every track has a different sonic palette, lovingly thought out and distinct.

1960s themes of love and unity are prominent in songs like ‘Natural Harmony’, but there are also hints of darkness in the drug song ‘Artificial Energy’ and the anti-Vietnam war ‘Draft Morning’.

The Byrds’ first six albums are all strong, and 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday is a strong contender as the band’s best album. In the aftermath of their sixth album, 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Hillman quit the band leaving McGuinn as the only original Byrd. Later Byrds albums are more like McGuinn solo records, excepting the 1973 reunion of the original lineup on The Byrds.

The album’s opening track, “Artificial Energy”, features a prominent horn section and as such, can be seen as a stylistic relative of “Lady Friend” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, two earlier Byrds’ songs that made use of brass.  The song deals with the dark side of amphetamine use and it was Chris Hillman who initially suggested that the band should “write a song about speed”. The title was suggested by drummer Michael Clarke, and his input in the creation of the song was sufficient to afford him a rare writing credit Although the song’s lyrics initially seem to be extolling the virtues of amphetamines, the tale turns darker in the final verse when it becomes apparent that the drug taker has been imprisoned for murdering a homosexual man, as evidenced by the song’s final couplet: “I’m coming down off amphetamine/And I’m in jail ’cause I killed a queen. Although the press had accused the Byrds of writing songs about drugs in the past, specifically with “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, when the band finally did record a song unequivocally dealing with drugs it was largely ignored by journalists.

“Artificial Energy” is followed on the album by the poignant and nostalgic Goffin–King song “Goin’ Back”.With its chiming 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and polished harmony singing, band biographer Johnny Rogan has described the song as providing a sharp contrast to the negativity and violence of the opening track The song’s lyrics describe an attempt on the part of the singer to reject the cynicism that comes with being an adult in favor of the innocence of childhood.Thematically, the song recalled the title of the Byrds‘ previous album, Younger Than Yesterday, and the understated pedal steel guitar playing of Red Rhodes gives the track a subtle country flavor.

“Goin’ Back” Each of the previous Byrds albums features a iconic lead single; ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Turn Turn Turn’, ‘Eight Miles High’,and ‘So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star’are arguably their four best known songs. The nostalgia of ‘Goin’ Back’, written by King and Goffin, has flown under the radar a little, but it’s a lovely song, wistful and nostalgic.

Another song on the album that deals with the need to escape the confines of society is David Crosby’s “Dolphin’s Smile”.The song was an early example of Crosby’s penchant for using nautical imagery in his songs, a thematic trait he would utilize in future compositions, including “Wooden Ships” and “The Lee Shore”.The theme of unfettered idyllic bliss is further explored in the Hillman-penned “Natural Harmony”.Like “Goin’ Back”, “Natural Harmony” conveys a sense of longing for the innocence of youth, albeit filtered through the awareness-raising properties of psychedelic drugs. It has been suggested by some commentators that the song exhibits the strong influence of Crosby’s writing style, with its laid-back, jazzy feel and dreamy, high tenor vocal part.A second Goffin–King composition, “Wasn’t Born to Follow”, also displays country and western influences, albeit filtered through the band’s psychedelic and garage rock tendencies. The song’s country leanings are underscored by the criss-crossing musical dialogue between the electric guitar and pedal steel.The rural ambiance is further heightened by the striking imagery of the lyrics which outline the need for escape and independence: a subject perfectly in keeping with the hippie ethos of the day.

The McGuinn and Hillman composition “Change Is Now”, with its lyrics advising the listener to live life to the full, represents a celebration of the philosophy of carpe diem (popularly translated as “seize the day”).Within this context, the song’s lyrics explored a number of other themes, including epiphenomenalism, communalism and human ecology.The quasi-philosophical nature of the song prompted McGuinn to flippantly describe it in a 1969 interview as “another one of those guru-spiritual-mystic songs that no-one understood. An early instrumental recording of the song, listed under its original working title of “Universal Mind Decoder”, was included as a bonus track on the 1997 reissue of The Notorious Byrd Brothers“Change Is Now” is notable for being the only song on the album to feature both Crosby and future Byrd Clarence White together on the same track.

