George Starostin's Reviews



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<> (21.02.2000)

This was the band that Did It for post-Beatles American rock. The band that proved that the States could answer the new creativity coming from the English Invasion and ratchet up the art even further.

Arguably my favorite band in that I have problems with the idea of "favorite bands".

What I want from music and artists can differ wildly at different times. But this is the band, and music, that pushed me over the edge at age 15 into rabid rock music fandom. The Beatles, et al, had gotten my attention but I was not furiously searching down every recording that came along. Then came Mr . Tambourine Man. As we said back in the day, what a rush! Yes, the Rickenbacker is jangly. I don't care. I, for one, could listen to it forever. And with CD's & MP3's I just might!

A caveat: the above applies up until the departure of Crosby. The best harmony singer in rock. You may not consciously hear him at all times but that is the point. He is the linchpin that holds the harmony together. Plus, you get his outside-the-box songwriting-very little, if any, of the "verse-verse-bridge-verse" pattern of most rock composition. He's not perfect ('Mind Gardens') but he's damn close.

McGuinn was genius enough to pull The Fabulous Byrds Brothers together, but their (his)! later country-flavored stuff leaves this country-rock fan cold. Perhaps it was the primitive state of the recording techniques. Their earlier forays into country (Thank you Mr. Hillman!) and the Buffalo Springfield were better.

A request: Please Roger, David, Chris, a reunion. With the 12-string this time! The stuff you guys did on the Box Set and Roger's Back From Rio was great!

Ken Willis <> (01.06.2000)

Julian Palacios, in his book "Lost In The Woods: Syd Barrett & The Pink Floyd", suggests that Syd Barrett was strongly influenced by The Byrds. If this is true then not only did The Byrds influence the Beatles, but they also influenced the Floyd, and therefore the whole British psychedlia movement (whatever that expression actually means).

Morten Felgenhauer <> (02.01.2001)

Just a small comment concerning the "invention" of "folk rock". As you mentioned on one of your pages, the Animals were one of the first groups to have success with an electrical arrangement of a classic folk song. The Byrds of course deserve their share of respect for their perfect blend of folk/Dylan/electrical instruments. However, we should not forget the British group the Searchers. Already in 1964 were they mixing 12-string guitars, folk songs and three-part harmonies to good effect. They started out (on records) as an average merseybeat band in 1963, and they sadly never progressed out of the 'pop' format. That doesn't mean that they didn't record good songs, though. A representative "best of" collection by the Searchers is well worth the investment for those interested in British Beat.

The Byrds were a better group, though... (we don't want flame letters, now do we?)

Steve Hall <> (08.02.2001)

Here we go again.So many people trying to turn a sixties U.S band into an "answer to the Beatles" an "answer to the british invasion" or "proof that Americans can do it".What has this got to do with the actual MUSIC??!!NOTHING!!!

I grow weary of reviews and reader comments that seem to put so much importance on where a band comes from.One reviewer states "proof the americans could "answer the english invasion and ratchet up the art even further".I'm sure they did influence The Beatles in some forms but then so did american girl groups like the Shirelles and Elvis more than anyone but i don't hear people foaming at the mouth going on about THEIR musical virtues.

I'm sure the Beatles didn't seriously worry about competition from a group that relied on OTHER people for material as much as themselves.You could write down how many really really great songs The Byrds WROTE THEMSELVES on the back of a postage stamp.

Why don't people try to think up some credible reasons for their rating of the Byrds instead of lame things like "They influenced the Beatles" ,so did Bungalow Bill on saturday morning childrens telly....SO WHAT!!!!! shall we give him a grammy?? Or reasons like "they used lyrics derived from the bible"!! WOW shall i do a somersault??? so did Boney M (By the rivers of Babylon),does that mean we can talk about THEM in the same context as The Beatles.

Explain to me please how a group can have 5/5 adequecy when they can't even pen enough quality material to compile an album let alone make it as good as some of their sixties peers,and i could care less where they are from(it could be the moon for all i care)it doesn't make any difference in my assesment of how good their music may or may not be and especially as a so called "answer" to non-american acts - leave that for the politicians.

Didier Dumonteil <> (25.02.2001)

If you have any doubts about this group's influence take a look at REM,Big Star,Tom Petty,THe Stone Roses,Teenage Fanclub,Ten thousand maniacs,Golden Smog,the Jayhawks,you name it.

I would give the Byrds the Who's 5!

Kevin Baker <> (15.03.2001)

This one's been a long time coming, seeing as how The Byrds are my favorite band. This is not to say I think The Byrds are better than The Beatles or Stones, etc.---far from it. The Byrds are my favorite band because they are the only band I've heard that has not produced a genuinely bad song in my eyes. The Beatles only did that once, with that dreck 'Baby You're A Rich Man'. Why else? I love the harmonies, the Dylan covers, the 12-string jangle, the psychedelic vibe, and the utter coolness the band had. I also have a little pity element for them---who remembers these dudes? No one remembers them anymore except for 'Tambourine Man' and 'Turn Turn Turn', and that is a crying shame. I can't find many if any noncompilation Byrds cds at music stores, very few nonfamous Byrds mp3s on Napster, and next to no one my age who has a clue who these guys were. That's a crime against music, a travesty equalled only by people who pigeonhole the Stones as roots-rock and call The Beatles dated or for old people. This band, plus The Beatles, are why I play guitar and, then adding Dylan to the list, are why I strive to be an open sincere lyricist. I also hate it when they get pigeonholed as just folk-rock. Has anyone heard their set from Monterey in '67? These guys darn near rocked as hard as The Who that day! Barring the fact that Crosby was too stoned to control his volume and remember lyrics, it was one of the greatest live performances by any band I've ever heard. Maybe I'm just a Byrdmaniac, but these guys deserve their four and I even will go so far as to a say a five. And, Mr. Hall, you must have awfully small handwriting to be able to fit "Eight Miles High", "Everybody's Been Burned", "5D", "Mr. Spaceman", "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better", "The World Turns All Around Her", and "I Come And Stand At Every Door" on the back of a postage stamp. And I only stopped there because my hand hurts.

