The Byrds

Fliyng Hygh!
*special introductory paragraph!
*Mr. Tambourine Man
*Turn! Turn! Turn!
*Fifth Dimension
*Younger Than Yesterday
*Byrds On The Wyng
*The Notorious Byrd Brothers
*Sweetheart Of The Rodeo
*Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde
*Live At The Fillmore February 1969
*Ballad Of Easy Rider
*Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971
*Farther Along
*Never Before

I love The Byrds! Jangly guitars and beautiful harmony vocals! Actually, after their five-album streak of 12-string classics like "Turn Turn Turn," "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Eight Miles High," the whole band except Jim McGuinn quit (or were fired) and he replaced them with country rock musicians who contributed neither jangly guitars nor beautiful harmony vocals. Ah well. They still had some wonderful songs though because Roger McGuinn has an ANGEL of a voice. My lord, does he have a beautiful voice. Look him up in the telephone book and leave him a voicemail letting him know how great his voice is. He sounds so vulnerable. So sweet. So about-to-break-down. I love him so! Except he's a Born Again Christian, I think, so fuck him.

Preflyte - CBS 1973.
Rating = 7

Post-breakup release of a bunch of early demos. Shows what a wonderful songwriter Gene Clark was, what a lovely ringing guitar tone they had, and what marvelous harmony singers the pack were. Did I mention that David Crosby got his start in this band? Turns out that a lot of people don't know that! Yes sir, before he got fat and bald, David was a Byrd. A tremendously egotistical and immature Byrd.

There are a few songs on here that don't quite cut the turd though. "Boston"? "The Reason Why"? They sound like The Byrds but with no discernible melody. And "The Airport Song"? That's bachelor pad music! I'm done here.

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Mr. Tambourine Man - Columbia 1965.
Rating = 9

More than half of the songs are cover tunes, but the Byrds make them like 58 billion times more gorgeous with their chiming 12-string guitars and vocal harmonies. This is one of the greatest albums of the mid-60s. So heavenly, you'll cry. It's a sin that all these beautiful voices ended up in the same band singing together.

I've loved this album for my whole life. Aurally pleasing out the pisswad, and every bit as aurally pleasing as the word "pisswad." The originals are just as great as the covers, and the covers, as I said, blow the ROOF off the original versions of the songs they cover. I mean, yeah, Bob Dylan wrote some great songs but have you heard how amazing they sounded when the Byrds played them? WHOOOEEEAAAAIIIIUUUUsometimesYYYYYY!

Reader Comments
Fantastic album. The cover of the title track is beautiful, with awesome harmonys and beautifully ringing guitars like mentioned already. Besides the beautiful covers, there are some really great originals as well, like "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better", "Bells Of Rhymney" and the beatles-esque "You Wont Have To Cry" (i could really imagine Paul and John sing this one on Hard Day's Night album). I agree with the 9.
Columbia signed the Byrds in 1964 on a one single arrangement: if the single succeeded, the Byrds could stay and record albums; if the single flopped, the Byrds left.

The single they happened to record was "Mr. Tambourine Man," and the rest is history.

But something that is not well known is who recommended the band to Columbia.

That certain someone was none other than Miles Davis.

No lie. No joke. Miles Davis advised Columbia to sign the Byrds. This is, apparently, God's truth.

Isn't that unbelievable? (Mark Moche)
Actually, it was Miles Davis' daughter who heard the Byrds ( I think at Jim Dickson's House) and was hysterical because she thought they were the Beatles. So Miles Davis told Dickson to sign them.

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* Turn! Turn! Turn! - Columbia 1966. *
Rating = 10

Ditto what I said for the first album (except for the word "pisswad"). Nearly every song on here is aurally uplifting to the point of near-religious revelation. I'm not sure how these guys got pegged as "folk rock" (Dylan covers and harmony vocals, I guess?), but they demolish that tag to pieces. These are no Mamas and Papas we're discussing here. The Byrds, in this reviewer's opinion, had a sound that even demolished the Beatles' sound to pieces. And okay, yes, more than half of the songs are reworked (and vastly improved) versions of other peoples' tunes, and yes, the Beatles were a more prolific and consistent songwriting team and thus probably a better band. But if you're looking for sheer sonic beauty that brings the Heavens to Earth while still maintaining a fabulous danceable beat, these early Byrds records are the way to go. They didn't just sing in three-part harmony - they all had AMAZINGLY gorgeous voices that converged in three part harmony. And if you've never heard the sound of an electrified 12-string guitar, then mister you're still inside your mother's womb. Get outta there! You're like 30 years old! She weighs over 300 pounds cuzza you!!!!

Reader Comments
Whoo! Finally someone adores this heavenly highflying album. The general rock public usually writes it off as a lower echo of the smash-debut, but this album is much richer in mood and tone. Just listen to that guitar and those harmonies. The Gene Clark -songs here are utterly brilliant. And a sensationally mature album to put out in 1965, when it would be a daring move for most bands just to have one or two songs striking out from the boy-meets-girl-formula. maybe my fave Byrds album. And the cd has some of the best bonus-tracks; "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is wonderfully rough, gee I luv' that striking guitarsolo, and "Stanger in a Strange land" ends the trip perfectly. Let this diamond shine on your stereo
if you have a stereo, blast this one in high volume stereo sound! hte harmonies are so beautiful, it makes the beach boys sing in american idol! it's not like stupid girl boy clich'es it is a more folky style to the sounds of the byrds! it is not stupid bubblegum music! it is the best album by the byrds!

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Fifth Dimension - Columbia 1966.
Rating = 9

Gene Clark of "If You're Gone," "Set You Free This Time" and "The World Turns All Around Her Fame" has flown the coop (HAR HAR!) and left the nest (HAR HAR!) due to career stress, so the remaining four are trying to branch out and progress in their musical arts. This means fewer examples of stunning vocal harmony but a higher percentage of original compositions, ranging from white boy soul to John Coltrane-inspired avant psychedelic guitar theatrics to depressing old Chinese spirituals to an airplane engine used as an instrument! Winnie the Poop!

There are still enough Byrdsisms to remind you that you're listening to The Byrds, but more surprising is the fact that the non-typically Byrds moments are still really catchy and nice on the ears. You're gonna want your "Eight Miles High" for sure, and the title track? Holy MAN, is that a pretty Byrds original! Seven Byrds originals! Mostly great too.

In conclusion, they still have pretty voices and electric 12-strings; they've just embellished their sound with the occasional string or moody drug-influenced mood. A classic!

Reader Comments (Lori White)
Its JAPANESE-You think you're SD fuckin smart and you don't know Hiroshima is in Japan. Also, its not an old "Chinese " or "Japanese" spiritual for that matter. When do you think the A bomb was invented-the 18th century. You're whats wrong with the internet-too many people who don't know what the fuck they're talking about reviewing things. 5D IS flawed, but it is LIGHT YEARS AHEAD of ANYTHING that was out then and NOW too and that includes the Beatles. (Rob DelMedico)
it amazes me that even when you give 9 stars to an album, idiotic sheep bash you for your review and proclaim the album a masterpiece despite your accolades, Prindle.


"I just said it was good..."

spaced out! wear your love like heaven baby cause sweet sassy molassie that is a fucking good album! jazz, blues, country, avntgarde, rock, pop, bluegrass, and space jams!

Colin T.

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Younger Than Yesterday - Columbia 1967.
Rating = 9

Another outstanding 28-minute opus from the Byrds. How did all them '60s rockers get away with recording such dinkyass albums anyway? For the record, all four of these first Byrds albums pretty much get 10s from me. They're all just fantastic - maybe one weak song on each one.

So this one. Well, more diversity and yet the same Byrdsisms just like the last album! Some odder three-part harmonies here of the sort you would later hear in Crosby Stills & Nash. A couple of country-tinged moments that foreshadow the future of the band. Also some clearer distinctions between what the different songwriters in the band were into (note: David Crosby was clearly into drugs and weak philosophy, as demonstrated in the hilariously tuneless MOTO metaphor "Mind Gardens").