“Draft Morning” was one of the three songs that Crosby had contributed before he was forced from the band. McGuinn and Hillman had forgotten some of Crosby’s lyrics, so made up their own to fill in the blanks, much to Crosby’s displeasure. Despite the confused circumstances, ‘Draft Morning’ is beautiful – Hillman’s bass is loud in the mix, providing much of the melodic interest, while McGuinn’s exploratory solo temporarily upsets the serene atmosphere.

“Draft Morning” is a song about the horrors of the Vietnam War, as well as a protest against the conscription of men into the military during the conflict. The song was initially written by Crosby, but he was fired from the Byrds shortly after he had introduced it to the rest of the band. However, work had already begun on the song’s instrumental backing track by the time of Crosby’s departure. Controversially, McGuinn and Hillman decided to continue working on the song, despite its author no longer being a member of the band Having only heard the song’s lyrics in their original incarnation a few times, McGuinn and Hillman couldn’t remember all of the words when they came to record the vocals and so decided to rewrite the song with their own lyrical additions, giving themselves a co-writing credit in the process. This angered Crosby considerably, since he felt, with some justification, that McGuinn and Hillman had stolen his song. Despite its troubled evolution, “Draft Morning” is often considered one of Crosby’s best songs from his tenure with the Byrds. Lyrically, it follows a newly recruited soldier from the morning of his induction into the military through to his experiences of combat and as such, illustrates the predicament faced by many young American men during the 1960s. The song also makes extensive use of battlefield sound effects, provided for the band by the Los Angeles comedy troupe the Firesign Theatre.

Another of Crosby’s songwriting contributions to the album, “Tribal Gathering”, was, for many years, assumed to have been inspired by the Human Be-In: A Gathering Of Tribes, a counter-culture happening held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on January 12, 1967. However, in recent years, Crosby has revealed that the song was actually inspired by another hippie gathering held at Elysian Park near Los Angeles on March 26, 1967. Played in a jazzy, 5/4 time signature, the song’s vocal arrangement was greatly influenced by the music of the Four Freshmen, a vocal group that Crosby had admired as a youngster.

Another song on the album that uses a 5/4 time signature, albeit with occasional shifts into 3/4 time, is the McGuinn and Clark composition “Get to You”.The song recounts a plane trip to London, England, just prior to the advent of autumn, but the identity of the enigmatic “you” mentioned in the song’s title is not specified in the lyrics and thus, can be interpreted as either a waiting lover or as the city of London itself. Although Clark helped to co-write the song, he had left the Byrds by the time it was recorded and therefore does not appear on the track.

“Get To You” Gene Clark was bought band into The Byrds to replace Crosby. He only lasted three weeks, but was around for long enough to write ‘Get To You’ with McGuinn. ‘Get To You’ has a tension between McGuinn’s folk roots and psychedelia, and the time signature shifts between 5/4 and 3/4.

“Old John Robertson”, which had already been issued some six months earlier as the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single, was another country-tinged song that looked forward to the band’s future country rock experimentation. The song was inspired by a retired film director who lived in the small town near San Diego where Hillman grew up. John S. Robertson was something of an eccentric figure around the town, regularly wearing a Stetson hat and sporting a white handlebar moustache, which gave him the appearance of a character out of the old American West. In the song, Hillman tells the children of the town and their cruel laughter at this colorful figure, as well as the combination of awe and fear that he elicited in the townsfolk. During the recording of the song, Crosby switched instruments with Hillman to play bass instead of his usual rhythm guitar. The track also makes liberal use of the studio effects known as phasing and flanging, particularly during the song’s orchestral middle section and subsequent verse. The version of “Old John Robertson” found on the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single is a substantially different mix from the version that appears on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album.

