The Flying Burrito Bros' "The Gilded Palace of Sin" Finally Reissued Correctly

Characterizing The Gilded Palace of Sin as a “country-rock” album or “the first country-rock album” or as it’s incorrectly called by some Sweetheart of The Rodeo Part 2 sells short an album that transcends genre or for that matter “dash-genres”.

With Gram Parsons’ help The Byrds recorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo—an album that brought “reactionary” country music to the ears of hippie-rockers (and more importantly made them like it).

Soon thereafter Gram Parsons (real name Ingram Cecil Connor III) split with The Byrds and not long thereafter so did Chris Hillman, who joined up with Parsons to form The Flying Burrito Brothers.

Sure the influences are obvious: The Louvin and Everly Brothers harmonies and vocalizing, twangy and pedal-steel guitars and the ballads’ loping waltz rhythms.

But this record is somehow very different, starting with Sneaky Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel playing on the unusual Fender 400, an 8 string “cable pull” model, tuned to B6. Rather than providing the usual fills and accents, Kleinow on many tracks percolates throughout, sometimes adding a fuzzbox, or an Echoplex or even plugging in to a Leslie speaker.

Chris Ethridge anchored on bass and some keyboards but the original drummer Eddie Hoh was fired for a substance abuse problem and others were recruited to finish the studio sessions.

When the band toured (with Parsons coked up and tripping on mushrooms much of the time) it went with former Byrds drummers Michael Clarke rather than with any of the studio guys who were much better musicians but not as pretty. And so it goes.

On its surface the music is familiar country more than it is rock but listen in more deeply and you’ll be enveloped by buzzy, whirly, shiny, almost hallucinatory psychedelia. That’s reinforced by the twin tracks of deep, oversized bass and clear shimmering ice on top that carries the glistening vocals divided hard left/right.

You could argue that this record is the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of country music more than it’s a ‘country rock’ album, and I am! It has an eerie, psychedelic ambience that’s hidden in plain view, as does the back cover photo showing the band in “Nudie” (Cohn) get-ups, though with a pot plant “growing” on Parsons’ jacket, it was clearly not an “off the rack” item!

The album was a commercial flop (as were both of Gram Parsons’ solo records on Warner Brothers) but its influence on other musicians was enormous. It affected everyone from The Grateful Dead to The Eagles to Elvis Costello, to Wilco and on and on.

Aside from the well-done covers of “Do Right Woman” and “Dark End of the Street” the album is all original songs including “Hot Burrito #1” better known to E.C. fans as “I’m Your Toy”. Not going to go over the tunes though, the magic here is in the entity as a whole.

This was always one of the oddest sounding records, despite the Henry Lewy pedigree: the top end on the original could rip your head off, while the bottom end could peel the surround off a woofer.

It originally didn’t make sense but now thanks to this reissue cut from a 1/2" safety copy of the original master tape, it does. Kevin Gray left the essence intact—the bright top and wooly bottom—but either he’s pulled it in a few notches on both ends, or the original pushed it out a few to make the intent clear on 60’s and 70’s era “hippie phonographs”.

Whichever it was and I’m sure Intervention’s Shane Buettner while chime in, in the comments section, this record has never sounded this well balanced yet still happily sonically “out to lunch”.

You also get a great laminated Stoughton Press “Tip-on” jacket and RTI pressing for your money. A reader asked if I’d assembled a “100 essential albums” list. I haven’t but when I do, this will be on it as will be The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark, another album that mingled country and rock released on A&M a year before this record. It’s in need of an all-analog reissue, preferably as a “two-fer” with the follow up Through the Morning Through the Night. There may be other reissues of this record costing less but do not be fooled! This is the only one that’s AAA. It costs more but it’s worth it. Just be forewarned: if your front end can't handle the bass, it might still sound sloppy but if it can and you know the record, you'll hear the notes more cleanly than ever, but with the surrounding "muck" still there as required by the "original intent".

Music Direct Buy It Now

COMMENTS
elliotdrum's picture

When I first heard Chuck Berry when I was about 10 years old(1955)
I thought wow electric country guitar and rhythm and blues -
I loved it...Yes Sweethearts and Gilded were intentional concept
country rock albums but for instance Buffalo Springfield and the
Beatles were doing countrified rock music earlier.
It's all great!

IR Shane's picture

Listening to the tapes at mastering, and comparing to the brown label A&M original we were very surprised by the choices made on the latter. The brightness on top is apparent even on the tapes, and obviously audible on the original. It did not sound to us like the richness of the bass on the tapes made it to the original. We actually trimmed the bass on a couple of tracks and did not add bass to any of the tracks, but there was plenty of foundation there. Further, on the original A&M it sounded to our ears as though they not only trimmed the bass but also pushed the midrange and treble. Hard. Hence, the original's ability to "rip your head off." (Vivid but accurate!) The resulting balance Kevin achieved came from, as Mikey suggests, letting the "original intent" evident on the tapes express itself!

Pretzel Logic's picture

I've never heard an original, but curious how Gilded tracks from the '74 compilation "Close up the Honky Tonks" fare in comparison to this reissue...

vogelzang's picture

GP is one of the most influential American musicians of his era; just look at his influence!

Have listened to this record too many times to count from original A&M, CD etc, but this remastering is a thing of beauty as nicely described by Michael and a marked improvement over anything done previously. Congrats to Intervention Records.

I'm thinking of gifting this to friends in the soon to be released Hydrid SACD/CD. Should be great too.

One tiny bit of pedantry--Kleinow is credited as "Sneeky" on the album, not "Sneaky"

Jenn's picture

and love it!

jokerman's picture

The twofer CD of the first 2 albums sounds much better than this LP. The bass is bloated and the mid-range has a huge hole in it, and is muddled.

IR Shane's picture

are not always going to appreciate the sound of AAA LPs.

jokerman's picture

Yes, and some others will speak without knowing their subject enough to even make an opinion. Just as you assumed something of me, I will assume that you have not heard the source I am referring to. That's just poor all around. I don't not prefer the sound of anything specifically because of the media it is on just as well as I won't assume something sounds better because it is on a certain media. I prefer vinyl in most cases but this one has problems that the CD does not.

maodzedun's picture

Very interesting, more such articles, thank you very much
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jokerman's picture

I compared the reissue to an original and the reissue is def an improvement over the original A&M.