Gram Parsons and his band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, are are among rock and roll's great cult legends — a short-lived group of dope-smoking Californians who laid the foundation for country rock, alt-country, and even those damn Eagles. Yet most folks, including the Burritos themselves, remember them as a lousy live act: under-rehearsed and way, way too stoned. But Parsons fanatics had no way of confirming this. Since the late '60s, their only exposure to the group's cosmic vibrations came via its first two albums.
The Flying Burrito Bros. Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969 fills a gaping hole in the band's history. And it's a pretty good listen to boot — featuring never-before-heard covers like "Mental Revenge" and "Long Black Limousine." Although Parsons and Chris Hillman's Everly Brothers-inspired harmonies squeeze out all kinds of sour notes (the R&B nugget "Dark End of the Street" will make alley cats howl), the Burritos possess earthy grit — something its dreamy studio work never revealed. Still, modern ears raised on remastered precision will ultimately have issues with these vintage live recordings, where fidelity is comparable to the average homegrown Grateful Dead tape, which makes sense: This Burritos show was recently discovered deep in the Dead's vaults.