Books

Hot Burritos: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers by John Einarson with Chris Hillman

It seems like Einarson was more eager to include multiple perspectives, no matter how much they overlapped, than he was to craft a flowing narrative.


Hot Burritos

Publisher: Jawbone
Subtitle: The True Story of the Flying Burrito Brothers
Contributors: John Einarson, Chris Hillman
Author: Chris Hillman
Price: 19.95
Display Artist: John Einarson with Chris Hillman
Length: 336
Formats: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781906002169
US publication date: 2008-11-30
Website
Amazon
Amazon

The story of the Flying Burrito Brothers, probably best known as the bridge between the Byrds and Gram Parsons' solo career, is brief and oft-told. Any biography of Parsons -- and there have been many, most notably by Ben Fong-Torres, Sid Griffin, and David Meyer -- will delve into the relevant period of the Burritos' history. But, as Parsons' tenure with the pioneering country-rock outfit was abbreviated, those books have told only half the story.

John Einarson's new biography of the Burrito Brothers, written with co-founder and longest-serving original member Chris Hillman, attempts to redress the oversight of the post-Parsons band by following their story to its conclusion. But that's not its only goal. Hillman says in the introduction, "Certainly Gram's mystique has overshadowed me. I know that. He overshadows all of us in the Burritos, even if we've gone on to bigger careers since, like Bernie [Leadon] in the Eagles. I don't want to dwell on it. It just is what it is." And yet Hillman also calls Parsons "the Paris Hilton of rock 'n' roll," and all but dismisses the entirety of his output: his vocals on the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo "aren't that good."

The only Burritos-era Parsons songs worthy of high praise are "Hot Burrito #1" and "Hot Burrito #2", and of his solo albums Hillman says: "Some of it makes my skin crawl. It's just bad country music." The song "$1000 Wedding", which is usually held up as an example of Parsons at his very best, comes in for particularly harsh criticism from Hillman on several occasions. Einarson even adds: "It's not one of his finest hours, and the decision to take it out of contention for the second Burritos album, despite a scarcity of material, was a wise one." I suspect you'd be hard pressed to find many Parsons or Burrito Brothers fans who agree with that point of view.

It's true that the Cult of Parsons has grown considerably over the last decade or so, with CD reissues, books, documentaries, and the mildly amusing comedy Grand Theft Parsons appearing to capitalize on his commercial viability. And that must get frustrating for someone like Chris Hillman, who worked hard for years with absolute professionalism, didn't die at 26, and will probably never get the attention he deserves. He says he doesn't "want to dwell on it," but come on. Hot Burritos is the obvious result of Hillman (via Einarson) dwelling on it for 300 pages, winding up with a pathetic-sounding plea for induction into the rock and country halls of fame.

And what a long 300 pages it is at times. It's obvious that Einarson talked to everyone he could, and this range of voices gives the book a thoroughness that will probably make it the definitive version of the Burrito Brothers' story. On the downside, it's also an occasionally sloppy and often redundant book. Aside from any number of careless typos, simple editing would've caught references to "Seals and Croft" and "John Prince" (alleged author of "There's a Needle in Daddy's Arm Where All the Money Goes", better known as "Sam Stone"), and repeated references to the post-Burritos trio of "Souther, Hillman and Furay" are irritating if you know that that group was actually called "The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band." Einarson could have thrown a [sic] in there every once in awhile if he didn't want to correct a quote. But he doesn't, and the result is that the book just seems like it needed an editor.

Perhaps more frustrating are the redundancies, because they probably tack 50 unnecessary pages onto the book: the multiple references to the latter-day Burritos as "a dead horse," the brief biography of Buffalo Springfield on page 276 long after we first heard about them (according to the index it's the book's ninth reference to that group), the tired use of the "too rock for country, too country for rock" cliche, all the mentions of how the Eagles took what the Burritos and others started and used it to make money, and more. And sometimes this stuff happens only paragraphs apart. It seems like Einarson was more eager to include multiple perspectives, no matter how much they overlapped, than he was to craft a flowing narrative.

Hot Burritos does go further than any other book out there in terms of its coverage of the post-Parsons Burrito Brothers -- the last third of the book takes place after Parsons was sacked -- but it's questionable whether there's much of an audience for the final chapters. Einarson and Hillman can try all they want to make the case for the third and fourth Burrito Brothers albums, and criticize the "roughness" of The Gilded Palace of Sin, but there aren't many listeners who are going to agree. Selling the majority of readers on the idea that Parsons was the weak link in the original band is going to be practically impossible, especially when Parsons fans are the folks most likely to pick up Hot Burritos in the first place. If they have access to the music itself, they're likely to hear soullessness in the latter-day albums where Hillman hears consummate professionalism, and a whole lot of heart in the Parsons records (particularly Gilded Palace) where Hillman hears missed opportunities and flaws, particularly those of Gram Parsons.

It's all a matter of perspective, and although Hillman's is long overdue, it also comes across too often as a mean-spirited attempt to knock Parsons off his pedestal. I suspect it won't work in the long run.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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