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Get a second helping of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers with ‘Burrito Deluxe’
02.26.2019
12:51 pm
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Whenever I’m bragging about my middle-aged man’s audiophile stereo system, the all important “demo” record that I always pull out first is Intervention Records’ ridiculously fantastic reissue of the first Flying Burrito Bros. album. Pressed on a super flat 180 gram platter at RTI, the Intervention LP of The Gilded Palace of Sin is dead quiet. Remarkably so. So quiet that even people who don’t care about such things… well they tend to remark about it. It’s as quiet as a CD so when the music starts from the blackness with nary a click or pop, it’s almost startling. Gilded Palace with its chiming acoustic guitars, clean electric leads and the pedal steel work of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, along with that snappy Nashville drum sound, has always sounded pretty decent, but the Intervention pressing is better than any prior version, even the first pressing. Mastered by Kevin Gray at CoHEARent Audio from a 1/2” safety copy of the original stereo master tapes using all analog gear, it’s the best this album will ever sound. I simply can’t imagine how anyone could possibly find any additional sound particles on the masters that Gray hasn’t already employed here. And the bass! The bass is so focused, I guess, is the word. Really punchy bass. It’s almost odd to hear such tightly articulated bass on recordings of this vintage.

The best way to get across how great it sounds short of inviting you over and playing it for you would be comparing it to going from HD to 4K. It’s just that extra bit better than previous iterations of the album (I have the Japanese HDCD, for instance, which I always thought sounded great, and this utterly blows it away) and one of the most notable cases that I can think of of a 50-year-old album sounding better than on the day it was first issued. Already great to even greater, in other words. For one thing, that’s not easy to do, for another, you have to truly care about what you’re doing to achieve that level of audiophile quality. For those of us into vinyl, it does not get better than the lovingly restored products of Shane Buettner’s archive quality reissue label Intervention Records. Buettner is a genuine audiophile hero. He’s doing the Lord’s work. And he’s just released the second Flying Burrito Bros. album Burrito Deluxe and given it the same carefully buffed sonic treatment that Gilded Palace got.
 

 
It’s often said of Burrito Deluxe that it isn’t as good as its classic, genre-defining predecessor and while, yes, this technically might be true, it’s still a helluva good album. I first heard both albums at the same time, packaged together so they have always seemed like a two-record set to me. Was there much growth between the first and second FBB album? No, there was obviously almost none, but that’s not something to, you know, complain about either. And as with the first Intervention FBB album, the sound quality is simply astonishing here. I don’t care if you paid $600 for your mint condition “hot stamper” of Burrito Deluxe, this one sounds better and is the best, the definitive audiophile grade pressing.

And that’s the point, the very raison d’etre behind Buettner’s company, always achieving the best possible results (heavy pressings, 45rpm versions, beautifully restored artwork, think cardstock sleeves) with the shortest signal path (all analog if possible) and from the ultimate best possible source, of great albums from the 70s/80s/90s that were not being respected by the vinyl reissue market. He’s put out the definitive versions of classic albums by Joe Jackson, Judee Sill, Stealers Wheel, Erasure, Gene Clark, Matthew Sweet and more. If any of this sounds of interest, and it should, for more information visit his website at InterventionRecords.com.
 

The Flying Burrito Bros. sing “Older Guys” on ‘Something Else.’

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.26.2019
12:51 pm
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Desert trip: Gram Parsons and ‘The Gilded Palace of Sin’
05.23.2017
11:11 am
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A recent poll of young Britons found that nearly a third of younger millennials—29% of 18 to 24-year-olds to be exact—claimed that they had never knowingly listened to an Elvis Presley song. Zero percent of this age group reported listening to Elvis’ music daily. This really isn’t all that surprising—or at least it shouldn’t be. We’re soon approaching the 40th anniversary of Presley’s death and while everyone of a certain age can probably recall exactly where they were when they heard that the King of rock ‘n’ roll had died—whether you were a fan or not, it was earth-shaking news in 1977—to someone born after that, bluntly put, the once titanic cultural importance of Elvis Presley is pretty negligible. If your reaction is that this is depressing—and perhaps it is—then you’re only showing your age. It’s just the way things are.

