David Chirko, a frequent contributor, has graciously provided a list of thirty Byrds albums rated from up to 15 sources. For a great resource on the many Byrds albums, please check it out here.
Current Reviews (please follow the link or scroll down):
Byrds: Ballad of Easy Rider by Jonathan Bennett
Byrds: Nashville West by David Bennett
Byrds: Untitled/Unissued by Jonathan Bennett
Byrds: Byrdmaniax by Jonathan Bennett
Byrds Byrdmaniax by David Chirko
Flying Burrito Brothers: Hot Burritos by David Bennett
Dillard and Clark: Fantastic Expedition/Through the Morning, Through the Night by David Bennett
Set You Free: Gene Clark in the Byrds: 1964-1973 by David Chirko
by Jonathan Bennett
"Ballad of Easy Rider" is first and foremost an anomaly in the Byrds experience (if that were possible). Even though the Byrds were great at not sounding like the Byrds, this album doesn’t seem terribly pioneering, just, well, slightly out of place. It lacks original songwriting (McGuinn only contributes one song) and some of the songs seem like solo efforts more than Byrds tunes (a too often unfortunate characteristic of the latter day Byrds). Plus, the album is so laid back at times, it’ll almost put you to sleep. Even the cover is uninspired, just Gene Parsons’ father sitting on a vintage Harley within a tan background. Incredibly, this album was released during the politically tumultuous late 1960s. "Ballad of Easy Rider" is a sea of tranquility in the midst of strife. Even the title suggests bikes, babes, and "heavy metal thunder." But, the album is more introspective, more thoughtful, and ultimately more satisfying than the political albums other groups were releasing at the time. "Ballad of Easy Rider" may be a slight anomaly, but it’s a pretty good anomaly.
It starts off on the albums apex and McGuinn’s only writing contribution: "Ballad of Easy Rider." The album appeared on the "Easy Rider" movie soundtrack (and during the film’s closing credits), but had a bluesy feel and featured a blazing harmonica. In keeping with the album’s relaxed style, this version is buttressed by warm, loving strings. Although Dylan contributed the opening lines, the rest is vintage McGuinn, and like "Just A Season" is pleasantly Romantic without being mawkish. Next is one of the several Byrds songs about dogs, "Fido" (the others being "Old Blue" and "Bugler"). A John York composition, "Fido" is jazzy and upbeat and even features a nice drum solo by Gene Parsons. Many maintain the "Beastie Boys" cribbed the music of "Fido" for their song "Body Movin.’" (Whether consciously is debatable, of course). The third song is "Oil in My Lamp," a traditional, Christian themed song with lead vocals by Clarence White. The song musically almost has a dirgelike quality, which is not helped by lyrics about "sinners." Although not White’s best work, it is still a good reading of a decent song. The fourth song is one of my personal favorites on the album: "Tulsa County." Suggested by John York, sung by McGuinn, and featuring light country backing, "Tulsa County" is an excellent song about the pain of loneliness and the search for relief from it. "Jack Taar the Sailor," a sea shanty chosen by McGuinn comes in at number 5. A traditional melody beautifully arranged with a haunting combination of moog, distorted guitar, and banjo, this song is one of the most uniquely arranged songs in the whole of the Byrds canon and an album highlight.
The album briefly kicks into high gear with the stirring rendition of Art Reynolds’ "Jesus is Just Alright" a Gospel number, with a rock n‘ roll beat, tight harmonies (proving the later Byrds can still do this), and excellent guitar work. It represents the album at its most rockin’ and it’s hard not to clap, tap a foot, or bob your head up and down. As manic as "Jesus" is manic, the next track, a version of Bob Dylan’s "It’s All Over Now Baby Blue" is depressive. The song is incredibly drawn out and clocks in at nearly five minutes (which for the Byrds is a near eternity). Yet, the mixture of country style picking is ethereal harmonies still makes the song worthy of repeated listening, which is more than can be said for the next track: "There Must Be Someone (I Can Turn To)." Since I am a fan of both Gene Parsons and the Gosdin Brothers, I wanted to like this song. But this song is just too mellow, even for this album. The instrumentation seems too sparse and a little too much like a Parsons solo effort (not surprising since McGuinn didn’t even play on the song). Although this song is a miss, track nine, Gene Parsons’ composition, "Gunga Din" is another album highlight. Although McGuinn’s influence is lacking here too, the cryptic lyrics, White’s country picking, and Parsons’ double tracked vocals make this a fine example of the Byrds’ later works. The tenth track, Woody Guthrie’s "Deportee" is the closest the album comes to a political statement. It is a decent track, made better by White’s country picking. The album ends on an unusual note, the space themed "Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins." Unlike the other "space" themed songs (compositions by McGuinn), this song has a country feel and was not written by McGuinn. It is very short and, if placed anywhere else on the album wouldn’t work. As fans are used to unusual pieces at the end of album, it fits perfectly.