The final track on the album, “Space Odyssey”, is a musical retelling of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”, which was also the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.The song makes extensive use of the Moog modular synthesizer and features a droning, dirge-like melody reminiscent of a sea shanty. Since “Space Odyssey” predates the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, McGuinn and his co-writer, Robert J. Hippard, composed lyrics that referred to a pyramid being found on the Moon, as was the case in “The Sentinel”. However, the pyramid was replaced by a rectangular monolith in both the film and the accompanying novelization.

At the time of release The Notorious Byrd Brothers wasn’t a big hit album – it barely cracked the top 50 in the US,

In 1973, Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone: “Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers stand with Mr. Tambourine Man as their greatest albums and I used to have a hell of a time choosing between them.”

On the website Rate Your Music, The Notorious Byrds Brothers is tied with Younger Than Yesterday on 3.87/5 as The Byrds’ best album.

On the website Acclaimed Music, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is ranked as the #294 best album of all time. It’s ranked as The Byrds’ fourth best album, behind 1968’s country record Sweetheart of the Rodeo at #192, Younger Than Yesterday, and Mr. Tambourine Man.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers is included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, along with four other Byrds’ albums. The book also quotes Chris Hillman, who says “I’ve talked to more people over the years who’ve said that’s their favourite Byrds album”.

thanks to Aphoristic Album Reviews for the words

The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace Of Sin album cover web optimised 820

When The Gilded Palace Of Sin was released, on 6th February 1969, sales were initially not good but their debut album by The Flying Burrito Brothers has since earned its status as one of the defining albums of country-rock and Americana music. named it as one of the 500 essential albums all music lovers should own.

Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman formed the The Flying Burrito Brothers after both leaving The Byrds. They brought in bassist Chris Ethridge and pedal steel guitarist Pete Kleinow to complete the line-up, appropriating the band’s name from a group of Los Angeles musicians who gathered for jam sessions.

“We’re a rock’n’roll band that sounds like a country band,” said Gram Parsons, a Harvard theology student drop-out who was 22 when the album was made. The singer-songwriter, guitarist and keyboardist is acclaimed as one of the most innovative forces in country music, becoming a huge influence on musicians as diverse as Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams and Lucinda Williams.

There are 11 songs on The Gilded Palace Of Sin, including the haunting classic ‘Sin City’, which was co-written by Hillman and Parsons, and which included allusions to contemporary figures such as Robert Kennedy (“A friend came around/Tried to clean up this town”), who had been assassinated in June 1968.

Hillman said he woke up one morning with the lines “This old town’s filled with sin/It’ll swallow you in” swimming in his head. He roused his flatmate Parsons and they completed the song in about 30 minutes. “It was just before Christmas and it was about to rain; and we were living in the San Fernando Valley in a tract type home,” Hillman recalled. ‘Sin City’ has been covered by scores of musicians .

There was a spontaneity to the album’s production that helps make The Gilded Palace Of Sin sound fresh half a century later. Chris Ethridge said, “I told Gram I had a couple of old melodies from back when I was growing up. I played them for him and we wrote the two songs that day, ‘Hot Burrito #1’ and ‘Hot Burrito #2’, and then that night went into the studio and cut ’em.”

As well as being full of modern Americana classics – including the achingly beautiful two-part harmonies on songs such as ‘Juanita’ and ‘Wheels’ – there were also innovative cover songs. Hillman said that Parsons opened him up to new musical experiences by setting the challenge of taking great soul songs – such as ‘The Dark End Of The Street’ – and reinventing them.

Hillman said, “We also took the interesting song ‘Do Right Woman, Do Right Man’, which was Aretha Franklin’s big soul song at the time, but we did it country. That was the genius of Parsons. He got me into looking beyond the country parameters.” They brought in David Crosby to sing backing vocals on that track.

Drummer Jon Corneal, who had worked with a teenage Parsons in The International Submarine Band, and went on to work with Loretta Lynn, played on five tracks and was one of four drummers used on the album.