This one has the final Byrds hit "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star," which you likely have heard by Unrest or Tom Petty, as well as "Everybody's Been Burned," which Sebadoh covered in the early '90s. Great great great original tunes on here ("Why" is kind of a rewrite of "I See You," but holy christ is it a phenomenal song - and "Renaissance Fair"? Jesus motherdick is that a harrowing little fishtent! And David "Almost Cut My Hair" Crosby wrote BOTH of them!), as well as yet another astonishingly gorgeous reworking of a Bob Dylan tune ("My Back Pages"). Honestly folks, has there ever been another band that can take somebody else's tune and instantly make it 500 times better?

I mean, besides Puff Daddy?

So that's my synopsis. The first four Byrds albums should all be in your collection if you like '60s rock at all. Don't buy the Greatest Hits album. Yes, it's awesome, but you're missing out on so many killer "non-hit" tunes that it's just a bad investment.

Now then - let's move on to the Byrds albums that DON'T all get scores of 10!

Reader Comments (Brett Colasacco)
This one gets the 10 from me, though Mark's right in raving about all four of these early albums. Along with a couple of Dylan's mid-sixties records, Love's FOREVER CHANGES, and Van Morrison's ASTRAL WEEKS, this has got to be a masterwork of folk-rock. (Jason Adams)
Crosby left, I guess, because the rest of the band didn't want to release "Triad" on the following album, and didn't want to release "Lady Friend" as a single. Those are EXCELLENT songs! Yet the band agrees to release "Mind Gardens" here, which is like a giant pungent turd in the middle of this otherwise delicious meal of an album. My point is, I guess, what? Were they all on drugs?


As I said, brilliant album otherwise. The alien voices at the end of "CTA-102" are a bit hokey, I suppose, but those are my only gripes. Chris Hillman could write a good pop song or five.
Mind Gardens = David Crosby silly.

I'm surprised more people did not mention this. (Iain McLennon)
Hi, Mark -

Regarding your comment, "/Honestly folks, has there ever been another band that can take somebody else's tune and instantly make it 500 times better/," if you listen to _Live From Mars_, McGuinn's solo sonic autobiography, he makes a joke that The Byrds were given Mr. Tambourine Man to record because [to the effect] Dylan's version was unreleasable because some guy was always singing flat on it. . . Never a problem with The Byrds.

One other small observation - I find it interesting that David Crosby, not Roger McGuinn, owns the rights to The Byrds' name. Even though he co-founded the band, his role in it [in comparison to the infinitely more sonically visible McGuinn] was nearly invisible. Granted, Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn, Turn, Turn and Eight Miles High (to say nothing of all of the others) were great songs, but take McGuinn out of the mis and all you have are basic tracks - useless great songs.

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Byrds On The Wyng - Wally Jig Records
Rating = 9

If you didn't care what happened to me
And I didn't care for you
We'd just zig-zag our way through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
And wondering which of the buggers to blame
And listening....
To Byrds On The Wyng.

This is a bootleg featuring demo versions of all kinds of big hits and also-rans by America's The Byrds circa first four albums re: 2 MR. TAMBOURINE MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!, 1 Tits, Tits, Tits, 3 5D [5th Dimension (5D)}, 2 Younger Than Yesterday and a pre-Ballad Of Easy Rider take on Rob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Also includes a b-side, a rare Dylan cover ("I Don't Believe You") (Well you'd better START fucking believing me because it's on here!!!) (oh I see; I was just naming the song) and some of those tunes you'll find as bonus tracks on the reissued CDs and on Preflyte and Never Before and so on. Claims to include rarities entitled "Ways To Show It" and "Disembodied Spirit," but they're actually "The Day Walk (Never Before)" and "It Happens Each Day." Does, however, include a "Why"-style studio jam called "Scrambled Egg Jam" that might possibly be rare. It's repetitive and boring though. Includes instrumental versions of "Turn Turn Turn" and "Triad," the latter especially lovely because you don't have to listen to those stupid lyrics.

Look, you - the early Byrds totally caught fuckin' awesome song worms, and that's why this bootleg gets a 9. It's NOT worth the price you'd probably be expected to pay, and for all I know every single one of these demos is now available elsewhere. Plus the sound quality is mostly all mono, with the drums hard to hear in several tunes. But the earliest Byrds line-up could shit in my hand and as long as the shit had that chimy guitar tone and those gorgeous vocals, I wouldn't even mind the Salo jokes of witty passers-by. Personally I bought the album for one dollar at a local thrift store. If you can do the same, count me in!

I took Henry The Dog to see Christo's "The Gates" in Central Park today. I tried to appreciate it even though it was fucking stupid and pointless, but the only gates Henry cared about were The Gates of Urine. I'm of three opinions on Christo's "The Gates," and here they are. (A) Supposedly it brought a lot of tourist money into the city. I'm not sure what this means exactly (did the hotels get a ton of money that they're just going to spend on cheap goods from overseas? If so, what's the point? I don't know), but it's possible that something good might come of it, depending on who you believe. (B) It's a piece of meaningless extravagance created by members of the super-rich leisure class to be appreciated by members of the super-rich leisure class (who are typically quite interested in pointless art shit), and is essentially Christo's way of saying, "Hey poor people! I have so much money, I can waste three million of it hanging a bunch of ugly blankets in a park and it won't affect my super-rich lifestyle at all! HA HA HA! FUCK YOU!!!!" (C) my honest, true impression of the work is as follows: completely neutral. It had absolutely no emotional effect on me at all. I kept waiting to feel something: impressed? bored? annoyed? excited? But I never felt a THING. Did I like it? Nope. Did I dislike it? Nope. This was basically the extent of my thoughts as I walked through it today: "Mmm. Bunch of orange things," "Say, do you realize how much they could have scored if they'd sold ad space on each of these things? It could have paid for itself five times over!" and "Hey Henry! There's a squirrel!"

Ahhh, art. Your appeal shall forever remain a mystery to me.

Ahh, Mystery To Me. Your art shall forever remain on appeal.

Say! Have you seen that old porn movie Water Power? Starring Jamie Gillis as the Illinois Enema Bandit? It's pretty fucking great!!! He's really creepy as the obsessive low-key clean freak who takes it upon himself to wash the women of the city of their sins. The guy with the mustache who played the cop was a good actor too. It even had an ominous score! It's so sad that nobody even tries to make interesting XXX movies anymore. Am I the only person in the world who actually likes a STORY in my pornography? I don't want to just watch people screw for 45 minutes! Where's the "art" in that? Where's the "vision"? Where's the "kleenexes"?

Granted, Water Power wasn't ALL genius. But where else are you going to get an exchange like this? This took place right when Jamie burst in on two "teenaged" "sisters" engaged in lesbian activity in their home:

Jamie: "Okay, you two knock it off right now! You two are lesbians!"
Girl: "But... we're sisters!"