The bonus tracks, as on all the reissues, are of uneven quality, but are still a nice gift to fans. "Way Beyond the Sun" is another jazzy number featuring John York’s vocals. "Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood" is an excellent Jackson Browne song that easily could’ve made the cut for the original album. The alternate take of "Oil in My Lamp" is, in my opinion, better than the album cut. It is more upbeat and doesn’t feature White’s voice so prominently. The outtake of Tulsa County is nearly identical to album track except it features a John York vocal. Although no better than McGuinn’s version, it’s nice to have more John York vocals, as I am a fan of his voice. "Fiddler a Dram" is one of McGuinn’s moog experiments. It’s hard to believe this song was actually in consideration for an album track. It’s an interesting blend of country/folk and electronic music, quite a concept for 1969. Now, however, it sounds hopelessly dated. Yet, it’s the type of oddity that makes these albums tantalizing for Byrds fans. If "Fiddler" is the collection’s nadir, then the alternative version of "Ballad of Easy Rider" is the zenith, even superior to the album version. The juxtaposition of White’s warm guitar with the strings works perfectly, including a brief solo. Listening to this song reminds me of his immense talent. Although not challenging playing, it perfectly fits the mood of the song, which is often the most challenging tasks for a musician.
This is a typical budget release. The songs are few (only 10, totaling a little over 30 minutes), the songs do not in any way represent a definitive collection, and the album cover pictures the original Byrds lineup even though that lineup appears on only one song, "Satisfied Mind."
The strength of this album is that it can cheaply (for under 10 dollars) complement the songs on the box set. Five of the songs on Nashville West are not on the boxed set, yet these five songs are decent country-rockers. "Great National Past Time," "Yesterday's Train," "Satisfied Mind," and "Life in Prison" are the ones not on the box set. "Old John Robertson" is a different version than the box set; the one here includes the Moog solo. The other 4 songs are classic Byrds country standards, such as "Hickory Wind," and "Truck Stop."
For true fans these songs are available elsewhere, but for the newcomer or owner of the box set only, this CD might just be what is needed. The album actually gives time to each member of the country-rock Byrds line-up (except John York; there is no song he wrote on here). Not bad, but not great.
A Fan's Dream Come True
By Jonathan Bennett
After "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" in 1968, Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and Kevin Kelly all left the Byrds. David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Michael Clarke had all previously departed. John York, who joined on bass after Hillman left only stayed about a year. Stability is not the word used to describe the latter day Byrds. However, the lineup that gave us Untitled (in 1970) proved to be the most enduring of any Byrds incarnation. Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Skip Battin, and Gene Parsons stuck it out for 3 albums and were recognized as a decent studio group and an excellent live act. It only seems appropriate that their first album featured some live material.
The first disc starts off in this way with "Lover of the Bayou," an eerie McGuinn rocker written with Jacques Levy for their "Gene Tryp" musical. This excellent performance of a great song is a favorite of many Byrds fans. Next the group does the obligatory Dylan cover, choosing his "Positively 4th Street." This often undervalued Dylan classic sounds great and demonstrates that even the later Byrds can belt out a great Dylan tune. Next the band romps through the instrumental "Nashville West" on which White's guitar prowess is clearly seen. This is also evident on "So You Want to Be A Rock and Roll Star" and "Mr. Tambourine Man." Both songs feature McGuinn's trademark 12-string sound, but White's fantastic guitar work comes out to the forefront. A rocking version of "Mr. Spaceman" follows with more great Clarence White picking. A 16-minute version of "Eight Miles High" ends the live material and by the middle of the song, most will be praying for the studio tracks. Although the song is good as far as extended jams go, this is too much for most attention spans. The band does some impressive playing, but 16 minutes of "Eight Miles High" with only 1 verse being sung is overdone.
