Flying Burrito Brothers Live at Fillmore East 1970, (released this year.) Chris Hillman, years after the night captured on this energetic new addition to the Flying Burrito Brothers discography:
Sneaky Pete’s steel guitar shines throughout and may be his best performance on record.
What happened to The Flying Burrito Brothers the next year, 1971, ushered in twenty-five years of what I would term, fractal dynamics, as different configurations of players, constituting a kind of shifty strange attractor, bubbled up and out and up again, all around either the original ‘brand,’ The Flying Burrito Brothers, or Burrito Brothers, and, finally, Burrito Deluxe. Pedal steel icon Sneaky Pete left the band late in 1971, only to find a new attractor three years later, as the band rose once again after all but disbanding a few months and a European tour after another shuffle of personal followed in the aftermath of Chris Hillman, Michael Clark, and Bernie Leadon all moving on to greener pastures.
Sneaky Pete remained not quite the central constant in the midst of various permutations, with each at least securing the ‘Burrito’ part of the band’s name. Yet, the result is that there is a lot of Sneaky etched on legitimate and illicit recordings strung between 1974 and Sneaky’s last recordings, released in 2009 with Burrito Deluxe.
Although there was a certain measure of cynicism likely in the motivation for some of these configurations, and, each of the studio recordings are dragged down to different degrees by mediocre material and, at times, too much obedience to the commercial trends (in country music) of their day, there is also a lot of terrific Sneaky Pete steel guitar on display. Other moments of grace are supplied by musical evidence that supports just how much the shape-shifting cast of characters enjoyed playing with each other. Amongst the likes of talented and heart-felt players such as John Beland, Joel Scott Hill, Gib Gilbeau, Kleinow was the only first tier player, yet under the different variations of ‘Burrito’ the various crews kept their ‘Bakersfield sound’ inflected California country rock going against, really, the odds.
Of course Chris Hillman wasn’t onboard for the ensuing messy history, so he didn’t get to hear the ace steelman do his thing on many a long lonely night. Sentimentally, I will always feel Sneaky’s amazing essays on The Guilded Palace of Sin are not only his best work on record, but represent a pedal steel guitar-driven country rock moment second to none. Still, especially in the various Burrito ensembles of the eighties, there exist a plenitude of recorded and stunning Sneaky moments. This was especially the case throughout the eighties. (I will offer up a mix in a later post.)
Here’s 30 minutes worth of the Sneaky Pete, with five tracks taken from two albums, Suite Steel, and Pacific Steel, that featured his playing along with other virtuoso players.
1 Flying Burrito Brothers::Star Of The Show 4:10
2 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Splittin’ Image 1:58
3 Flying Burrito Brothers::Did You See 2:58
4 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Medley: My Back Pages, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Wheels 3:55
5 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::It Makes No Difference 5:07
6 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Blackbird 2:06
7 Sneaky Pete Kleinow::Cannonball Rag 2:25
8 Flying Burrito Brothers::Hot Burrito #2 4:38
h/t Tim Connors offers up a capsule history of all permutations Burrito on his essential web resource about all things The Byrds.