As the editor of a blog like this one—I was eleven years old when Elvis ate his final fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and frankly I doubt that I listen to him more often than once annually myself—I’m acutely aware of the balance between nostalgia and discovery. The biggest cohort of our readership is comprised of millennials. If nearly a third of young Brits have never purposefully or consciously listened to an Elvis Presley number, then how many of them would know a DEVO song? If you were born in 1965 or 1975, how much knowledge of the music of the 1940s or 1950s do you realistically possess? DEVO’s heyday is even further back than that for someone who is a high school senior in 2017.  “Oldies” radio doesn’t play Herman’s Hermits, the Supremes or Sonny & Cher anymore, it programs Sting, Nirvana and Celine Dion where that format even still exists.
 

The FBB in their custom Nudie suits. You’ll note that Parsons’ suit is festooned with pot leaves and opium poppies
 
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 Gram Parsons cult out there, but in 2017 its members tend to be know-it-all baby 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 and I’d wager that 99% of all the patrons of Pappy & Harriett’s, whether young or old, male or female could readily identify any song from it that came on their jukebox. But again, it’s specifically a desert kinda thing. Let’s assume that the rest of the country’s Gram Parsons fans are probably spread out a little bit more.

Which is why the word needs to get out about Intervention Records’ recently released vinyl and (upcoming) 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 ever heard in my entire life, which is exactly what you would want someone to say if you’re a new boutique record label catering to the snobbiest of jaded (and easily disappointed) audiophiles.

Much more after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.23.2017
11:11 am
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Poppies, pot and flying saucers: A short intro to the fashion of Nudie Cohn, country music clothier
05.13.2015
11:31 am
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There is an impression of country music as wholesome, simple, and rooted in the conservative values of middle America and the South. One of the many counters to that argument is Nudie Cohn and his Hollywood-sewn “Nudie suits.” These fashion masterpieces are all excess, sometimes with sexy images of naked ladies, pot leaves, pills and poppies, worn by everyone from Hank Williams to Keith Richards to Ronald Reagan. On top of all of that seedy flash, the sequence and flourish is downright camp—he designed for Liberace, and check out the Nudie suit that Elton John wore in this ad for “Rocket Man.”
 

 
Nudie’s beginnings were far humbler than the “country luxury” aesthetic he came to create. Born in 1902 in Ukraine, Nuta Kotlyarenko was so poor that he often had mismatched shoes collected from cast-offs (an indignity he later paid homage to by intentionally wearing mismatched boots—though generally of his own high-end custom design). After immigrating to America and changing his name at age 11, Cohn followed in his boot-maker father’s footsteps and apprenticed as a tailor. In 1940, he and his wife moved to LA and started Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors in their garage, quickly becoming the preferred couturier of the country music scene.
 

Hank Williams
 
Nudie Cohn’s influence went way beyond country though. As he adapted with the 1960s counterculture, his work became even more subversive—the “pot, pills and poppies suit” he made for Gram Parsons (see below) is one example, but was not the only time Cohn used druggy imagery. What made his work impressive though—be it the (supposedly $10,000 suit that cost $50 to make) gold lamé suit he made for Elvis or his own insane custom 1964 Pontiac Bonneville—was not only the over-the-top styling, but the sheer attention to detail and quality craftsmanship of a custom Nudie suit festooned with rhinestones or embroidery. His work has been so influential, obvious imitations rarely measure up, and the glitz and eccentricity of the Nudie Suit was essentially retired after his death in 1984. Nudie suits are highly collectible. Notable collections of Nudie suits have been amassed by actor Vincent Gallo and the late Dennis Hopper.
 

 

Helen “Bobbie Nudie” Cohn in custom gown
 

Roswell-themed suit with UFOs made for Keith Richards
 
More Nudie after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Amber Frost
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05.13.2015
11:31 am
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‘Saturation 70’: The Greatest Sci-Fi Cult Movie (starring Gram Parsons) You’ve Definitely Never Seen


 
Six years before Alejandro Jodorowsky’s extraordinary but ill-fated 1975 attempt to film Frank Herbert’s Dune—the story of which was compellingly told in the recent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune—there was another similarly ambitious and ground-breaking film project that, until recently, was largely unknown: Saturation 70, a science fiction movie starring Gram Parsons, Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas and Julian Jones, the five-year-old son of Rolling Stone Brian Jones and Linda Lawrence (later Linda Leitch, Donovan’s wife, of “Legend of a Girl Child Linda” fame.)