Here are some quick notes about all the other XXX movies I've seen recently. I'm really more into the weird ones than the "good to masturbate to" ones, so I'm probably not the best judge of these things, but here you go:

1001 erotic nights part two - fun, sexxxy

babyface - fun, i really liked the ridiculously tall weird-looking male star

cafe flesh - depressing as hell! The Swans of XXX! Great movie!

raw talent - it started off as a hilarious sendup of the porn industry, with an "amateur" porn actor going down on his co-star and getting his gum stuck in her pubic hair etc, but then became not only boring and by-the-numbers but confusing as hell because all the fight scenes were cut out! and they were i think pretty important to the plot!

curse of the catwoman - sexxxy! it's newer though so there's lots of fake breasts

forced entry (90s version) - terrible, stupid piece of shit.

new wave hookers - Jamie Gillis was funny as a white guy who talks like a Japanese man the entire film for no reason at all (culminating in the line, "Don't you guys recognize me? I used to work in your office. I went out on my own and now I'm rich, successful and Japanese."), but it's too by-the-numbers otherwise.

expensive tastes - rape fantasies. Not exactly "pleasant," but has one really awesome scene where Joey Silvera gets a BJ in front of a video camera that's showing a woman giving a guy a BJ -- it's not sexxxy per se (i'm not into BJ footage, myself), but it was a REALLY neat-looking scene because Joey and the woman were between the video camera and the screen, so the on-screen BJ was shown on Joey's woman's face as she was giving him the BJ. at one point, it even gave the illusion that the on-screen woman was actually giving Joey the BJ! Except with a really tiny head. But enough about "BJ"s! It's getting late - maybe you should put on your "PJ"s!

chameleons-not the sequel - an interesting plot, wherein a man and woman can steal each others' identities (which the woman keeps doing - becoming the man so she can sleep with women), but they suck each others' lifeforce out every time they do it. They end up battling for the death basically. Nice little twist ending too. It was too new to be genius, but it was interesting.

latex - an attempt to recreate the dark '70s artsy feel on '90s video. The idea was really neat and could have been used to great effect, but every time the plot got going, everything would stop for a boring, generic, silicone-filled 15-minute screw. Which I guess is what the fans want. The concept is that whenever the main character touches another person, he sees all their deepest sexual fantasies. The best scene was a flashback wherein he loses the woman he loves because every time he touches her, he sees her fantasizing about other men, and he's jealous and can't get over it so she leaves him. It was a really smart, well-acted and sad scene! Unfortunately, most of the potential of the movie was just wasted.

penetrator II - light on the plot, but quite an entertaining and sexxxy take-off on Terminator II. And it's not even a comedy! It's just like Terminator II with all the violence and war stuff replaced by sex stuff.

sex world - a sex version of "Westworld" - interesting!

the satisfiers of alpha blue - a sci-fi one. sexxxy! And one of the lead actors (Hershel Savage) looks a lot like David Hess!

neon nights - At first I thought I understood what was going on... but then I realized that none of the characters (aside from the main girl) were in more than one scene. Basically none of them had anything at all to do with the film! First the girl got caught by her mother about to have sex with her stepfather, then they showed the girl's friend having sex with her tennis instructor (who was also apparently her boyfriend's brother), then the lead girl got caught up with a magician who levitated her and made her feel everything that his wife felt when he had sex with her. Then the magician was gone from the film, and the girl went to NYC and there were these strange, rude people there whose characters were never explained at all. And there was a funny parody of the Psycho shower scene where a guy pretended to stab his sex partner, but he really just had flowers in his hand. And then the girl for some reason became a hooker, but then the one guy she was having sex with kept changing faces from one person to another to another until finally it stopped at one and she screamed -- and woke up. It was all a dream.

HOWEVER... and this is a spoiler, so you may not want to read ahead.... the whole movie, she keeps thinking about how much she wanted to have sex with her stepfather. However.... this is because she was in a state of denial.

IT WAS HER REAL FATHER THAT SHE'D ALWAYS WANTED TO FUCK!!!! And he'd always wanted to fuck her too, which (as they show in flashback at the end) was why he left her mother in the first place! Because he didn't want to molest his daughter and ruin her life!


night dreams - This one's about a woman in a psych ward (it has a twist ending - the doctors are actually the patients, whoop-de-do) having all these really bizarre fantasies. The best one by far was one where she was in a kitchen giving a BJ to a black man dressed in a giant Cream of White box. There was also a white guy in the scene, wearing dark glasses and dressed like a giant piece of bread. What was so great about the scene is that all three of them were moving to the beat of the music, which was a catchy jazzy version of "Old Man River"!!! As the Cream of Wheat guy lay on the ground, he was holding up his fingers snapping to the beat of the song, the woman was giving him a BJ while bopping her head back and forth to the beat, and the bread guy was just doing a funny dance in the back. It was hilarious!

The only ones I have left that I haven't watched yet are Deep Throat (which i've heard was boring but it was only 6 bucks so I figured I'd take a look), Memories Inside Miss Aggie (which apparently has a very gruesome surprise ending that I'm looking forward to), and Unwilling Lovers (about a retarded guy who murders women after having sex with them). But I ordered some double-features from Something Weird that sound terrific. Check out these titles!


Don't they sound just "terrific"?

And with that, I'd like to offer a sincere thank you to Roger McGuinn for introducing me to the wonderful world of hardcore pornography.

You know that I care for you
And I know that you care for me too
That's why I don't feel alone or the weight of the stone
Now that I've found somewhere safe to bury my bone
'Cuz every fool knows a dog needs a home
A shelter....
From Roger Water's entire solo career.

Reader Comments
You are very strange for watching those movies, but the people who made them were undoubtedly stranger.

Funny Pink Floyd references though.

An Unidentified Man
Hey Prindy! This isn't exactly a "reader comment," as I'm not thrilled about having a porn-related google association... But if you like Jamie Gillis, and you like pornos with plots, you absolutely have to check out "The Opening of Misty Beethoven," which many have described as a "porno Pygmalion." In fact, this film is such a classic that it was recently remade as a musical porn movie! From "Pygmalion" to "My Fair Lady"!

The original is better than the remake, as is usually the case. But the remake is worth checking out if for no other reason than it features a singing penis.
Just a random bit of trivia I thought you might be interested in: my coworker and I were farting around on IMDB, looking up those porn movies you discussed, and we discovered that both Cafe Flesh and Nightdreams were cowritten by Jerry Stahl, that annoyingly self-promoting junkie guy who used to write for ALF (and who now "writes" for CSI, if that show can accurately be said to employ "writers")! (Jody Maxwell)
Hi Mark,

Wow! I was looking up something and what do I find? A surreal experience. You mention a movie in which I starred and one of my oldest closest friends all in the same breath -- UNWILLING LOVERS and Gene Clark. In fact, there is something that isn't known by many because there wasn't any reason for it to be, regarding Gene.

Growing up in Kansas City, I used to live just south of the Plaza, which wasn't far from The Castaways where the New Christy Minstrels were hanging out. Gene was over there doing some singing. They saw him and they loved him. they offered him a chance to join them. Okay, that's history. However, before he said yes, he had to think about it. Upon leaving The Castaways he immediately came over to my home on Sunset Drive. He wanted my advise, and even my mom's. I asked about his family and he said he came to me, first. Gene and I had great respect for each other, and this was typical of him. Anyway. I knew how much he loved to sing and he's been writing songs since I had met him several years before. He was originally with a band called Joe Meyers and The Sharks. Joe was my boyfriend at the time and that's how we met and formed a lifetime friendship. I told Gene he should go for it, that it could be a dream come true for him. My mom came in and agreed with me, although she added he needed to talk to his family. Gene called the band from my home and said yes. Then, he headed to his parents home in Bonner Springs, after giving my mother and me each a hug and a kiss. Rest is history. In all my interviews I have never told this before now. Only close personal friends and family ever knew this. Gene was one hell of a wonderful guy. He had so much talent he overflowed with it. I was devastated by his death!

Now, for the other thing, I have the lead female starring role in UNWILLING LOVERS, and I end up differently than my good friend Annie Sprinkle! Personally, I love the movie, and it's a strange movie in many ways. It satisfies those who want a great sex movie and it satisfies the lovers of screamer and horror films! It is definitely a dark horse, but it's a gem. There was some controversy because of some things in it. The dear late Zebedy Colt was so talented with his ideas.

DEVIL INSIDE HER was another Zebedy movie I star in and it's definitely another very strange movie! Again, I fell in love with the script though.

