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Customer Review

on 9 March 2009
This book is timely, and to those who have an objective understanding of the subject matter, a searching analysis of the facts taken from many sources and key participants over the accumulated mythology that has accrued since September 1973.
As a fan of the band and the key players since 1972,( when nobody was very much bothered in a defunct band) it is interesting how the lack of objectivity became manifest, and this current work can be seen by some as a "character assassination". I looked forward to the 1974 release of the A&M compilation "Close up the Honky Tonks" which I bought on import. At that time, Nick Kent in the NME reviewed the album and described the partnership of Parsons and Hillman as "A consummation of the gods". He quantified the elements of what he called "Rock, spark and drive" and suggested that people should get listening to the Burritos. At that time, critics would describe Chris Hillman - using the word "thaumaturge" - his involvement in any project facilitating wonders. Parsons was seen more as a "Mad Professor" creating a mixture of ingredients that might just blow up in you face- or be the source of some strange alchemy, but "his race was run"- or so it appeared. Anyhow, in 1976 there was a major two page feature in the NME under the headline "So you want to be a Cosmic Cowboy" ( where have we heard a similar heading before?) which began to question the nascent Parsons mythology which was just beginning to build up a head of steam. The writer (in my eyes) made the heretical statement that Parsons couldn't sing- he couldn't hold a note, and if you wanted "ground-breaking" country music, then Waylon Jennings and his album "Honky Tonk Heroes" was the way to go. Anyway, this was too much for me, but shortly afterwards, A&M released "Sleepless Nights" most of the recently released stuff from "Close up the Honky Tonks"-plus the Reprise out takes, and some very patchy covers of rockers and country classics- with Parsons in an obvious state of disarray, and singing in some "distress". Perhaps, the critic was on to something? Well, this book takes us through the history of those short years, and the reader can decide on conspiracy to undermine, or just simple forensic analysis. The 1974 compilation had this to say about Chris Hillman. "..the cornerstone and an exemplary musician who took charge when it needed to be taken...Chris knows how to hang in there and do whatever has to be done very well....Ironically enough, when the time came to step out, he fell in with Stephen Stills and found himself just out of the spotlight one last time, pulling a disparate situation together while someone else got the billing". The liner notes are favourable to Gram although the telling sentence "At times,he couldn't seem to get his mind and body going in the same direction for long enough to get something really big together" does rather nail the underlying problem which Chris Hillman has described quite simply as a lack of discipline, and a dereliction of the essential commitment to others- band mates, record companies, the audience etc. Mind you, it's been timeless matter across the years, the destructive nature of large inheritance in the hands of the young. A&M did not need to be objective- they had invested in the band, but I can't help feel that Jim Bickhart's liner notes from 1974 identified all the salient points long before it became a matter of faith or passion.
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