I feel like one of the problems of getting into a genre through a progenitor of that genre is that later bands don’t hold up. If you manage to listen to the later bands first, they always sound better because you don’t know what came first, you don’t realize how derivative they are.
So one issue I have with approaching Pure Prairie League is simply that I am a big fan of The Flying Burrito Brothers and these guys are not The Flying Burrito Brothers.For one, these guys seem to have come at country rock from the country side of the equation rather than the rock side.
Perhaps that’s why this record sounds so soft, even when there’s distortion on the guitars. No matter how hard they try, they are fans of country music first so even a solo on “Angel #9” (which is about as “rock” as this record gets) lacks the kind of muscle one would associate with rock music.
But it’s the super clean country harmonies that really stick out as tying this more to mainstream contemporary country than contemporary rock music. The harmonies on the country rock I like are usually rawer, more frail or fragile. These harmonies are pure and idyllic. Think more Poco than the Burritos.
There are a couple of pretty decent songs, though they always feel a little below great. (For instance, “Jazzman” has a great country melody but lyrics that are not as strong as that melody.) But when the songs are less strong they sort of just feel like a second rate country rock band, which could use more rock in their sound (even when they employ the cliche soulful female backing vocals). Maybe it’s the mix, but something is neutering the rock side for me.
Anyway, listen to the Burritos instead.