The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace Of Sin (1969)

The Flying Burrito Brothers were a pioneering American country-rock band, founded in the late 60s.

The genesis of the Flying Burrito Brothers can be traced back to Gram Parsons, famous as a pioneer of country-rock. His first band was the International Submarine Band, who released one album but failed to get noticed. Nevertheless, Safe At Home represents perhaps the earliest example of the genre. Parsons then joined The Byrds, where he worked with Chris Hillman to hi-jack Roger McGuinn’s band and record Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. As the Byrds were already an established and popular band, Sweetheart managed to get a lot of recognition which Safe At Home had missed, and introduced much of the folk-rock crowd to the potential of country music. However by the time it was released Parsons had already left the Byrds, and taken Hillman with him. They formed the Flying Burrito Brothers with pedal steel guitarist Sneaky Pete Kleinow and bassist Chris Ethridge (who had been a member of the Submarine Band). Both Hillman and Parsons played rhythm guitar and sang (the former also contributed mandolin, and the latter piano and organ). At this stage the band did not have a permanent drummer.
The Gilded Palace Of Sin was a fantastic blend of rock and country music, with a bit of soul thrown in for good measure (it features countrified versions of the classic Dan Penn/Chips Moman soul tunes “Do Right Woman” and “The Dark End Of The Street”). Parson’s vision was of a fusion of all American music forms, but the focus was most definitely on country. Both Parsons and Hillman’s voices fit the material perfectly, harmonizing together in a style reminiscent of the Everly Brothers. The instrumental flash came from Kleinow, who used his pedal steel guitar in the style of a rock guitarist, furnishing the instrumental backing with tasty licks and solos. He also used a fuzz box on some songs, which was new for a pedal steel. Indeed his playing on this album can perhaps be credited as the first use of the pedal steel as a lead instrument in rock music - it would pop up on all sorts of rock albums afterwards. The drums throughout the album were shared between session men Popeye Phillips, Eddie Hoh, Sam Goldstein and Jon Corneal (the latter having worked with Parsons and Ethridge in the Submarine Band). David Crosby also appeared, providing harmony vocals on “Do Right Woman”. Besides the two aforementioned covers, all the songs were band originals, mostly written by Parsons and Hillman, but two by Parsons and Ethridge, and one from the Submarine Band days, written by Parsons and Barry Goldberg.
Though it is often lauded as being the finest example of country rock, the album did not sell particularly well. Subsequently Chris Ethridge left the band after its release.

|> Burrito Deluxe (1970)
More from The Flying Burrito Brothers



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JC said...

I have a correction to this article. Parsons did not leave the Byrds and take Hillman with him. Hillman left the Byrds months after Parsons left and he didn't leave to start a band with Gram. Hillman has said in interviews that it took some time before he trusted Gram enough to work with him again due to his unprofessionalism by leaving the Byrds on the eve of the tour to South Africa. My source is the 2004 documentary 'Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons'

Hillman, Emmylou Harris, Kaufman (Parsons road manager) are interviewed and testify to my correction. By the way - Hillman also talks about how he fired Parsons from the Burritos in this documentary for more extreme unprofessional behavior - being too drunk for scheduled recording sessions for Burrito Deluxe. It's a great video!