One of the major complaints many fans and critics have with the later Byrds albums is the weak material. Although "Untitled" is better than the final two albums, it still suffers from uneven songs. The first track, also taken from "Gene Tryp," is the fine McGuinn-Levy "Chestnut Mare." The song, chronicling a man's quest to catch a horse, is lyrically and musically brilliant. It is perhaps McGuinn's most well written song. "Truck Stop ," a song written by Lowell George and Bill Payne of Little Feat comes next. Clarence White's murky vocals are perfect for this tragic tale of trucker love. "All the Things," another Gene Tryp tune, is the third studio song. "All the Things" may be the hidden gem on the album for casual fans since it was not included on the Boxed Set. Reflecting on the beauty of nature and on life in general, McGuinn's earnest vocals mix nicely with the piano and backing vocals (including Gram Parsons, although mixed so low as to barely be heard). These first three tracks studio represent some of the best Byrds material ever done.
Following "All the Things" is a Gene Parsons-Skip Battin country-rock ballad, "Yesterday's Train." This song features good singing by Parsons and nice harmonica and pedal steel. Although it's not as enduring as the other material, it's still a pretty song. This is more than can be said for the Skip Battin-Kim Fowley "Hungry Planet." The corny environmentalist lyrics, the blues and Moog arrangement, and McGuinn's weak vocals make this song almost un-listenable. Fortunately one can fast forward to the other McGuinn masterpiece, "Just A Season." The final "Gene Tryp" song on "Untitled," this sentimental look at the life of an adventurer is musically and lyrically beautiful, making it a contender for one of McGuinn's finest songs. This is followed by the Leadybelly cocaine holiday chronicle "Take a Whiff" featuring Clarence White on lead vocals and mandolin. Next comes another Battin-Fowley song, "You All Look Alike," an excellent track (perhaps the best Battin-Fowley song), partially due to some good mandolin playing and Byron Berline's fiddle. Skip Battin's touching anti-Vietnam song "Well Come (or Welcome) Back Home" finishes the album in a nice fashion. Although the song starts off strong, the Buddhist chanting, which stretches the track to 7:40, makes it bog down slightly.
The next disc features all completely un-issued material. The first track is a stripped down and longer version of "All the Things." This track is not an improvement on the album take largely because it's missing the beautiful piano line. Next, we receive another version of "Yesterday's Train," which is more mellow (as if that were possible!) and longer. As with "All the Things" this is more about variation and completion than improving upon the album version. The third song is a long overdue studio version of "Lover of the Bayou." It features a mean harmonica, excellent White guitar work, and a chilling echo on McGuinn's voice. "Kathleen's Song," originally on "Byrdmaniax" is included here in its beautiful stripped down form. The sequel to Clarence White's jam "White's Lightning" is present too (called Part 2). It is nice for fans of White, but being an instrumental, will not be of much interest to most. The final studio outtake is "Willin" another Little Feat song about truckers. Once again, Columbia has released a long overdue studio version of this song (a live version was on the boxed set). Gene Parsons does inspired vocals and one wonders how "Hungry Planet" made it on the album and not "Willin."
After "Willin" we are treated to more Byrds live material. Although done in the same style as the earlier live songs, there are some nice tracks. The first is Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." "Old Blue" follows and then another Dylan tune "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)." Next the band does a good version of "Ballad of Easy Rider" that is reminiscent of McGuinn's bare, yet beautiful, stripped down version on the movie soundtrack. The third Dylan song, "My Back Pages" is energetic, but the harmonies of the earlier version are sorely lacking. Next the Byrds jaunt through "Take a Whiff on Me," which is just as good as the studio version with harmonica, harmony, and a particularly nasal Clarence White vocal. "Jesus is Just Alright" definitely rocks, as does "This Wheel's On Fire," the fourth Dylan song on the Unissued disc. Finally, there is a hidden bonus track: a beautiful a capella first verse of "Amazing Grace," which proves the later Byrds could do harmony well when they wanted to.