One of the qualities that underscores the whole album, right from the energetic opening track, ‘Christine’s Song’, is the brilliant playing of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel guitar. In 1969, the Burritos didn’t really have a lead guitarist so a lot of the solos fell to Kleinow. Parsons used to call him “The Maharishi Of Country Music”, and Kleinow became one of the most sought-after session musicians in the business.

‘My Uncle’ (the only track to feature Hillman on mandolin) and ‘Hippie Boy’ are counterculture songs of the time about the Vietnam draft and the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots in Chicago, which Parsons described as “the toughest challenge on the album”.

The album’s artwork is also special. It was overseen by Tom Wilkes, who had joined A&M after being the art director of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Parsons had arranged for custom-made Nudie suits to be created by the acclaimed designer Nudie Cohn. Parson’s one, which featured red poppies and marijuana leaves, hangs in the Country Music Hall Of Fame. Wilkes said: “We decided to take them out to the desert and do something kind of surreal with the Nudie suits, shot by Barry Feinstein. And they looked great anyway. They looked funky and kind of country western and kind of rock.”

Gram Parsons, who was aged 26 when he died, in 1973, left a marvellous legacy, including The Gilded Palace Of Sin, which helped draw the blueprint for both 70s country-rock, Americana and the alt.country sound.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

In 1972, Stephen Stills formed a new band called ‘Manassas’ and on April 12th they released their debut double LP of the same name.
The album debuted on the Top LP’s chart for the week ending April 29th, 1972 and eventually peaked at #4 in June. Stills‘ album shared the Top 10 with an album by David Crosby and Graham Nash (Graham Nash David Crosby) and an album by Neil Young (Harvest), and as you know, all were members of the quartet Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Manassas marked a critical comeback for Stills, calling it a “sprawling masterpiece” and Rolling Stone saying it was “reassuring to know that Stills has some good music still inside him”.

By 1972, what we call classic rock was pretty much peaking—though nobody at the time knew it. Except maybe Stephen Stills. The band and double-album he piloted and released that year—both named Manassas—now seem pivotal. Manassas brilliantly summed up the remarkable 1960s creative surge that revitalized rock’s roots and encouraged experimentation just when it was at its crest.

The top-flight outfit Stills assembled in late 1971 and named for a bloody two-part Civil War battle (the album’s cover shot was taken on that battlefield) could nimbly navigate damn near every polyglot style rock was evolving– from blues “Jet Set” to bluegrass “Fallen Eagle”, country rock “Don’t Look At My Shadow” to Caribbean beats “Medley”, folk-rock “Johnny’s Garden” to metal “Right Now”. Jamming out complex, textured arrangements in the studio, they successfully translated them to stages in Europe and the US. But Stills always felt that Manassas struggled for recognition because his handlers wanted him back in the gold rush that Crosby Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) generated.

So it all begn when Hillman and Stills accidentally crossed paths in Cleveland, they both glimpsed opportunity. Stills’ bounteous talents and fierce competitive drive almost ensured he would overshadow nearly any setting he was in, but he was discouraged by his solo ventures. He needed a creative ally he respected, someone who’d push back but not combust or split.

A few weeks later, Stills called Hillman and invited him down to Miami’s famed Criteria Studios, where engineer-producer Tom Dowd had shepherded Derek and the Dominos‘ monumental jam-fuelled Layla sessions the year before. As it happens, the producers for what would become Manassas worked on it too.

The stage was set to replace the sterile studio feel Stills hated with the onstage improvising looseness he loved. He had his co-pilot.

Chris Hillman, who may be rock history’s best-ever second banana after dealing with McGuinn and Parsons were hard-to-beat baptisms of fire was secure enough in his own creativity to deliver. He would co-write two songs for Manassas (Both of Us, It Doesn’t Matter), help Stills wrangle others into shape, and supply his subtle, pure-toned harmonies throughout.

As Stephen Stills explained, “I basically wanted a partner, somebody who had a sense of songs. Chris invented the phrase ‘lyric police,’ and was a tremendous help. But I was still on that real powerful, energetic ‘Let’s go, I know what I’m doing’ kinda thing. Chris realized it was my band, and that was OK for him.”

