Chris Hillman - vocals, bass; "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow - pedal steel guitar, vocals; Bernie Leadon - vocals, guitar; Rick Roberts - vocals, guitar; Michael Clarke - drums
With Nashville the epicenter of country music for decades, surprisingly enough it was Los Angeles that became a magnet for 1960s-era musicians devoted to bringing country music into a modern rock context. Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds both flirted with country music early on, as had other rock musicians to a lesser extent, but it was The Flying Burrito Brothers who dove completely in. They initially followed the lead of primary songwriters and lead vocalists Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman, two ex-Byrds, whose musical vision was a virtual blueprint for all country-rock bands to follow. They also had a secret weapon in the form of "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, whose pioneering approach to pedal steel guitar would redefine the role of the instrument. Although their records sold modestly, the Burritos' musical legacy left an indelible mark, and their influence is profound.
By 1970, founding members Gram Parsons and Chris Etheridge had departed. This substantial void was filled by singer-songwriter Rick Roberts, and future Eagle guitarist Bernie Leadon. With these two talented guitar-playing singers now on board, Chris Hillman switched back to playing bass onstage, his primary instrument in The Byrds, and came into his own as a vocalist. As a professional touring band, they were arguably better than ever, with fewer erratic performances and an ever growing repertoire from which to choose. This previously unheard soundboard recording captures this second-era lineup during a fall 1970 tour opening for The Byrds. On this night the show was structured with the Burritos opening, followed by headliners The Byrds, and then an encore set featuring musicians from both bands. Following the release of their second album, Burrito Deluxe, but prior to recording the self-titled third LP, many of the early classics are featured here, as well as an enticing selection of covers.
Although Gram Parsons had recently departed, his presence is still quite strong, and the first five songs of the set all originate from his tenure with the band. In this initial sequence, their classic debut album, The Guilded Palace Of Sin, is represented by two of the finest Chris Hillman-Gram Parsons collaborations: "Christine's Tune," which is here taken at a near-frantic pace; and the draft resister anthem "My Uncle," which is vintage Burritos. Also played early on are two tracks from Burrito Deluxe, including the kickoff rocker, "Lazy Days," (also written by Parsons), and the Hillman-Leadon-Parsons collaboration "Cody, Cody." Also surfacing is "One Hundred Years From Now," a great Sweetheart Of The Rodeo track from Parsons and Hillman's earlier tenure in The Byrds. Although Parsons' distinctive vocal is no longer present, Chris Hillman has emerged as a compelling singer and, with the addition of Bernie Leadon and Rick Roberts, pulls all of this material off quite nicely. Next up they deliver their take on former Byrd Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard," which would be so beautifully recorded for the group's third and self-titled album, released the following year.
The band was certainly applying more emphasis on vocal arrangements than they had before. With Sneaky Pete adding distortion effects to his pedal steel, the remainder of this set is proof that they could rock out better than ever. A live take on the guilt-ridden "Image Of Me" is impressive, but the songs that had not been released at the time are the most intriguing. Rick Roberts' "Colorado," featuring acoustic guitars and beautiful pedal steel work, is utterly compelling. It's no wonder this song would soon be covered by many higher-profile artists, including Linda Ronstadt. Three covers also surface. The truck-driver anthem "Six Days On The Road" fits perfectly into the band's early repertoire, as does the rockin' set closer, "Money Honey." Sneaky Pete even takes a rare lead vocal on a romp through "Willie And The Hand Jive." This leaves "Hot Burrito #2," one of the peak moments in this set. Another Parsons-era classic, this has a passionate intensity that surpasses everything else and features a soaring pedal steel solo to close the song.
This recording is a fine example of The Flying Burrito Brothers original vision. This lineup would last another year, record one more album, and then splinter apart, leaving Roberts and Clarke to carry on with new recruits. Chris Hillman would soon co-found Manassas with Stephen Stills, Kleinow would become one of the most in-demand session musicians in the business, and Bernie Leadon would become a founding member of The Eagles, a band that would take the Burrito's unique formula straight to the top of the charts.