Untitled/Unissued has many fine moments. On the studio side, songs like "Just A Season," "Chestnut Mare," "All Things," and "Truck Stop " are as good as any Byrds lineup has released. Although not as strong, even the other studio material is enjoyable (with the exception of "Hungry Planet") and couldn't fairly be called filler. The live material, however, is not as enduring and sometimes seems like a souvenir. Yet, for those of us who are too young to have seen the Byrds live (or those who missed them) it is a very important souvenir. It is worth the price of the live material just to hear Clarence White play. The sound quality of the set is excellent and Columbia has included the original liner notes as well as a new essay by David Fricke and notes about the songs by Johnny Rogan. There is a lot of material here, but the second disc only has about 50 minutes of music. Still, this is a minor complaint, because it's 50 minutes of music we've never heard before! Overall, this Byrds album is an excellent work and should be picked up by fans of the Byrds. Of all the reissues, it certainly gives the fan the most new material to listen to. Overall, it ranks as one of the Byrds' strongest albums and the band's last truly great moment.
Much Maligned, But Worth Checking Out
By Jonathan Bennett
"Byrdmaniax" is often regarded as the worst Byrds album ever made. Critics have often been harsh and dismissive, while even diehard fans have expressed deep disappointment with the album. "Byrdmaniax," the Byrds next to last album, was made in 1971 and featured the McGuinn-White-Parsons-Battin lineup, known for both stability and uneven output. This album exemplifies this in many ways with some high moments and some low lows. The album also was controversial because producer Terry Melcher added strings, female backing vocals, and other instrumentation without the band's knowledge. He defended this decision citing the weak material on the album and the necessity of making it stronger. Your opinion of this album will probably depend on how much you like what Melcher has done.
The album starts off well on an upbeat number: Art Reynolds's "Glory Glory." With a rolling piano, 12-string guitar, female backing, and a gospel beat, this song is just as appealing as the earlier Reynolds track "Jesus is Just Alright" on "Ballad of Easy Rider." Next, the band slows it down with the McGuinn-Parsons track "Pale Blue." Like McGuinn's "Untitled" compositions, this is a sentimental ballad. Unlike the "Untitled" tracks, however, this song is awash with strings. Although many object to these as a pretentious addition, they don't intrude and actually enhance the song's beauty. Track 3 is McGuinn's Norman Vincent Peale inspired "I Trust." It starts off with a country-rock feel and then melds into country-gospel through more female backing and honky-tonk piano. With the catchy chorus and inspired feel good lyrics, this song is truly a pleasure to listen to. Unfortunately, the album and possibly the Byrds career, reach their nadir throughout the next three songs.
First comes the Battin-Fowley novelty "Tunnel of Love." The combination of piano, organ, horns, and carnival lyrics coming from a Byrds album is more than most fans with be able to take. This is, of course, until the listener moves on to the next track, the Battin-Fowley tune "Citizen Kane." Like "Tunnel" this is another novelty complete with 1930s style horns and inane lyrics. It's not a bad song necessarily, but as a Byrds track, it is over the top. Next follows the McGuinn-Levy "Gene Tryp" song "I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician." This composition also borders on the "novelty," but is much more listenable than the two Battin-Fowley tracks. Although "Politician" is a good song, following two out of character novelty songs, it's hard not to want to fast forward through this one too.