From the shambling Burritos came two key talents.

Violinist Byron Berline was a bluegrass vet who’d clocked time with stars like Bill Monroe and Dillard and Clark. Fallen Eagle, a breakneck bluegrass protest song against ranchers killing our endangered national symbol, puts his dazzling, keening fiddle and Hillman’s virtuoso mandolin in the forefront.

Al Perkins learned to play Hawaiian steel guitar at nine, mastered the dobro and pedal steel, performed with country and western bands, then shifted gears to tour his native west Texas as a rock guitar slinger. He supports or duels with Stills on all his axes. On Jesus Gave Love Away For Free, his aching steel solos swell and sigh; on Don’t Look at My Shadow, they glide with glee. On “Jet Set,” he plugs into effects to go grungy and deliver slashing, whiplash blues in Duane Allman fashion to counter Stills‘ gurgling wah-wah. He plays both steel and guitar on Song of Love.

Perkins, Stills, and Hillman take their guitar army acoustic for “Johnny’s Garden”, where their loosely braided, ever-shifting lines gently nudge Stills‘ yearning vocal.

The rest of the cast came from Stills‘ solo albums and tours.

Bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels brought the Caribbean feels Stills craved, as the burbling line on “Song of Love” demonstrates. But he could nail the bottom hard on blues-rockers like “Jet Set.”

Keyboardist Paul Harris, a session vet, could play almost any style; with Hillman’s adept rhythm guitar, his keys became the session’s sonic glue. Latin percussionist Joe Lala co-founded Blues Image (Ride Captain Ride) and sang with gritty, soulful conviction. He vocally challenges Stills on Cuban Bluegrass, and delivers the pulsating Latin rhythms Stills adored throughout.

Drummer Dallas Taylor was Stills’ running buddy—and a wild card. He played on CSN’s first two albums and tours; they fired him because his substance abuse rivaled the Grievous Angel’s. But this bad boy had exactly what Stills wanted on drums: he could float, dance, or slam it home.

What was slated to be Stills’ third solo album had morphed completely. The band’s chemistry clicked almost instantly, and its boundless energy and chops meshed with Stills’ vision and discipline. A few weeks of jamming out arrangements fused the wildly diverse material and sounds into a sum greater than its parts. They came out of it as a fierce, tuned machine.

No wonder Bill Wyman, who co-wrote Love Gangster with Stills and played bass for the track, said he’d leave the Stones to join Manassas. Hillman understood why: “We were always more of a band than people thought. Stills wouldn’t have been the same without us, that’s for sure. Manassas was the best band Stills ever played in.”

The album ends with a final stark jolt. Blues Man finds Stills alone with an acoustic guitar, like the host of a wild party sitting amid the wreckage after it’s over. He channels everything he ever absorbed from his revered blues masters into his gritty, anguished vocal and nimble fingerpicking to sketch a raw, painfully dark elegy for three of his friends. Jimi Hendrix, Al Wilson (Canned Heat), and Duane Allman had all recently died.

On stage, Manassas gained fame for its nearly three-hour shows opening with an opening rock set, followed by Stills playing solo acoustic, Hillman and Perkins playing bluegrass, and the band then returning for country, more rock and an acoustic finish. After touring, Hillman took several weeks away to record a reunion album with the Byrds, his pre-Burritos band.