You asked who writes movies like NEON NIGHTS? Well, I was Sweet Marie, the Magician's Assistant in it, and I met the writer. The gal that wrote it was young and very pretty and a professional screenwriter. I asked her how she got the idea and she told me that was how she thought. All her writing was similar to that...

Anyway, praising the BYRDS and my dear friend Gene and mentioning my movies all at the same time was so unique I had to send you a note.

Now, I have a new book out, (I write books, now, too), MY PRIVATE CALLS, and a new interview coming out this week in Over 40 Magazine (October issue).

Thanks for giving me a strange kind of thrill, Mark!

Stay hot
I am speechless.

Add your thoughts?

The Notorious Byrd Brothers - Columbia 1968.
Rating = 8

Low 8. If you love the first four, you're gonna want this one too because it's still full of lovely McGuinntones designed to make you smile and meditate. That's actually the overriding mood here - one of peace, calm and meditation. Very pretty, soothing calm meditation with phenomenal vocal harmonies. Unfortunately, the non-calm tunes that kinda suck out loud. The crappy white soul one with horns, the "Take Five" ripoff, the bland country number... But the ones that sound like The Byrds - mmm, smelly sock good! hAVE YOU sorry hit caps lock there by accident - For some reason they covered two Goffin/King songs on here, but they're both beautiful so whatevers.

With the firing of tall prettyboy drummer Michael Clarke (for laziness and bad attitude) and balding fatass David Crosby (for an ego that wouldn't fit into a room), this album marked the end of The Byrds as we know them (though they still included three of Crosby's songs, as if to say, "Hey look, we stole your songs!").

Reader Comments (Scott Shanley)
I didn't see any mention of "Get to You", one the Byrds' most phenomenal and seldom mentioned moments.
OK, now this is a fantastic album. A "10", if you will, although the Byrds probably have other "10's" - so that goes against the criteria. Although I really don't believe in assigning a numerical value to an album. Do you assign numerical value to other things that are important to you? Like your girlfriend? Or your dog? Or the poops you squirt out first thing in the morning? (Today was a 7.) And why out of 10? Why not make it out of five, and score with 1/2 point increments? Or how about 37, and go by increments of 3.7? That said, I give this album a 52.

Yes, "Get to You" is wonderful. So simple and concise, it's like a koan. Or a haiku, or something similarly Asian, such as ancestor worship, or platters of poo-poo. "Change is Now" has one of those awesome '60s bleeding-raga guitar solos that no one ever does anymore. Then it goes into that speedy country chorus, with the dippy pedal steel zipping all over the place. Yippee skippy! "Goin' Back" is slightly wonderful, and so is "Wasn't Born to Follow." Whatever happened to Goffin/King, anyway? Well, we all know King did Tapestry and sold lots of albums, but how about poor old Goffin? Maybe GOFFIN is resting somewhere in a COFFIN...!! Har har. Sounds like it could be a song. Alert Carole King.

"Draft Morning" always sounds to me like it's about to lurch into Grand Funk Railroad's "I'm Your Captain", which it fortunately never does. I'm always mopping my brow with relief whenever the song comes to its proper conclusion. (That's a lie. Unless by "brow" I mean "taint," and by mopping, I mean... uh, well, "mopping," I guess.)
Put this up there with Younger Than Yesterday! I give this a 10 - better than Fifth Dimension (I'd give THAT the low 8). The horns in "Artifical Energy" are so spacey and addictive, "Wasn't Born To Follow" is super-pleasant, "Draft Morning" is genius. I mean really what's not to like? A space rock masterpiece. (Matthew Ward)
A lot of people think that this album was recorded by a Crosby-less trio of McGuinn, Hillman and Clarke, because on the front cover Crosby's face is replaced by a horse! (nice subtle statement there, guys!)

Actually, when they started recording it, the full McGuinn/Crosby/Hillman/Clarke lineup was in place, but by the time they finished, only McGuinn and Hillman were left. The first side is mostly just McGuinn and Hillman, with some studio friends helping out, while the second side is mostly the full band, recorded before Clarke and Crosby left.

Anyway, you could say that this is the album that killed off the original Byrds lineup, but what a damn fine swan-song. Personally, I think that all of their first 6 albums are brilliant, but, I think that this one is a good contender for their best album ever.

The first side concentrates more on studio-ized, acid-dripping chamber folk pop, with lots of cool effects and overdubs. Funny, those Byrds, because the original lineup wasn't known for being a good live band, yet most of their studio work didn't have a lot of overdubs or production--just those harmonies, jangly guitars, bass and drums. Here, though, they've got sound effects, horns, keyboards, all kinds of cool stuff. Seems like all bands in the late 60's had to do their over-the-top studio record, but this is one of the best. There are no low points, but high points include the lovely "Draft Morning" (the one song on the first side that Crosby wrote and played on) and the bizarre "Natural Harmony," featuring time changes, vocal effects, and Chris Hillman doing a very good David Crosby imitation on lead vocals (Hillman shows his flexibility by ably imitating Crosby's harmonies on the other songs)! . The two Goffin-King covers are poppier, but it's lovely country-pop, far better than most of the bands they would inspire.

Personally, I like the processed vocals and horns of the opener "Artificial Energy," weird song, sounds a bit dated, but it works for me. I find it kind of amusing that by 1968, the Byrds had been accused of writing songs about drugs so many times that when they actually did write an explicit (if cautionary) drug tale, no-one blinked. Rock-critic/Blue Oyster Cult producer Sandy Pearlman once claimed that he had come up with the term "Heavy Metal" while listening to this song; not that it sounds much like heavy metal, but it would be funny if the Byrds were credited with inventing yet another musical genre.

To me, the second side is even better; it represented the last time we'd hear McGuinn, Crosby and Hillman collaborating for many years, but what a way to go out. This side has less studio trickery, but it represents the Byrds taking their 12-string guitar-based progressive folk-rock to its farthest extension, with all kinds of country and jazz influences, weird rhythms, and lots of beautiful harmonies. Yeah, those guitar effects--on "Change is Now," or the dolphin sounds in "Dolphin's Smile," some of the coolest guitar stuff ever. That Roger McGuinn sure knew what to do with that 12-string. Future Byrd Clarence Thomas does some nice pull-string stuff on "Old John Robinson," and you get lots of Crosby's unmistakable harmonies and lead vocals, plus Hillman's incredibly melodic and inventive bass playing.

Problem with the Byrds, they couldn't seem to record an album without one relative clunker, although this one comes at the very end: "Space Oddessey" is one of those "futuristic" 60's outer-space songs that ends up sounding amusingly dated now (so unlike most Byrd songs!) Mostly, it's just the hokey sound effects that do it, though other than that, the song really isn't bad--the kind of Celtic melody is nice. It just doesn't maintain the consistency of the rest of the album.

I have the remastered version of this with extra tracks, and the sound is just wonderful--just glowing, you can hear every nuance. They also have a few extra tracks--cool instrumentals, including a surprisingly nifty synth instrumental called "Moog Raga," a version of "Draft Morning" with a poignant alternative ending (a trumpet playing "Taps"), plus a good alternative version of "Goin' Back" with Crosby on harmonies and some kind if tinkly, Velvet Undergroundish instrument that didn't make the final version.

The big deal for most fans, however, is the version of Crosby's "threesom" song "Triad," the song that supposedly broke up the band because "Goin' Back" was going to make the final cut and it wasn't. Nice, gentle version of the song, with good harmonies (they said that the other Byrds thought it was "immoral" but that didn't stop them from sweetly harmonizing on "Why can't we go on as three"!) Still, I'm glad that this doesn't didn't make the final cut--it doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album, and Crosby's version always kind of annoyed me. I mean, when Grace Slick sings it, it sounds like some kind of feminist liberation anthem--"get over yer possessiveness and share me, boys!," but when Crosby sings it, it's more like "pompous horny hippie tries to get his two girlfriends to accept each other by acting like they are being rebelling against straight society." I wonder if Crosby would have really been so into h! aving another "water brother" sharing his "chick" as he was having two "sister lovers"???

