The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969


On the version of “Undo the Right” that opens disc two of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, Gram Parsons can’t match the operatic intensity of Johnny Bush’s 1968 hit recording: Where Bush soared, Parsons feints soulfully toward the note’s general vicinity. It doesn’t matter. The Burritos make the shuffle of “Undo” their own, and not even drummer Michael Clarke’s indifference detracts from the performance. Avalon catches the Burritos in San Francisco just after the release of The Gilded Palace of Sin, usually regarded as a dope-era extension of Buck Owens’s Bakersfield style. That’s true enough, but these two nearly identical sets sound as much like Bush’s late-’60s recordings for Nashville’s Stop label as they do Owens’s more well-known efforts. Bush played off Buddy Emmons’s poised pedal-steel decorations, while Parsons depended on Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s spectral single-note fills to color performances that could seem uninflected.

Parsons pauses, calculates, and stretches on a version of “Hot Burrito #2” that misses the original’s piano flourishes. The Burritos sound confident delivering lines such as “We’ve got our recruits/And our green mohair suits” to a crowd waiting to see headliners the Grateful Dead, and the demo of “$1000 Wedding” demonstrates Gram’s songwriting chops, but the covers make a case for Parsons as a traditional country artist. Gram digs into Autry Inman’s disconsolate “She Once Lived Here”: When he sings, “There must be a town without memories,” he doesn’t mean a place where anyone ever tried on a green mohair suit.