Unlike Dune, Saturation 70 did actually make it into production and was shot, but never completed, then was forgotten and undocumented for over forty years. Dangerous Minds pal Chris Campion reveals the story of the film’s production in an article for The Guardian:

The film was the brainchild of an American writer-director named Tony Foutz, the son of a Walt Disney company executive and a friend to both Parsons and the Rolling Stones. The film was shot (but never completed) at a 1969 UFO convention at Giant Rock, near Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert, and in Los Angeles. It tapped into the spectrum of esoteric interests and outlandish ideas — aliens, psychedelics, time travel— of the late 60s counterculture. “The whole experience of making the film was like a technological tribal throw-down, with an energy buzz off the Richter scale,” Foutz says now. “It took on a life of its own.”

 

The Kosmic Kiddies, from R to L: Tony Foutz, Michelle Phillips, Gram Parsons, Phil Kaufman and Andee Cohen. Photo: Tom Wilkes

Also appearing in Saturation 70 were Stanislaus Klossowski de Rola (aka Rolling Stones confidant, ‘Prince Stash’, the son of painter Balthus) and Nudie Cohn, creator of the Nudie suit. The shoot took place from late 1969 to early 1970.

Filming guerrilla-style, without permits, they managed to realise several ambitious set-pieces, including a surreal shootout between a Vietcong soldier and an American GI in the aisles of Gelson’s supermarket in Century City (Phil Spector, a noted gun fan, visited the set to watch from the sidelines) and a parade of Ford Edsel cars roaring through the City of Industry in a flying-V formation.

 

Skid Row Los Angeles, 1970. Not much has changed. Look closely at the signs.

Director Tony Foutz was also behind another, even wilder film project, a vehicle for the Rolling Stones to star in and write an original soundtrack for, entitled “Maxagasm,” which was co-written with Sam Shepard in 1968.

Closer to Mad Max than the Beatles’ Help!, the film was to feature the group as a band of unemployed mercenaries wandering through Moroccan desert, in a plot that involved UFOs and Mayan-style human ritual sacrifice.


For years, Saturation 70 was little more than a rumour among Gram Parsons fans—a strange anomalous event in his short gloried career—but now all the existing footage and production photos have been dusted off for an exhibition in London that recreates the film shoot, and the story of Saturation 70 can finally be told.

Saturation 70: the Gram Parsons UFO film that never flew (The Guardian)

Saturation 70, the exhibition, runs at the Horse Hospital in London from September 6th to 27th. More information here.
 

Julian Jones and his fairy godmother

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.05.2014
07:26 pm
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Absolutely groovy photo of Gram Parsons and Keith Richards
09.19.2012
06:34 pm
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Easy riders.

Gram Parsons and Keith Richards on a motorcycle. Never saw this photo before and I’m totally in awe of Keith’s sunglasses.

Thanks to Nick Kent.

Posted by Marc Campbell
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09.19.2012
06:34 pm
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A really stellar documentary on Gram Parsons
08.21.2012
04:01 pm
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You’d have to be a complete numbskull to make Gram Parsons’ life anything less than compelling. Fortunately, Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel, directed with empathy and intelligence by Gandulf Hennig, creates a well-rounded and fascinating portrait of Parsons’ brief stint on planet Earth using not much more than a bunch of talking heads. Hennig deserves credit for getting the right heads to do the talking.

Emmylou Harris, Chris Hillman, Dwight Yokum, Peter Buck, Keith Richards, Phil Kaufman, Bernie Leadon, Gretchen Parsons Carpenter, Diane Parsons, Polly Parsons, James Burton and others share their stories and insights about one of the pioneers of country-rock. The Grievous Angel didn’t live long but his presence looms large in the lives of generations of musicians seeking the real, true, twang in the heart of American music.

This is a very fine documentary.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell
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08.21.2012
04:01 pm
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Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons dies, 9/19/1973
09.19.2011
11:48 pm
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On September 19th, 1973, Gram Parsons, Flying Burrito Brother co-founder, briefly member of The Byrds and one of the founders of “country rock” died in a desert motel room in the Joshua Tree Inn at the age of 26.