Image result

The fifth album from the grandfathers of American jangle guitar doesn’t have the notoriety or hits of Mr. Tambourine Man or Turn! Turn! Turn! Still, it may be the light heavyweight champion of their catalog, pound for pound the strongest punch of the bunch. That’s an especially impressive claim if you know the band’s chaos of the day. Notorious, indeed: Founding guitarist David Crosby was fired over their recording of Carole King’s “Goin’ Back” (ironically, this album’s only single), and Michael Clarke and Gene Clark eventually ping-ponged their way out the door too. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman managed to expertly fill in the gaps with session musicians and production wizardry, outfitting their folk rock with trappings of the baroque and psychedelia—found and generated noises, poppy saxophone, the occasional sludgy riff, even early adoption of the Moog synthesizer.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers saw the band and producer Gary Usher making extensive use of a number of studio effects and production techniques, including Phasing, flanging and the introduction the sound of the pedal steel guitar into their music for the first time on the album, making it  alsoone of the first album releases on which the Moog appears.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers rings out like a glorious chiming bell and remains one of the band’s most loved albums. Its consistency is amazing, with one song after another bending one’s mind and inducing a smile. “Artificial Energy” kicks things off in fine style. Co-written by McGuinn, Hillman and Clarke, it’s a perfect album opener. The last song recorded for the album, it bursts forth with punchy horns and driving drums. Yes, it’s about speed, and it’s safe to say the lyrics probably wouldn’t fly today: “I’m coming down off amphetamine, and I’m in jail cause I killed a queen.”

The band’s take on Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Goin’ Back” is perhaps the definitive version of the song. Elsewhere, “Natural Harmony” and “Draft Morning” bask in pure beauty. (Chris Hillman’s role as composer really began to expand on Notorious, as he co-wrote eight of this LP’s 11 tracks.) Another Goffin/King song, “Wasn’t Born To Follow” offered here in all of its countrified glory – would later feature in the movie Easy Rider.

“Get to You” and “Old John Robertson” are both country-tinged numbers that glow of the era they sprang from, while “Change Is Now” is one of the band’s most beautiful songs without question, and its jingle-jangle guitars resonate for the ages.

“Tribal Gathering” has David Crosby written all over it. He and Hillman worked up this two-minute gem in homage to the “Gathering of the Tribes” festival held earlier that year in San Francisco. “Dolphin’s Smile” conjures up its own psychedelic aquatic adventure over just two minutes, before the album ends on an eerie note with “Space Odyssey.” A otherworldly drone set to a sea shanty waltz, the track is driven by a swirling wash of keyboards and guitars.

David Crosby was fired by McGuinn and Hillman in October 1967, as a result of friction arising from, among other things, Crosby’s displeasure at the band’s wish to record the song “Goin’ Back”. David Crosby felt that recording the song was a step backwards artistically, especially when the band contained three active songwriters. Another factor that contributed to Crosby’s dismissal was his controversial song “Triad”, a risqué composition about a menage a trois , The song was in direct competition with “Goin’ Back” for a place on the album.  Crosby eventually gave the tune to the Jefferson Airplane , who included a version of the song on “Crown Of Creation” Although the Byrds did record “Triad”, the song’s daring subject matter compelled McGuinn and Hillman to prevent it from being released at the time.

The results feel particularly transfused into the body of R.E.M.’s Document, and suggest multiple points in the soundtracks of Wes Anderson’s filmography.

In 1969, The Flying Burrito Brothers welcomed listeners into their “Gilded Palace Of Sin”.  The album, released on Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss’ A&M label, heralded a new style of music – one which co-founder Gram Parsons would famously dub “Cosmic American Music.”  Indeed, the sounds emanating from this Palace were, at the same time, surprisingly traditional and completely radical.  For the Burritos melded the harmonies of the Everlys or the Louvins with the gutbucket soul of the deep south, the instrumentation of classic Nashville, and the experimentation of psychedelia.  The sound created on The Gilded Palace of Sin would come to be known as country-rock, and influence a generation of performers, perhaps most notably the Eagles but also bands from Poco to Wilco.  Intervention Records has recently given the deluxe audiophile treatment to this landmark cult-classic album, with a new 180-gram vinyl pressing.  (A hybrid stereo SACD edition will follow later this year, as well.)  Intervention’s reissue is both faithful to the sound of the original LP while actually improving on it.

