[Review] Chris Hillman: Slippin’ Away (1976)

One of the last of The Byrds to fly solo, Hillman’s first is in line with what you’d expect from the Byrd/Burrito.

Kronomyth 1.0: So you want to be a country-rock star.

Chris Hillman commemorated the U.S. bicentennial with his first proper solo album, Slippin’ Away. Although Hillman didn’t end up getting Eric Clapton’s producer, Tom Dowd, he did manage to score his guitarist, George Terry, for a few tracks, plus an impressive guest list that included former members of Manassas and The Flying Burrito Brothers. The songs stick to the slick country-rock sound popularized by the Burritos and Eagles, returning to Hillman’s bluegrass roots for the closing “(Take Me In Your) Lifeboat.”

Hillman has a good voice and the good sense to surround himself with better singers, brings in an array of top-shelf guitarists (Terry, Al Perkins, Steve Cropper, Donnie Dacus) and taps his previous connections to round out an album’s worth of new material, including a track from supporter Stephen Stills and one co-credited to the former burrito grande, Gram Parsons. Until now, Hillman had played the role of the vital cog rather than the big wheel, though he had earned the cachet and displayed the talent to parlay his past into a successful solo career going forward. Slippin’ Away is a confident first step that aligns smartly with studio country-rock, including a good balance of rockers and ballads. “Take It On The Run” and “Blue Morning,” for example, could pass for album tracks on most Eagles albums, “Witching Hour” is a tasty leftover from Manassas and “Love is The Sweetest Amnesty” might be the sweetest ballad Hillman has ever recorded.

Interest in Hillman, however, appeared on the decline, as his first album charted about as well as those terrible, re-heated Burritos records. It’s a much better record than that; better than Illegal Stills too, honestly. You have to wonder what Hillman had to do to get his career off the ground. Then again, after the heady experience of The Byrds, maybe flying under the radar was a blessing in disguise. Those who did tune in got a healthy dose of quality country-rock that will appeal to fans of The Byrds, Eagles and CS&N, which I’m pretty sure describes everyone except, apparently, the people responsible for reissuing classic albums on compact disc.

Original LP Version

A1. Step On Out (Chris Hillman/Peter Knobler) (3:16)
A2. Slippin’ Away (3:43)
A3. Falling Again (4:06)
A4. Take It On The Run (3:23)
A5. Blue Morning (3:50)
B1. Witching Hour (Stephen Stills) (4:24)
B2. Down In The Churchyard (Chris Hillman/Gram Parsons) (4:02)
B3. Love Is The Sweetest Amnesty (Danny Douma) (3:42)
B4. Midnight Again (3:35)
B5. (Take Me In Your) Lifeboat (2:45)

All songs written by Chris Hillman unless noted.

The Players

Chris Hillman (vocals, bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin), Steve Cropper (rhythm guitar, lead guitar, electric guitar), Jim Gordon (drums), Paul Harris (keyboards, piano), Joe Lala (percussion), Herb Pedersen (vocals, acoustic guitar), Al Perkins (pedal steel guitar, electric guitar, lead “pullstring” guitar) with Howard Albert (marimbas on B2), Byron Berline (banjo & bass vocal on B5), Sam Broussard (electric rhythm guitar on B1), Donnie Dacus (slide guitar on A4/B1), Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass on A5), Jim Fielder (bass on A3/A4/B2), Flo and Eddie (oooooh’s on A2), Albhy Galuten (Arp synthesizer on A3/B1/B4), David Garibaldi (drums on B1), Russ Kunkel (drums on A2/B3), Bernie Leadon (acoustic guitar & baritone vocal on B5), Rick Roberts (vocals on A4/A5/B1/B4, handclaps on B3), Tim Schmit (vocals on A1/B2), Lee Sklar (bass on A2/B3), George Terry (lead guitar on A1/B2, electric rhythm guitars on A3). Produced by Ron Albert and Howard Albert.

The Pictures

Art direction and photography by Lorrie Sullivan. Design by Randee St. Nicholas and L. Sullivan. Illustration by Edward Borein.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in 1976 in the US (Elektra, 7E/ET8-1062), the UK (Asylum, K-53041) and Japan (Warner Bros., P-10211Y) with innersleeve; reached #152 on the US charts. 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 2000 in Japan (Asylum, WPCP-4145).

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