My only real regret about the remastered version is that they really should have included Crosby's incredible, Brian-Wilson-ish late '67 single "Lady Friend," a far better song than "Triad" and one of the best examples of the Byrds taking their sound to its farthest possible extreme. ("Lady Friend" ended up on the "Younger than Yesterday" remaster instead). It would have fit in perfectly with the orchestrated chamber-pop sound of the rest of the album, and if it had been included instead of "Space Oddessey," the album would be a perfect 11.

As it is, it's a slightly low 10, but still possibly the greatest album by one of the greatest bands ever.
Wow! MY last name is BYRD! Now people are going to think I like this band becuase my last name is identical to the band name, Damn! Also, there's a song on here called dolphin's smile. Dolphins are possibly the greatest predator in the sea! They are so excellent! The white, bull, greenland, mako, salmon, porbeagle and oceanic whitetip sharks are also top-notch predators........ all are sleek(ok, not the greenland shark) and suprisingly fast........... I don't know what I'm trying to say. Maybe that I like sea creatures too, my last name is Byrd and I REALLY like jangly guitar-pop in the 60's style. WOW! Maybe this band is for me. Move aside Bruce Springsteen.
This is a classic album - one of the greatest! Great songs, great feel.


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Sweetheart Of The Rodeo - Columbia 1968.
Rating = 5

Pft. Whatever. Critics countrywide raved and still rave about this "masterpiece" of country rock, but to me it just sounds like a bunch of adequately played country cover tunes. There's maybe two tunes I'd say are part of the "roots of country rock" - the two awesome Dylan covers. The rest? Pft. Whatever. Supposedly it was going to be a "history of rock and roll" album, but Gram Parson convinced Jim McGuinn to puss out and release a redneck album instead. So I had to do the "history of rock and roll" album myself. It's called Stop Drop And Roll: A Musical Celebration Of Death By Smoke Inhalation and it beats the crap out of this drawling steel guitar mayhem, if you ask me! Four bucks? Four bucks?

If you like country music, feel free to plop down your cashawadda for this. But fans of the first five Byrds albums will get nothing out of this except Jim McGuinn's always gorgeous voice.

Another great way to get Jim McGuinn's gorgeous voice is to call his house at 4 AM every night just to hear him answer the phone. I've been doing that since 1977 and always end up with a warm feeling in my bladder.

Reader Comments (Scott Shanley)
There was time when I probably would have agreed with you on this one but it's sunk in quite a bit with me. I wouldn't put it up to the level as the crosby-era recordings (and that is not meant in particular praise to Crosby) but still, I love their "Pretty Boy Floyd", and "one hundred years from now" alone makes it worth it. I never did get the "country rock" tag with this one, I mean wouldn't "time between" be more "country rock" which came out 2 albums earlier? Anyways, this is just like an appetizer for the Flying Burrito Brothers(the band that Parsons and Hillman formed after leaving these guys) brilliant "Guilded Palace of Sin" which, once you buy it, will fill a whole in your life you didn't even know was there.
Why does everybody knock this album? Yes this is different from the previous albums, but it's SO good! First of all they practically invented 70s country rock here, and second, this is addictive as all heck! Have you krazy glued this into your CD player and listened 500 times in a row? Man oh man. I have not had as crackheaded a 4-day power-listen since hearing the Grateful Dead's American Beauty!!! (Earl McPherson)
A late friend of mine recorded this for me because he thought that I might like it and I did for a while. I found out later that the great super picker Clarence White played on it a little. Maybe it would've been better if they had let him play more but the album is hardly essential for my tastes. (Steven Fouts)
Try The Everly Bros 1968 LP ROOTS for a true country-rock classic. (Iain McLennon)
Upon reading many of your reviews and readers' responses to them, I am struck by how often something (as with Sweetheart of the Rodeo in this case) is slammed by virtue of its not living up to some current standard. The key prase here seems to me to be, "That was then, this is now." And I'm not quoting The Monkee's album title.

Granted, bad music is just bad music, and if you were a fan of the genre from which Sweetheart was derived, this could be considered a sincerely sophomoric effort, at best. However (and I've personally spent 42 years researching this very criteria), exactly 99.647% of the record-buying public was looking for something simpler, less commercial at the time Sweeheart was released, and they unfortunately didn't know where to look for it, so they turn, turn, turned to the first folks they knew and trusted that put something like that out. All in all, not a bad effort by folks with little serious background in saddle songs. And they were the groundbreakers in bringing country to the rock-buying public - CSN took it from there.

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Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde - Columbia 1969.
Rating = 8

See now, THIS is country rock. And GOOD country rock! Sure it's twangy and all, but it's very tight, the new guitarist TOTALLY cooks a meal of tasty licks and delightful pussychops on his axe of grimy dirt and Mr. Jim Roger McGuinn XI sings his quivering little sensitive voice to the limits of Ft. Benning. How can you sound rednecky when Mr. McGuinn is at the helm of the ship? A: You cain't.

This is a completely different band than the one that did the classic early records, so there's no ringing 12-strings or harrowing harmonies, but if you're not looking for that "sonic paradise" I discussed in different terminology earlier on this page, Dr. Terds And Mr. Kike is a really good country rock album that'll have you wearing your hoedown hat and kicking the shit out of an Indian with your gold-plated death spurs.

And yes, of course there are a couple of Dylan covers. This is Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds we're talking about.

Reader Comments
Ok see... I've read quite a few reveiws of yours tonight and this one I don't get. I got this album with the lingering throbbing joy feeling I was left with by Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It was totally boring! Maybe there are like the country-byrd fan's and the rest but I dunno, this just seemed like a whimpy tired release. Boring covers and forgettable originals? I also don't get how this could possibly compare to the beauty of Sweetheart or the originality and glorious mood of Notorious. Whatever, sometimes I think you miss the harder to critique part of music called 'feeling' to pay attention to more commonly saught after skills such as how many tasty licks a song or record has. This album is the fart to the scrumptious bean dinner that is Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

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Live At The Fillmore February 1969 - Columbia 2000.
Rating = 6

Too messy! Scraggly country western flippadeedoo! And McGuinn's voice doesn't sound like an Angel Hear Ye Cleft On High! He sounds like a stoned, drunk Californian goon. That country pickin' guitarist does a great job, but hey - he can't be expected to carry the show by himself. Especially when it includes pisspoor redneck horsewaste like "The Christian Life" and "You're Still On My Mind." Also of negative note is a buttugly medley of early Byrds classics. P-U! That spells Pu!

The Great Hindu God Pu.

But some of it's good. "He Was A Friend Of Mine" is surprisingly lush and pillowy, for exmanager. And the country instrumentals are fantastic!!!! It's by no means an awful live album -- just much, much slacker and uglier than you'd hope a Byrds live album would be.

Unless of course, you're hoping for a slack, ugly Byrds live album, in which case this is a much, much cleaner and tighter live album than you'd expect from the Dead Kennedys.

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Ballad Of Easy Rider - Columbia 1969.
Rating = 6

Too much straight country music for Ol' Prind, but it's still not as bland as the classic Sweetheart Of The Rodeo LP. Plus, it's interesting to hear the other new band members sing lead - their voices aren't bad at all! Especially compared to Roger trying to sound like a goshdundun Southerner. Urgh!

A music war!

And yes, of course there's a Dylan cover, and yes of course it's probably the best song on here. Although "Jesus Is Just Alright" later became a classic by the Doobie Brothers!!!! Yes, that's right!!!! The band formerly inhabited by the child prodigy ingenue that is Michael McDonald!!!!

One thing that shoots me in the eye with a delightful heroin ball here is that only THREE of these songs were written by the band members. Why on earth at this point in the band's career would they be relying so heavily on cover tunes? Who did they think they were, a collective Michael Bolton?

