Gram Parsons was hardly the only worthwhile musician in the Flying Burrito Brothers, but the group's fusion of a country sound with a rock & roll mentality was largely his brainchild, and though the Burritos soldiered on for a while after he left for a solo career, their focus was never quite the same. In 1972 the bandmembers announced they were calling it a day, and the live set Last of the Red Hot Burritos was intended to be their final album. By this point, Chris Hillman was the band's de facto leader (he was the only member of the group who had appeared on the Burritos' classic debut album) and Last of the Red Hot Burritos reflects Hillman's passion for bluegrass, with a three-song acoustic mini-set appearing alongside tunes from the band's studio albums, as well as including a few songs that the group had never recorded prior to this concert. The tenor of the Flying Burrito Brothers on Last of the Red Hot Burritos was very different from the "Cosmic American Music" of The Gilded Palace of Sin, with more funky groove in the rock and more rural purity in the country, but there's no arguing that Hillman had put together a first-class band, including Byron Berline on fiddle, Al Perkins on guitar and steel, and Roger Bush on upright bass, and they play this material with impressive taste and feeling along with truly exceptional technique. As it happens, Last of the Red Hot Burritos was hardly the end of the line for the Flying Burrito Brothers, as Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Chris Ethridge would relaunch the group in 1975 and various editions of the band would record and tour through the end of the '90s, but this album was a belated but heartfelt farewell to the Chris Hillman era of the Burritos, and speaks to his quiet strength as a bandleader as well as this great band's legacy.
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