Personnel: Bernie Leadon (vocals, guitar, banjo); Al Perkins (vocals, guitar); Chris Hillman (vocals, mandolin); Rick Roberts (vocals); Michael Clarke (drums, tambourine).
Recording information: Philadelphia, PA (07/22/1971).
For many fans, the Flying Burrito Brothers' story ended when Gram Parsons left the group in 1970, but while they lost their best songwriter and a magnetic frontman, they soldiered on with a lineup that, from an instrumental standpoint, was arguably much better than they were with Parsons up front. With Chris Hillman playing bass and leading the group, and Bernie Leadon and Rick Roberts on guitars, Al Perkins on pedal steel, and Michael Clarke on drums, the 1971 Burrito Brothers could kick up some dust and do justice to the Parsons-era classics, and Devils in Disguise: 1971 Live Radio Broadcast documents just how good this band was on-stage. Taken from a Philadelphia concert recorded for broadcast on WMMR-FM in June 1971, Devils in Disguise finds this band sounding tight as a drum and delivering plenty of first-rate picking, with Perkins taking MVP honors for this show, and the bluegrass mini-set launched with "Shenandoah Valley Breakdown" is a delight. The band sounds a bit more comfortable with material not associated with Parsons (and none of the members sing with the same grace and resonance he mustered so easily), but they carry the Gilded Palace of Sin songs with the ‚lan of old pros, and tear through the set with casual excellence. The fidelity of this release is uneven (it appears to have been taken from a source a few generations away from a recording taken off the air), and there are some either amusing or annoying gaps when the bandmembers have to scramble when they go through their hourlong set in 45 minutes, but there are genuinely pearly moments in this album, and if the Flying Burrito Brothers never again made an album as good as their debut, Devils in Disguise shows they sure knew how to deliver on-stage long after the good-looking frontman hit the road. ~ Mark Deming