That this was no ordinary country record, or rock record, was evident from the very first track.  “Christine’s Tune” was written and sung by Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, both late of The Byrds. (Parsons had also been a member of The International Submarine Band, itself a progenitor of the country rock genre.)  The band was rounded out by Chris Ethridge on bass and “Sneaky Pete” Kleinow on steel guitar, while the drum seat was occupied by a number of musicians including “Fast” Eddie Hoh“Christine’s Tune” has a classic country-and-western storyline about a woman who’s a “devil in disguise,” but underneath the harmonies and Parsons’ acoustic style was Hillman’s psychedelic electric guitar on the verge of a freakout, and Kleinow’s offbeat steel playing – both captivating and disconcerting.  (Bernie Leadon, who served in the group as of its second album and went on to join the Eagles, noted that Kleinow usually played an eight-string Fender cable pull steel tuned to B6 instead of the expected C6.  He played in a jazz style that others might typically have used an E9 tuning for, and utilized a fuzzbox and played his instrument through a rotating Leslie speaker, to add unusual effects.)  Kleinow’s presence was a reprieve for the steel guitar, an instrument that had been largely eschewed by Nashville in the wake of the lush, pop-oriented Nashville Sound.

Parsons and Hillman’s cautionary tale of “Sin City” was another classic country lament (“This old earthquake’s gonna leave me in the poorhouse/It seems like this whole town’s insane…”) but with striking religious imagery, as well.  Parsons and Hillman weren’t pulling any punches in bringing the rootsy country sound they loved – one which had been largely pushed to the side in the countrypolitan era – and fusing it to a youthful rock-and-roll sensibility.

A number of the Parsons/Hillman originals were very much of their time.  “My Uncle” juxtaposed a jaunty bluegrass melody with the narrator’s story of “heading for the nearest foreign border” to evade the draft, very much a specter lingering over young men in 1969.  “Wheels,” too, was transporting – a typical country song in its longing and plea to “come on wheels, take this boy away,” but also with a spiritual streak and likely drug references, as well.  Chris Etheridge’s barroom piano lends another happily unexpected grace note to the track.  Hillman recites the spoken-word “Hippie Boy” which ends the album on a note of sadness and tragedy.  (It was a direct reflection on the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots.)

Ethridge teamed with Parsons to write two of the album’s standout tracks, “Hot Burrito No. 1” and “Hot Burrito No. 2.”  Elvis Costello retitled the former “I’m Your Toy,” reasoning that the original title was dignified enough for this beautiful ballad which underscores the influence of southern soul writers like Dan Penn on the Burritos.  Both “No. 1” and the more driving “No. 2” feature quavering, tender leads from Parsons, joined on “No. 2” by Hillman and Ethridge on background vocals.  Barry Goldberg stepped in to co-write “Do You Know How It Feels” with Parsons, grafting a melancholy, classic country lyric to catchy melody ripe for a saloon sing-along.

The Gilded Palace of Sin‘s two covers were significant reminders of the R&B and soul underpinning, too.  Both were written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman: “Do Right Woman” and “Dark End of the Street.”  Though the songs undoubtedly belong to Aretha Franklin and James Carr, respectively, Hillman, Parsons and the Burritos traced a direct line from Memphis to Nashville – via Los Angeles, where the album was recorded.  (Note that “Dark End” is credited on the album to Penn’s most frequent writing partner, Spooner Oldham. This is not an error on Intervention’s part, but rather is just faithful to the original LP sleeve.)

Parsons only lasted for one more album with the Burritos, while Gilded Palace turned out to be Chris Ethridge’s debut and swansong with the band.  By the time of the band’s fourth album, released in 1972, Chris Hillman was The Last of the Red Hot Burritos.  Since then, various iterations of the band have formed and re-formed, and one such splinter group called The Burrito Brothers still tours today.  Gram Parsons died in 1973, having furthered his musical mission with a pair of solo records featuring Emmylou Harris – the second of which was released after his untimely death.  The Gilded Palace of Sin is still the most cohesive record of Parsons’ career, on which he crystallized his ambitions and talents into a singular piece of art.  Though few originally bought the record, its reputation quickly grew among artists and collectors alike, and its influence from pop to alt-country can hardly be understated.

