Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Flying Burrito Brothers

  • The Gilded Palace of Sin [A&M, 1969]  
  • Burrito Deluxe [A&M, 1970] B+
  • The Flying Burrito Bros. [A&M, 1971] C+
  • Last of the Red Hot Burritos [A&M, 1972] B
  • Close Up the Honky Tonks [A&M, 1974] B-
  • Farther Along: The Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers [A&M, 1988] A

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

The Gilded Palace of Sin [A&M, 1969]
[CG70s: A Basic Record Library; CG80: Rock Library: Before 1980]  

Burrito Deluxe [A&M, 1970]
The Gilded Palace of Sin was an ominous, obsessive, tongue-in-cheek country-rock synthesis, absorbing rural and urban, traditional and contemporary, at point of impact. This is a skillful, lightweight folk-rock blend, enlivening the tempos and themes of the country music whose usages it honors. Its high point is called "Older Guys," a rock (as opposed to rock and roll) idea by definition, and though songs like "Cody, Cody" and "Man in the Fog"--as well as Jagger-Richard's previously unrecorded "Wild Horses"--obviously speak from Gram Parsons's Waycross soul, they're vague enough for Chris Hillman's folkie harmonies to take them over. B+

The Flying Burrito Bros. [A&M, 1971]
Gram Parsons having gone off to follow whatever it is he follows, the Burritos are a solid, plaintive country band with rock influences. Realer than average, and nicer, but just as easy to ignore. C+

Last of the Red Hot Burritos [A&M, 1972]
Chris Hillman rocking through previously unrecorded covers from "Orange Blossom Special" to "Don't Fight It," Gram Parsons's original country-soul concept for this band lives again. Unfortunately, it lives best on the previously recorded Parsons originals. And it lived better when he was singing them. B

Close Up the Honky Tonks [A&M, 1974]
This repackaged best-of-Gram is baited with five previously unreleased Parsons vocals. These are nice, but since even an unreconstructed Parsons nut like me can reel off more interesting cover versions of "Sing Me Back Home" (the Everlys), "Break My Mind" (the Box Tops), and "To Love Somebody" (initials: JJ), maybe they were unreleased for a reason. It also puts the six greatest cuts off Gilded Palace of Sin on one side, a convenience I'd appreciate more if Gilded Palace of Sin, the only full-fledged country-rock masterpiece, weren't still in the catalogue. Your local record retailer will no doubt order you one if you take the trouble of kidnapping his children. B-

Farther Along: The Best of the Flying Burrito Brothers [A&M, 1988]
"I don't think I ever really appreciated Gram until these last few years," allows Chris Hillman, whose 1970 arrival catalyzed the Burritos' decline into one-dimensional "country-rock," a term Hillman disdains, probably because "folk-rock" is more his speed. "This collection represents the best and worst of the `Parsons-era Burritos,'" he clucks, and since Parsons's worst was brainier and more soulful than the folk/country-rock norm, that's why even the outtakes--four songs and one version never available on any U.S. album, including a Bee Gees cover I bet Chris vetoed--have more bite than most anything they recorded after their genius moved farther along. I miss "My Uncle" and even "Hippie Boy" from Gilded Palace of Sin, and "Other Guys," their least Hillmanesque effort thereafter. But any reissue that respects even the cut order of a timeless LP that it reproduces almost in full deserves its digital remix. Which doesn't overdo the drums, by the way. A

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]