Below, one of the very few clips you can find of the Flying Burrito Brothers with Parsons. Even if they are just lip-synching, it’s still great to watch him in action.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.19.2011
11:48 pm
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Gram Parsons’ last recorded interview
11.06.2010
03:47 am
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As a young man I grew up in the South and I hated country music. That changed when I first started hearing songs from The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Flying Burrito Brothers and Gram Parsons solo work, all of which seemed to me to be quite different from the hillbilly shit I’d grown up around. The West Coast country vibe had a wide-openness about it that was more in tune with my Jack Kerouac inspired desire to hit the road…a road that was as much a metaphor for spiritual yearning as a slab of tar and concrete. Gram Parsons’ western music wasn’t solely about blue collar blues, booze and bad women. Parsons was a romantic in the traditional poetic sense, a seeker of beauty in the coarseness of everyday life. Yes, it was honky tonk music, but in Gram’s world the honky tonks weren’t violent dives of retribution, they were a kind of cowboy cafe society that weren’t far removed from the cafes of the French surrealists in Paris of the 1930’s, where absinthe was drunk instead of tequila.

This interview with Michael Bates in 1973 was Gram Parsons’ last recorded conversation. 6 months after the interview Parsons O.D’d on morphine and tequila in a motel on the edge of the Mojave desert.

Bate’s connection to Gram is almost accidental. In 1973—while he was the host of a CBC radio show in Ottawa, Ontario—Bate was on a road trip when he happened to spot Parsons’ beaten-up tour bus by the side of the Massachusetts Turnpike, 90 miles from Boston. He stopped and arranged an interview, which he says turned out to be the final recorded conversation with Parsons, who died that September from an overdose of morphine and tequila.

Gram candididly talks about Keith Richards and The Stones, bad dealings with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and how Waylon Jennings had to walk around the block to smoke a joint during a recording session with Chet Atkins. In the beginning of the interview Parsons makes mention of being stuck in England and left penniless by The Byrds. Gram was fired by Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman when he refused to join them on a South Africa tour as he was was opposed to apartheid. Some of his friends at the time thought Gram actually quit The Byrds so he could hang out with The Stones in London.

It’s Gram’s birthday today (Nov. 5).
 

 
Via Exile On Moan Street

Posted by Marc Campbell
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11.06.2010
03:47 am
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Starting a teenage riot in the desert with Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers

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A wonderful first-hand account of the 1969 Palm Springs Pop festival by my friend, the great rock ‘n’ roll photographer Heather Harris.

The Palm Springs Pop Festival, April 1, 1969, a music event a tad bigger quantitatively than the more celebrated Monterey Pop Festival of the same era although smaller by many triple digits than the later that summer Woodstock, was peopled by some eight thousand strong in drug-fueled hippie-dancing young souls. It was my first time attending a show that blocked off the front of the stage from the audience or photographers like me. I was as determined then as I am now to get good live shots, so I just tore down the chicken wire, entered the rarified area and took the following photo of The Flying Burrito Brothers, (left to right the legendary Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, Chris Ethridge and Sneeky Pete) all accoutered in their infamous custom Nudie suits, Gram with cannabis leaves and pills, Sneeky with pterodactyls etc. I only got this one shot of The Burritos because suddenly eight thousand people rushed forward to join me and I was terminally jostled from any further photography. It was uncomfortable amongst the new surging throngs, it was cold in the desert night air, the two bands we wanted to see had canceled, we’d seen the remaining other acts before, and my friend was starting to get drugsick, so we left. But apparently those pushing stagewards continued in their spirit of surging and mobbing, and eventually rioted throughout tony Palm Springs all the way to the Taquitz Falls park. It was one of the first instances in failure of concert crowd control ending in rioting, quite some months before Altamont, and I, dear reader, may be responsible for its inception. Later I would find access to stage photography limited by far more than chicken wire fencing, instead by micro-managing control freaks associated with the acts, and that has proven in long run a far more formidable obstacle to good photography than any 8,000 person riot behind me.

 
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(C) 1969 Heather Harris
 
Myself, I adore The Flying Burrito Brothers. So much so that I had their brilliant pedal steel player, the late Sneaky Pete Kleinow play on the first Medicine record. Here’s a great clip of them lip-syncing the first song from their first album :

 
HOW I STARTED A RIOT 41 YEARS AGO WHILE PHOTOGRAPHING GRAM PARSONS AND THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS (fast film blog)

 

Posted by Brad Laner
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06.18.2010
11:41 am
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