Although much maligned by critics and fans (oftentimes unfairly), the Battin-Fowley songwriting team occasionally scores and the seventh track "Absolute Happiness" delivers the goods. Inspired by Battin's Buddhist faith, this song has a nice mellow country-rock feel to it. After this, the band tackles bluegrass music on "Green Apple Quick Step," which is mainly a chance for Clarence White to show off his skills. Believe me, he does this well and demonstrates why he is such a highly rated guitarist. It also features his father Eric on harmonica and Byron Berline on fiddle. Although an instrumental, it is an enduring, pleasant track to listen to. Next comes another song from Clarence White's roots: "My Destiny." This beautiful hymn features the vocals of Clarence White as he asks thoughtfully concerning the questions of life: "Is this my destiny?" The only problem with this track is that White's voice seems a little frail and he's difficult to understand. Next comes the beautiful and sentimental McGuinn-Levy "Kathleen's Song," which just might be McGuinn's best ever composition. The addition of warm strings has been controversial, but I personally think they make the song more wistful and enhance it. If you prefer the un-orchestrated version, it is on "Untitled/Unissued" and the Boxed Set. The original album closed with Jackson Browne's classic "Jamaica, Say You Will" that receives a loving treatment from his friend Clarence White. The rest of the Byrds chime in to provide eerie harmonies, proving they could still do it.
The bonus tracks are interesting too. First, there is an excellent cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like A Woman," which at last puts a Dylan tune on Byrdmaniax. The next track is a stripped down version of "Pale Blue," which for those who dislike Melcher's additions, will be pleasing. The album ends with a lively Gene Clark composition "Think I'm Gonna Feel Better" featuring McGuinn's 12 string and another lead vocal by Clarence White. For Byrds fans this is an excellent inclusion; it doesn't matter that White's vocals are a bit strained.
"Byrdmaniax," since its original release, has been derided by many. Some of this has been justified, some of it not. For example, McGuinn's decision to include 2 Battin-Fowley novelty songs is difficult to understand. However, the worth of Melcher's additions is still debatable. Many fans like them, while many fans loathe them. However you feel about them, there are some genuinely good tracks on Byrdmaniax. "I Trust" and "Kathleen's Song" are as good as any other Byrds songs, while "Absolute Happiness" and "Jamaica Say You Will" are excellent tunes. My one complaint is the paucity of bonus tracks. Certainly Columbia could find more than three! The album only has 47 minutes of music. Still, this is a minor complaint. The new songs, liner notes, and song commentaries are a welcome addition too. In conclusion, although the entire album may not be up to the Byrds usual high standards, there are still many gems on here that fans shouldn't miss out on.
Undervalued Gem of the Rock Age
I remember purchasing my vinyl copy of "Byrdmaniax" thirty years ago, this month. I probably listened to it more often than any record I had in my collection at the time.
Let me say that the first quality I seek in any body of music is melody. Without it, ennui supersedes any listening pleasure and the work is soon forgotten. The tasteful and balanced offering of songs, be they ballads, rockers, novelty numbers, or instrumentals, is unforgettably mellifluous--from beginning to end--on "Byrdmaniax."
Each member of the Byrds plays and sings like a virtuoso in their field. Yes, the bard is at work in the lyricism, however, with the manner in which each piece on "Byrdmaniax" is performed, there is a profound musing that transcends mere doggerel. I was galvanized into asking myself philosophically exploratory questions about the world, people and life itself after hearing this wondrous album a few times.
The songs on "Byrdmaniax" are all exquisitely arranged and complemented, wherever necessary, with strings, horns, reeds, keyboards and girl choruses. Critical opinion has been mordant over this, however, let the incredulous aficionados ask themselves what they would have thought of "Byrdmaniax" if it was the first and only time they ever heard a Byrds album. Then again, perhaps I just got inured to the group's vivacious eclecticism.
My favourite tunes on the "Byrdmaniax" CD are: "Kathleen's Song," "Pale Blue" (two of my most cherished nuggets in the vast Byrds' canon) and "Absolute Happiness." I would really love to hear David Crosby, with his ethereal voice, sing those three chestnuts.
All in all, "Byrdmaniax" is a thoughtfully produced and garnished, gospel and jazz tinged, country/folk-rock masterpiece that belongs in any comprehensive record collection. Remember, "Notorious Byrd Brothers," with its unique, multifarious sound mosaic that reflected a slice of Americana, was elaborately arranged, too (though "Byrdmaniax" was bereft of any tinctures of space-rock/psychedelia), like the album I am reviewing. If, in my mind, "Notorious Byrd Brothers" is the quintessential, artistic rock statement, by the greatest and most influential band in rock history, then "Byrdmaniax" is, unequivocally, the most undervalued gem of the rock age.