And if so, does anybody have a time machine and four bullets?

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Untitled - Columbia 1970.
Rating = 3

Untitled? UNRELEASED would have been a nicer gesture. This is a double album - one disc is countrified pukey live versions of old Byrds classics (including a 5-million year "Eight Miles High" blues jam!) and the other is the crummiest pile of songs they've given us ever yet to now. Just SHITTY! Country and hackneyed and trite and ripoffs of other songs and sung by non-McGuinns and unrecognizable as Byrds material and slow and bland and unmelodic and predicatable and not worth your ears.

What's up with my dog? He's all hyper and shit.

Reader Comments (Adrian Denning)
I would give this a seven. Sure, it's a bit of an annoying concept ( half-live / half studio ) but these studio songs are some of the best the latter day Byrds ever wrote. Really! And some of McGuinn's best songs are on here. 'Chestnut Mare' and 'All The Things' in particular are gorgeous. There is a barely audible harmony from a certain Gram Parsons on that latter track. The last song is a bit weird though. It starts out nice enough but then they go into this buddist chanting.....can do without that. This is a good album though. Certainly better than the couple of albums that followed it...
Dude, you're like, so wrong.
There, I said it.
wrongo. this was the best live byrds lineup ever. ok, that's not saying much. but clarence white kicks ass.
I second that, brother. this album should get 9 red dots for Clarence alone. I've never been a huge fan of the idea a band has to maintain some semblance of their earlier incarnations. And, by the way, I'm not originally a fan of the Country per se. I've opened myself to it, cautiously, as I've aged, thanks in part to the Byrds and Gram Parsons. This and "Sweetheart..." are two fine additions to the Byrds catalog, not necessarily their best, but essential all the same.

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Byrdmaniax - Columbia 1971.
Rating = 3

Are you listening to this crap? Haven't they written all these songs already? Jim's songs are boring and Skip's are pighumpingly sloppy C/W footsquish. "Kathleen's Song" is beautiful, but the others aren't fit to be tied.

Reader Comments
This would have made a nice e.p. When this album originally came out, the way people ripped on Terry Melcher's production, you'd have thought every review was written by Charles Manson. Yeah, some of the arrangements are schmaltzy and bloated, but I like the glossy, airbrushed sound they give the big ballads. And as a piano player, I bow down at Larry (RIP) Knechtel's work on "Glory Glory." That Jackson Browne cover's pretty sweet, too.

If you dump the novelty tunes (tracks 4, 5, 6, and 7), you've got a decent listen.

Not very Byrdsy, but not bad. In my IMO.

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Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971 - Sundazed 2008
Rating = 4

Isn't it fascinating that "trash" in Pig Latin is "ashtray"?

On a related note, I was hanging out with "Weird Al" Yankovic the other day when we got in a furious argument about which of the following would make the most hilarious parody of the Misfits' "Attitude":


You got some striking aptitude!
I can't believe how you scored on that test
You got some aptitude!
Inside your giant brain there's probably a genius
If you don't cure my clap, I'll smear you with my penis


I'm showing you my gratitude!
I can't believe that you did that for me
I'm showing gratitude!
Inside your loving brain there's probably a heart
If you don't close your nose, you're gonna smell my fart

On a related note, have you heard about these new Beatles remasters? Well, my good friend and colleague Jim Laakso frequents a popular audiophile message board, so let's check in to see what they think about the news:

(incidentally, all these comments are real. I've changed the usernames though, so as not to further humiliate these buffoons)

Originally Posted by FAKE NAME JOHNSON
Don't know if it's been mentioned before, but the click of John's guitar switching right before the solo in "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" has been edited out...

Originally Posted by COMMON SENSE MAN
Good! It was an electrical click that shouldn't be there. It had nothing to do with his guitar. Magnetic tape develops clicks, you know.

I'm not so sure this is true. That click is clearly the sound of a guitar pickup setting being changed from the bridge pickup to the neck pickup. Note the difference in the lead guitar's tone precisely after the click. If that click is gone on the remaster, that is an utter travesty. That click is absolutely part of the performance, whether intentional or not (obviously it was not intentional). This minor detail is enough to turn me completely off from buying the "Abbey Road" remaster. That click should BE there. :7(

Originally Posted by COMMON SENSE MAN
That click just happened right before the tone changed. Listen to it again. That is an electrical click that doesn't belong, and has nothing to do with the music. Use headphones if you have to.

Sorry COMMON SENSE MAN, but there's no way you are going to convince me. That click is the sound of a 2 humbucker equipped electric guitar being switched from the bridge to the neck pickup position. As a guitar player myself, whenever I listen to this song, I listen for & actually anticipate this click. Without it, the song is not the same to me, & if the 2009 CD remaster does not have this click, it could never, ever be my listening copy.

You tell 'em, COMPLETE FUCKING LOSER! Can you imagine how furious Lennon would be if he found out they erased his click!? Screw the chords, vocals, instruments -- that's all just window dressing. The click IS THE SONG!!!.

On a related note, late-period Byrds music is just awful. People go on and on about how this was the best live line-up they ever had, but it just sounds like sloppy boring country rock to me. They might as well have changed their name to "The Band" if they were just gonna trot out a bunch of rednecky cover tunes without a hint of the sonic beauty that characterized their first five albums. And is Jim intentionally singing off-key? It's as if some with-the-times cool guy told him, "Dude, it's 1971. Pretty vocals are Yesterdaysville. Get lazy and flat or SHADDAP!"

And another thing -- I realize that the Byrds got their start by covering lots of Dylan songs, but by this point in their career they'd written a ton of superlative originals. So why in God's Grey Goose does their 19-song set include TWELVE cover tunes!? Could this set list have honestly appealed to anybody in the audience? I love "Amazing Grace" and "Roll Over Beethoven" as much as the next guy, but he thinks they suck a dick too, and he's right.

The Byrds on this warm May evening performed 4 non-LP covers, 4 (Untitled) winners, 2 each from Byrdmaniax, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, Younger Than Yesterday and 5D (Fifth Dimension), and 1 each from Ballad Of Easy Rider, Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde and Mr. Tambourine Man. Absolutely none of the songs sound like the original line-up. "Mr. Tambourine Man" is (pointlessly) performed in the original Bob Dylan style, "My Back Pages" is decimated by tone-deaf vocals, "Mr. Spaceman" is sluggish and messy, and best of all (!) "Eight Miles High" clocks in at 18:38, yet they don't actually begin performing "Eight Miles High" until 14:58 and then they only play it for two minutes. The other 16 1/2 minutes are an INSTRUMENTAL BOOGIE JAM!

"So You Wanna Be A Rock And Roll Star" sounds good, but that was just luck. The rest sounds like a bunch of farm-dwelling bearded hippies riding around on horses, getting drunk and stoned and then going to a bar to play terrible music for an hour and a half. The Byrds? More like The TYRDS, if you ask me!!!!

Reader Comments
I just listened to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" to hear the infamous click. You know what it sounds like to me??? EVERY F'ING RECORD I EVER PLAYED ON MY TURNTABLE. :-) If COMPLETE FUCKING LOSER loves that click so much, I'm sure if he buys a used LP copy, he'll hear at least 10 more during the song.

Actually, I have my weird bizarro story like the Beatles one. I owned Rush Hemispheres on cassette. Then years later I got the CD version. The CD version of La Villa Strangiato would drive me nuts because I'd hear stuff in the background that wasn't on the cassette. I don't think the CD was remastered. It was just that cassettes suck.
Mark: My tolerance for country rock (or as we called it back in The Day, "crock") is clearly a lot higher than yours, and I consider the Byrds one of *the* great American bands. Still, whoever thought it was a good idea to give over a significant chunk of their set to that interminable "Eight Miles High" jam (the one that also made Untitled at least one-quarter Unlistenable) was probably the same genius who considered Crosby more valuable to the band than Gene Clark.

