Excellent. I’ve long been partial to Cosmic American music, discovering it first through Uncle Tupelo and Michelle Shocked, then working my way backwards in time to Gram Parsons, Dylan’s John Wesley Harding, The Band’s first few albums, and others. Being a musical historian in the age of re-releasing frenzy does have advantages.
Live at the Avalon Ballroom is the rock equivalent of the Jackson Pollock discovered at a flea market, or the first-edition William Faulkner found in the dollar bin at a used book store. These recordings of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ two shows in San Francisco in April 1969 were long buried in the Grateful Dead vaults (which many listeners speak of in the same terms explorers once used for El Dorado) until Dave Prinz, the co-founder of Amoeba Records, tracked them down and worked for more than a year to secure permissions from the Dead’s soundman, Owsley “Bear” Stanley. Prinz compiled the recordings into a 2xCD set (one for each show) and released them on the newly launched Amoeba Records label– its second release, in fact. The title, Archives Volume 1: Live at the Avalon Ballroom 1969, teases with the tacit promise of a second volume– more buried treasure.
For Parsons fans, this constitutes a major event– perhaps more anticipated than even Rhino’s long-awaited reissue of his two solo albums in 2006– not only because it contains numerous unheard covers, but primarily because Parsons didn’t leave a whole lot of live material behind when he died in 1973. Even the supposedly “live” medley from Grievous Angel was just a studio re-creation, and the real live recordings that survive are marred by poor sound quality or, in some cases, poor performances. Live documents of Parsons’ short tenure with the original Flying Burrito Brothers line-up are even scarcer. What makes Live at the Avalon Ballroom so special is that the performance is just as good as the sound quality. As professional hanger-on Pamela “Burrito Sister” Des Barres writes in the liners, “I have literally been waiting for this album for decades.”