Probably Country-Rock’s Greatest Collection
By David Bennett
The Flying Burrito Brothers are perhaps the best band to epitomize what is now called "country-rock." They directly rode the heels of the Byrds classic country album, "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." For the newcomer, both the amount of material on this 2-disc set, and the sound might be a bit too much. When I first heard the Burrito’s material 5 years ago that CD sat virtually unheard (perhaps because I was not used to the pedal steel sound, which band member Sneaky Pete Kleinow excellently plays). I guess I was just not ready for their pioneering sound. However, I would advise anyone who wants to sample some of the most influential and critically acclaimed material of the 60s and early 70s to buy this set.
The first CD is certainly the strongest, and it consists entirely of songs on which Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman performed. Gram and Chris, as many already know, were members of the Byrds and credited with co-founding "country-rock." The material from FBB’s first album, "Gilded Palace of Sin" stands out, and fortunately the entire album is here. The material from their second album "Burrito Deluxe" is weaker, but still stellar. For this latter album FBB added ex-Byrd Michael Clarke and future Eagle Bernie Leadon. Highlights of the first CD are the protest song, "My Uncle," the soulful, "Dark End of the Street," and the cover of the Rolling Stones hit, "Wild Horses." But again, every song is excellent and groundbreaking (Clarence White, guitarist extraordinaire and Byrds member, guests on "The Train Song.").
The second CD is often panned, but in reality it is filled with some very good material, especially the first seven tracks where Gram and the boys belt out inspired versions of country standards (such as "Break My Mind"). However, the last 13 tracks on the 2nd disc lack the critically acclaimed combination of country and rock, as the Burritos slipped into a more slick and polished country-pop sound. Keep in mind Gram Parsons left here and future Firefall founder Rick Roberts took over as lead singer. While different than the first disc, the material is very similar to the Eagles sound, which is not a bad thing at all. Highlights from the second disc include "Six Days on the Road," "Here Tonight" where Gene Clark sings, and the Rick Roberts penned song, "Colorado."
Overall, this collection, which goes on for about 130 minutes, is an excellent deal, and is essential to any country or rock collection. The 24-bit mastered sound is far superior to the previous FBB hits collection, "Farther Along." Since this set includes the entire first three Flying Burrito Brothers albums, various other songs which never made it to an original Burritos album, and live tracks (although the 2 live tracks are the weakest on the album), it will satisfy the true fan, but possibly might overwhelm the newcomer. However, to all newcomers: Trust me, listen to the material, maybe over and over again if you have to, you WILL come to appreciate it. By the end of the first week you will be singing along to every tune in your car.
A Classic Country/Folk/Rock album
Dillard and Clark is one of the most unique musical groups I have ever heard. Gene Clark, former member of the Byrds and probably their best songwriter provides the songs and lead vocals. Doug Dillard, banjo player, and member of the bluegrass group The Dillards (the Darlings on the Andy Griffith Show) provides backup. Other members of Dillard and Clark were Byron Berline (fiddle player who backed the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers), Michael Clarke (ex-Byrd and a Flying Burrito Brother), Bernie Leadon (future Eagle), Jon Corneal (former member of Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band), and female backing vocalist Donna Washburn. Ex-Byrd Chris Hillman and Flying Burrito Brother Sneaky Pete Kleinow also played on a few of their songs. This CD contains everything Dillard and Clark released, including their 2 albums, as well as singles they released between albums.
I think what really makes this music so unique, separating it from any "slick" country-pop at the time, is the banjo playing. For instance, on "Why Not Your Baby," the best track on the album, the banjo comes in adding an eerie sound to the poignant song. Then the strings come in, creating a sound that is rarely, if ever heard. Also, on "Radio Song," banjo and harpsichord are played side-by-side creating yet another sound that stands out. Every song is good when compared to popular music-at-large, but the standouts are, "Out on the Side," "Something's Wrong" and "Through the Morning, Through the Night." Also, the Eagles later used D&C's, "Train Leaves Here This Mornin" on their first album.