I do like some of the latter-day, four piece Byrds recordings quite a bit, although I agree with you about how weak this one is, overall. What really gripes me is how many boots and legit recordings of this version of the band are available, and how few of the original, five-piece group.

Yeah, this version of the band does have the reputation for being the best live Byrds there were, and Michael Clarke was a lame drummer, and Clarence White makes almost anything sound good. But my god, whenever Skip Batten opens his nose to sing, my dog covers her ears. And I put the earmuffs back on. There is just no comparing the three-part harmonies of the early Byrds with the ragged vocals of their last few years.

You know, it's almost deceptive to even call a band this different from the original by the same name (a concept Clarke put to the test when he toured as "The Byrds" with the Jim McGuinn role played by Blondie Chaplin). Like how the Michael McDonald Doobie Bros. sounded like the guys the original Doobies used to whale on in the biker bars.

I keep hoping some decent live shows from the original Byrds, and the Gram Parsons (another one of your favorites, right?) version see the light of day.

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Farther Along - Columbia 1972.
Rating = 5

Yeah, Farther Along the cowpatty-laden trail of shit country albums that nobody gave a fiddly farts about! A bit more enjoyable than the last couple though. Nice predictable country jive. Pretty ballads. A little instrumental bluegrass here and there. An understated (and underimpressive) late period Byrds release. Also features what I consider to be the most annoying song they ever recorded, "America's Great National Pastime."

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Byrds - Asylum 1973.
Rating = 5

A reunion! The original five Byrds come back to life! Sounds more like Crosby Stills & Nash than the Byrds though, and not even a very impressive Crosby Stills & Nash album (even though two of the songs are Neil Young covers!). David Crosby contributes by far the two best songs on here, but Roger's "Sweet Mary" is fantastic too. Hell, even Gene has a winner! Still -- the album is way too spotty. Wish they'd spent a little more time coming up with the best possible tracks, because there really ARE four great tunes on here (and the Neil Young covers are at least fair, though they add nothing to the originals). As it stands, this has gone down in history as a stinker, even though it's better than any Byrds album since Ballad Of Easy Rider.

Reader Comments (Ian Moss)
I have The Byrds' Greatest Hits on tape, and it's wonderful. Such cheerful, jangly, uplifting music. Although some the non-hits aren't all that inspiring.
McGuinn isn't a born-again Christian, I don't believe, but a believer in Subud ... ain't no Jesus in there, far as I know. Regardless, you got to love a religion that considers the name "Jim" to be evil!
I rate Gene Clark as one of the primary reasons the Byrds (heh) got off the ground. While his post- Byrds stuff didn't fully deliver on his potential, he produced a pretty impressive body of work, overall.
One of many sad things about the Byrds is how, when they had all the great three-part vocals, they were pretty shaky as a live act; later, in the Clarence White era, they were a solid live band, but gorgeous harmonies -- forget it. (Iain McLennon)
Hi, Mark -

You absolutely NAILED this one. Despite some of the nice tunes on here by various members, it is glaringly obvious that Crosby had the helm (he did produce it, after all) and was unqualified to steer the project. It remains perhaps the greatest single disappointment to Byrds fans, after faithfully (and mindlessly) enduring years of amateurish country crap for the sake of band loyalty.

And here's another opinion: This marks the beginning of Roger's trying to regain some of the mileage he lost by reintroducing the Rick 12 string into his music - unfortunately, he has yet to achieve the sound he made famous, and he insists (to my face) that the best way to achieve it is through a Roland Jazz Chorus amp. Yeah, right - and where do the ganged Fairchild compressors go, Rog? The one on your guitar sure doesn't do the trick.

However, this is not to say that Roger hasn't made some impressive sounds since the Reunion album. Though doomed to almost virtual obscurity by the label dancing and changes in direction and questionable management decisions, Back From Rio has some great material and some great performances. They have to be great because they still have value after being subjected to Tom Petty's snarling whine. Here's an equation, if you will, that's always confused me: Dylan wrote 'the tunes' + Roger wanted to be Dylan & the Beatles + Tom Petty wants to be Roger = ? Dylan /can't/ sing (should, in fact, have an eternal restraining order against him, keeping him at least a thousand yards from any microphone), Roger /could/ sing, but chose early on to sound like Dylan with a British accent, and Tom Petty is the culmination of the worst of all three. I see a serious identity crisis, here. Perhaps it's only a question of who is available to devalue an otherwise performance - if Dylan and his ego aren't around, you can get Tom Petty for less than half the price. Things that make you go, "Hmmm."
This one is definitely underrated. Not nearly as good as the other albums by the original Byrds, but still a substantial improvement over the two albums that came before it.

The funny thing to me, though, is not that it sounds like CSNY (it does in places, mostly the harmonies), but rather that it sounds a heck of a lot like the latter-day Clarence White Byrds--a lot of hairy guys doing mellow country-rock. If you aren't paying much attention, you might not even notice that it's a reunion of the original lineup. And that's too bad, considering how great the Byrds' original sound was. Word has it that Crosby was trying to minimize McGuinn's role in the band, so you can't hear the 12-string most of the time and McGuinn only sings lead on two songs. Plus the harmonies are not very Byrdsy. So, all in all, it just doesn't have much of that Byrds sound, what with barely any 12-string, a latter-day country-rock sound instead of the original folky sound, and the harmonies sounding more like CSNY, and McGuinn not singing much.

Still, if you can take this album for what it is, rather than what it isn't, it can be quite pleasant on its own terms. Gene Clark is the star here--everything he sings is good--two great originals and two nice versions of Neil Young tunes (funny how Young kinda replaced Dylan on this album, and then they did a Joni Mitchell song instead of a Pete Seeger song). I gotta disagree that these versions don't add anything to the originals: I think the version of See the Sky About to Rain kills the original, and is the most Byrdsish thing on the whole album... during the "I was down in Dixieland" coda part, they've finally got the harmonies and the 12-string stuff all together, and it's just heavenly. It's good to here Gene finally getting his due here--check out his solo albums for more evidence that he was the best songwriter this band ever produced.

The other really Byrdsy moment is Crosby's "Laughing," which really sounds like the logical extension of stuff like "What's Happening" or "Everybody's Been Burned"--Crosby's voice and McGuinn's guitar playing off each other in a weird atmospheric tune. Once again, it's one of the few songs here where you can actually hear the 12-string. People knock the fact that it was also on Crosby's solo album, but he says that he originally wrote it for The Byrds, and it sure sounds that way. Can't say I like Crosby's other tune much, though (Long Live The King). It fits in with the anti-music biz theme of some of the other songs, but it's one of these grunting, overblown, spastic examples of Crosby trying to rock out and sounding like an idiot. The Joni Mitchell song is pretty OK, but doesn't sound like they spent much time on the arrangement.

I agree that McGuinn's "Sweet Mary" is the other standout here, besides the Gene Clark-sung songs and "Laughing." It has that super-rootsy sound with Chris Hillman playing mandolin, only the harmonies are pure CSNY... here the combination works well. McGuinn's other tune, Born to Rock n' Roll gets all kinds of brickbats, but I still kinda like it... yeah, the melody was pretty much stolen outright from "I Shall Be Released," but it's still a great melody, when you consider how freely Dylan stole his melodies, why can't The Byrds still his?

Hillman's tunes, unfortunately, are pleasant but completely weightless... just kinda fluffy. Everyone says that these guys, except for Gene Clark, were saving their best stuff for their solo albums, and these tunes are pretty good evidence of that. Too bad, because the better songs on this album show that if they had had better material and bothered to sound like themselves a bit more, it could have been an excellent album. As it is... if you go into it with the low expectations that everyone seems to have, then it can be a pretty pleasant surprise. There's really only one dud on the entire album, then a few kinda half-assed tunes, and the rest (more than half the album) is really quite good.