Image may contain: 1 person

Intervention’s splendidly detailed remaster of The Gilded Palace of Sin maintains the almost woozy, psychedelic ambiance of the album produced by the band, Larry Marks, and Henry Lewy, while bringing vivid detail and clarity to the stinging guitars, tight harmonies, and especially Chris Ethridge’s bass which anchors the LP with resonance.  Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio has remastered (100% AAA analog, notes the label) from a 1/2″ safety copy of the original stereo master tapes as housed in the Universal vaults.  This RTI pressing, on heavyweight vinyl, lives up to its promise of being “dead quiet” and makes a powerful case for the warmth of its analog sound.  The LP, boasting period A&M labels, is housed in a protective sleeve within a sturdy Stoughton-printed “tip-on” jacket, replicating the original artwork.

thanks To The Second Disc

So where would that leave the legacy of a cult artist like Gram Parsons, who died in 1973 at the age of 26 with but a small, yet influential body of work, as the 21st-century marches ever onward? If you are of a certain age, and presuming that you are a pretty big music fan, you no doubt have heard and hopefully appreciate the “cosmic American music” of this golden-voiced country rock progenitor/genius. To be sure, I think that there’s still a pretty strong cult following of Gram Parsons fans , but in 2017 its members tend to be know-it-all aging boomers with graying ponytails who want to give you their opinions of whatever album you happen to be looking at in a record store.

Only in Southern California, always a stronghold of Flying Burrito Bros. fandom, does there seem to be an organic all ages awareness of the great Gram Parsons. This has much to do with the desert and how inextricably intertwined the desert trip is with the mythos of Parsons’ death by OD in room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn and how his body was subsequently stolen and given a drunken cremation near Cap Rock by his manager, Phil Kaufman.

It’s a SoCal rite of passage to do magic mushrooms in Joshua Tree and trip out under the desert stars listening to “The Gilded Palace of Sin” by the Flying Burrito Bros. as there is simply no greater soundtrack for this sort of activity in that particular place . Its a specifically a desert thing. .

Which is why the word needs to get out about this release by Intervention Records who recently released vinyl and also SACD re-issue of “The Gilded Palace Of Sin”. Mastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio, this is one of the best-sounding slabs of wax that I’ve heard , which is exactly what you would want someone to say if you’re a new boutique record label catering to the jaded (and easily disappointed) audiophiles. Think you’ve heard it all? Wait until you’ve heard this! That beautiful young man’s quivering, vulnerable, plaintive voice, those harmonies with Chris Hillman and the exquisite chime of Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s buzzing, warmly-distorted almost psychedelic steel guitar, it’s all there in the grooves as never before, like they coaxed some extra music particles off the low generation analog tapes it was mastered from. Since I first heard The Gilded Palace Of Sin in the early 70’s .

I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but this is something else entirely. Always an exhilarating—and well-recorded—album to begin with, this absolutely sparkling pressing by Intervention represents the apex of the state of the art analog “triple A” production (no digital anywhere in the workflow) going today. They even make a new vinyl stamper after every 5000 uses . If you’re looking for some primo vinyl to throw at your turntable, this is as good as it gets, a record you will find yourself flipping over and playing again and again and again. (And although I’d bet this is their showpiece, Intervention Records have also released exquisite editions of classic albums by Joe Jackson, Big Audio Dynamite, Stealers Wheel and they’ve announced some upcoming Judee Sill releases. Everything I’ve heard from them is crazy-ly good, 10/10 stuff. Every audiophile should keep an eye on what they’re releasing.)

Although there are several books, bootlegs, live albums and compilations, plus a great feature length documentary , there are precious few examples of Gram Parsons on film or video. Less than a handful for sure. This performance, provenance unknown to me, is the Flying Burrito Bros. doing one of their very best numbers—and perhaps Parsons’ greatest ever vocal performance—the oddly named heartbreaker “Hot Burrito #1” (It and “Hot Burrito #2” were both written on the same day and both recorded that very same evening.) If there can only be a few clips of Gram Parsons in action, this is the best.