The Flying Burrito Brothers

Flying Again/Airborne

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Two mid-'70s Flying Burrito Brothers albums, 1975's Flying Again and 1976's Airborne, are combined onto one 72-minute CD on this reissue, which also has historical liner notes. The output of legendary bands whose main engines have moved on frequently suffers, especially in comparison to their more highly regarded earlier recordings. Such is the case with the Flying Burrito Brothers, though perhaps more drastically than with most acts in a similar boat. By the time of Flying Again, the group's founders and most creative musicians, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons, were long gone (in Parsons' case, literally gone from the planet). There were links to the classic period in the presence of Chris Ethridge and "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, as well as ex-Byrds drummer/multi-instrumentalist Gene Parsons, and stylistically they still retained many elements of the earlier Burritos country-rock sound. But the songs and lead vocals weren't as strong, and there's a general sense of an outfit coasting on the more genial aspects of the country-rock approach, rather than trying to challenge or push boundaries. The choice of covers (including George Jones' "Why Baby Why" and the soul tune "You Left the Water Running") is indicative of a lingering intention to combine various strands of American music under the country-rock umbrella, and Gene Parsons' "Sweet Desert Childhood" injects a nice plaintive note, but overall it's not too memorable. Another ex-Byrd, Skip Battin, replaced Ethridge on Airborne, which moves toward a more AOR rock sound. If the intention was to be more commercial, it didn't work, much of the material tapping a jocular yet mellow, muted country-rock vein. As for the covers, a mild take on Ray Sharpe's rock & roll oldie "Linda Lu" flops, though John Prine's "Quiet Man" and, more surprisingly, Stevie Wonder's "She's a Sailor" (on which Wonder himself plays piano) make for more interesting selections.

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