One more thing: unlike all the other Byrds albums, this one has yet to be remastered, and the sound is kinda muddy. I've got the new boxed set with remastered versions of Gene Clark's two original tunes, and they really sparkle. If they ever remaster it, it will be even better. Who knows, maybe they'll even find some great outtakes like they've done with all the other Byrds albums.

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Never Before - Rhino 1989.
Rating = 8

Hey everybody look at me! I'm one of the greatest songs in the history of music! And my name is The Byrds' version of "Mr. Tambourine Man"! Supposedly this here version is an Alt Stereo Mix, but it totally doesn't sound like Alternative music to me. Where is the quiet/loud verse/chorus dichotomy? Where are the quivering verge-of-tears sensitive but manly vocals?

Hey Album! When you came out, "I Knew I'd Want You!" (it's true - I really DID want it when it came out - it's quite bizarre actually that it took me another 13 years to actually get a CDR copy). I'm right now reading Richie Unterberger's Brand New Book "Turn!Turn!Turn! The History of Folk-Rock" (it's called something like that anyway) and he's going on and on about how The Byrds were the best folk-rock band of the '60s. I'm totally all over that statement. Their first four albums -- and thus THIS rare outtake material - had a chimey 12-string, angelic triple-harmony-vocaled sound that is among the most harmonious, beautiful styles in the history of rock music. Which wouldn't matter much I suppose if they didn't also write and rework so many fantastic songs by themselves and others.

So here, we have alternate versions of the well-known album tracks "Mr. Tangerine Guy," "I Knew I'd Want Shoes," "Eight Miles High," "Why" and "Why" again. Why are there TWO alternate versions of this song on here? Why? And Why again? It's a great as heck song (as is the interchangeable "I See You"), but these versions plus the first two songs I mentioned are so close to the final versions, it's like WHO CARES (which, by the way, would be an appropriate name for a live album from the current "Fuck The Ox" tour). However, this version of "Eight Miles High" is a heck of a lot different from the version you know from the radio. The entire MOOD of the song has been altered. Instead of a prolonged blast of psychedelic anxiety, this version is a slower, "cooler," more relaxed rendition. Personally, I like the regular version better, but it's still interesting to take a crap on a baby's head and hide behind a bush to see how the mother reacts.

Most every other track on here has that classic "Getting The Worm" feel, if you get my hilarious play on words (Early Byrds), including a slightly awkward herky-jerk take of Dylan's "It's All Over Now Baby Blue." Wait, I wanted to tell you something - Well a few things. Things about changing song lyrics in your head and then having them completely replace the original lyrics in your subconscience, even when you sing them in public. A few examples from Prark's MINDle:

Electric Light Orchestra's smash hit single: "I'll tell you once more, before I get off the floor - Don't Grab My Butt!"

The chorus to Judas Priest's "You Got Another Thing Comin'" reworked as the theme to a new late-night variety show: "Don't blame me if you're sittin' 'round watchin' your TV/A bunch of lousy sitcoms that you don't wanna see/'Cuz I know entertainment's waiting to be had/You think I'll let it go, you're mad -- I'm Hangin' Out With Bob Costas! (DA DUM DUM DOODEE DA!) HANGIN' OUT WITH BOB COSTAS!

The title track to Bruce Springsteen's massive hit album of the '80s: I was Born Wearin' Shoes Oh Yay! Yes I was - Born Wearin' Shoes Oh Yay!"

To get back on topic, I never ever ever sing the lyric as "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man Play a song for me" because it sounds WRONG to a brain that is so used to singing "Hey Mr. Tangerine Guy Where'd you put my shoe?" So dig this Jack -- "Psychodrama City" is an awful song. They're trying to be electric Dylan the way DYLAN was electric instead of the the way the Byrds did Dylan electric. And "Moog Raga," which unfortunately is exactly what it sounds like, will make you embarrassed to be a hippy with your funny Eastern religion stuff. But all the other tunes with titles like "Don't Make Waves," "Flight 713," "She Don't Care About Time" (whose introductory notes remind me of -- hmm - - something I've heard before -- I, I just can't place it!!), "Lady Friend," "It Happens Each Day" and "She Has A Way" ALL belong in Roger McGuinness' Book of World Records. Why relegated to rarity status? That's -- as Roger himself would say in his current born-again Christian persona -- FUCKED! There's a little mediocrity here and there - "Never Before" isn't too memorable, for example. And is that Gene Clark singing lead or something? Whoever it is didn't have what you might call "much of a voice" all by its lonesome! "I Know My Rider" is pretty here or there too. But they tell me it's a cover OH JESUS CHRIST. Look at this. You know how I JUST said I'm reading that Richie Unterberger book? Well, before I started writing this review, I went to AMG's page on it to see what year and record label I should put up top -- just now, I checked the actual AMG REVIEW to see if it says who sings "Never Before" and I'll be whistling Dixie to a large urban negro if it wasn't written by one Richie Unterberger! It's probably just a different guy wih the same name though.

Having said all that -- what in the name of Christ was David Crosby thinking when he wrote the song "Triad"? Is it a joke? I mean, if it's a JOKE, it's an awfully FUNNY joke. But, coming from the guy who seemingly didn't catch the humor in "Mind Gardens," I have this nagging fear that he was dead serious in his insistence that the two girls that love him COME TOGETHER WITH HIM IN A THREE-WAY RELATIONSHIP. Do they want to? Sure doesn't sound like it. As the fat selfish prick himself says in the second verse, "You're afraid -- embarrassed too." Well gee, David - how about if your girlfriend asked you to start sleeping with her and her OTHER boyfriend? Would you think THAT was a free-spirited bag of hippy vibes? Unless the guy kept little baggies of heroin lodged up his ass, I sincerely doubt it! If the song is a joke, it's a masterpiece (especially since the melody is beautiful). But if it's NOT a joke, it may very well be the most blind, stupid and above all sexist song I've ever heard by a major group.

Except for Peter, Paul and Mary's "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore," of course. "Sister help to 'trim' the sails," indeed!

Reader Comments (Steven Knowlton)
What I'm waiting for is the Who tour in which only Kenney Jones and assorted studio hacks appear. (Steven Fouts)
Grace Slick did a much better job on "Triad" for the Airplane's CROWN OF CREATION album. Crosby is a true ass. (Michael Bleicher)
"Triad" ISN'T a joke, as far as I can tell. In fact, apparently it's one of the reasons Crosby was DROPPED from the Byrds. (Apparently they didn't dig the whole hippy free love vibes bullshit).
And as far as "Triad" goes, never again! Yeah, I truly hate that song, too, all the moreso after reading Crosby's book. Is it just me, or is there something hypocritical in espousing free love and general grooviness, on one hand, and being a gun nut, on the other? Speaking of Unterberger's Turnx3 book, it's a good read (and I'm looking forward to the sequel, which is now available), but like I said in my review of the book, if you lived through the era he's documenting, that six point type the book's printed in just ain't happenin! (Iain McLennon)
Being 'of the era' to which Mr. Gardner refers, I can tell you from personal experience that many, many, many of those espousing love, beauty, freedom and good vibes did so with a .38 under their robes, khaftans, etc. Despite the fervent desire for the kind of world that could actually embrace such philosophies, much of it was a facade which gained totally unwholesome folks access to places they shouldn't have been, like backstage at Crosby/Nash concerts.

Like him or not, Crosby marched to his own drummer, ALWAYS. And it didn't always work for him. Without getting into issues of gun control, it's my opinion that he had a right to protect himself, but should have/could have done so in a less sensational way. By the way, the gun thing was just the means of nailing him for the drug issues the Feds had on him. And I can't say Crosby isn't the better for the opportunity to clean up - he agrees.

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I hope you enjoyed my review of The Birds featuring Ron Wood! Now click here for more reviews of great 60s bands like the Dayglo Abortions!