The material from their first album, "Fantastic Expedition" is the strongest, and most creative. The other material is not as notable and often borders on straight bluegrass (such as "Rocky Top"). Clark also wrote fewer songs on their second album, making it more uneven. The cover songs are still good, such as "So Sad" written by the Don and Phil Everly, and "No Longer a Sweetheart of Mine." In general, this is one of my favorite CDs, showcasing an early incarnation of country-folk-rock/pop, or whatever you wish to call it. The material is memorable, heartfelt, and shows the talent of the critically acclaimed members. The sound quality is good, but not excellent, and is probably a result of the original masters. You can't beat this deal, with over 70 minutes of some of the best music ever made combined with decent, although humorous at times, liner notes (the British writer describes the Andy Griffith Show as a "comedy soap opera"). This is definitely the only Dillard and Clark CD to buy because it contains it all.
Set You Free: Gene Clark in the Byrds: 1964-1973
As the Cognomen Says Regarding This Epochal Songwriter (5 stars)
As the Cognomen Says Regarding This Epochal Songwriter (5 stars)
"Set You Free: Gene Clark in the Byrds 1964-1973," by the Byrds, is a compendium like no other, because Gene Clark (1944-1991), was a founding member of the legendary, Los Angeles Byrds, considered by some cognoscenti the greatest and most influential band in rock history. Clark stood at centre stage during their concerts, with hauntingly good looks and his ubiquitous tambourine. From the inception of the Byrds (as the Jet Set) in August, 1964, to the time Gene first left the group in March, 1966, he had composed twenty-one (including five co-written with other Byrds, et al) recorded and eventually released songs for them--as many as the next two most efficacious fellow Byrds, David Crosby and Jim (Roger) McGuinn, combined. This garnered him more in royalties, making him the envy of the other Byrds. Of the total twenty-five songs he wrote from 1964-1973, while sporadically with the group, he was joined by co-writers on only seven. This all exemplifies his strength as an independent songwriter. In this handsome twenty-two song collection by "The Famous Five" are twenty-one pieces penned by Gene Clark, plus the song "Cowgirl In The Sand," which, although performed by Gene and the Byrds, was written by Neil Young and therefore does not belong on this Byrds disc of Clark composed works. There are, as well, four previously released Clark written Byrds songs from the 1964-1965 period missing: "You Movin'"; "It's No Use"; "Why Can't I Have Her Back Again?" (available on Raven's "Byrd Parts 2"); and the instrumental, "You And Me." Although, one has to admit, not all of Clark's later, solo work approaches the calibre of the masterpieces featured on this compilation, his oeuvre, unequivocally, eclipses that of any former Byrd's. All of the ballads and songs by Gene Clark--rock's most underrated "genius" singer songwriter--on this CD are exquisitely mellifluous, with their enchanting harmonic modulations; embellished by romantic, yet simplistic, poetic lyricism. My favourites on this disc are: "Please Let Me Love You," where, particularly, Gene's voice--which was the most expressive in all the Byrds, with the exception of David Crosby's--glows. Their passionate "Oh yeah's" (also present in the next mentioned Byrds song) were actually first uttered by the Bee Gees on their 1962 "Three Kisses Of Love" single. I also adore "I Knew I'd Want You," which contains a waltz-like quality. In it one can almost see the girl Gene emotes over, when he and his band mates bellow, "But I felt so close to you, when you said hello." Then there's "One In A Hundred," a most penetrating threnody, with words like, "Hear the bells ring, morning has come/Over the town the morning star fades in the dawn" complemented by the Byrds' trademark harmonies and McGuinn's Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar, chiming like soft and distant church bells. Get this masterwork by the Byrds, "Set You Free: Gene Clark in the Byrds 1964-1973" into your life now, because Gene Clark's music is like--as inscribed on his epitaph--No Other, and is, as the cognomen says regarding this epochal songwriter.
Also Recommended: "No Other"--Gene Clark; "Echoes"--Gene Clark; "Byrds Most Famous Hits"--"Byrds"; "After The Storm"--CRY; "Claremont Dragon"--John York.
Originally posted on Barnes and Noble.Com
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