Steve Hall <> (19.03.2001)

I apologise profusely to Mr Baker for my illustration of the postage stamp.Well actually no i don't,i mean honestly,what basis can there possibly be for sincerely believing that the Byrds WROTE THEMSELVES a CATALOGUE of work that deserves a mention among the Beatles,Stones,Who etc...I conceed there are a FEW songs that fit,but the fact they relied AS MUCH on other people's material proves my point,and that is the reason they are not mentioned,remembered,discussed,revered,respected or reviewed in the same bracket as the artists i mention above,because on songwriting ability and output they don't deserve to be.

Kevin Baker <> (03.04.2001)

I'll give you that the Byrds were competent (not legendary or superb) songwriters. Their true strength lay in the areas of arrangement. They took Dylan and turned it into something everyone could appreciate, no matter who. You can't compare the Byrds songwriting to any of those you listed, bur who else's can you? Excepting Dylan, nobody. Not a soul. Being lesser songwriters than Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, or Townshend is nothing to be ashamed of. But, could the Who (not that I'm getting down on the Who; they're great and deserve their 5) have taken 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and brought Dylan to a whole new audience? Could they have practically co-invented psychedelia? This is not to say the Who aren't revolutionary; Tommy anyone? But to dismiss the Byrds just because they covered often and weren't near-perfect songwriters; that's a bit extreme. Strengthwise, the Byrds average out to the same as the Who, they just do it in different areas. That is to say, a solid 4 to the point of borderline 5-dom.

Glenn Wiener <> (26.02.2002)

They certainly had their plusses. Good vocal harmonies, interesting guitar passages, and tons of diversity. Heck the Byrds could rock hard, please your ears with folky harmonies, and were big on the Gospel Belt. 'Glory Glory' and 'Lazy Waters' are two hidden gems on hard to find compilations. In addition they did tons of good covers by Bob Dylan. Not to mention a couple of Little Feat covers('Willing', 'Truck Stop Girl'). Whereas their songs aren't on the level of the Beatles and their instrumental prowess won't bring back memries of Eric Clapton or the Allman Brothers, the Byrds certainly influenced many musical styles most notably Tom Petty.

Dan Marshall <> (22.09.2002)

In RESPONSE to some of the remarks made on this page, especially Steve Hall's narrow-minded argument, there is a very important reason why The Byrds' influence on the Beatles is frequently referred to, even by our host: because, without a doubt, The Byrds took the Beatles and all other rock bands at the time out of the candy floss era that defined the early sixties and into an era of maturity for rock 'n' roll. ONCE The Byrds came, suddenly every band, ESPECIALLY THE BEATLES, began making lyrically deeper, more serious, songs and adding some jingle-jangling to it. Mr. Hall, NOBODY cares about the influence Bungalow Bill or Motown or Elvis or anyone else you churn out had on the Beatles because these acts influenced the earlier, less sophisticated, and more commercial, Beatles. And, to respond to Mr. Hall's argument about The Byrds songwriting, it should be noted that The Byrds had planned to do entirely original material before they hit it big, but their manager Jim Dickson felt that it would be better for The Byrds if they covered a decent amount of folk songs. During his stint with The Byrds, Gene Clark wrote SEVENTY-FIVE songs for The Byrds that were never recorded because leader McGuinn, who didn't give a damn about The Byrds legacy, ignored the songs so that Gene wouldn't hog up the royalties. ONE MORE THING, Mr. Hall, The Beatles DID worry about the Byrds. That's why Paul and George went into the recording studio where The Byrds worked and watched them record the brilliant Gene Clark song, "She Don't Care About Time," and even admittedly borrowed from it for "If I Needed Someone." But, in case anyone is clueless, probably the main reason The Byrds are so vastly important to rock is that they created more sub-genres of rock 'n' roll than ANY other band. They invented, yes, invented Folk-rock, Psychedelic, Country-rock, space-rock (though that's not a big one), Jazz-rock, Christian-rock, and even wrote and performed the VERY FIRST song to be labeled Heavy Metal, coined by rock critic Sandy Pearlman. If it wasn't for The Byrds, Country music to this day would have remained what was referred to as "minority music." The Byrds did what no others would dare to do, especially when they put out "Eight Miles High," which opened the door for other bands to write songs about drugs. This certain #1 hit was banned from radio and The Byrds irretrievably lost far too many fans to regain their spot as one of the world's most popular rock bands. But, guess what? Once the controversy died down, other bands fed off The Byrds innovation and had monumental success with drug-related music, including, yes, again, The Beatles. I apologize for the length, George.

Kim Albertini <> (22.10.2002)

The Byrds covered songs & transferred them into their own. Not too many bands can give a unique interpretation that elevates the shine of the original to great heights.As far as songwriting prowess goes,they were fantastic.So what if lennon /Mccartney tunes or jagger/richard tunes charted higher if you go by commerciality then 'Disco Duck' is a great song having sold 5 million coppies or michael jackson^s Bad album is great because it had 5 #1 hits. P-L-E-A-S-E. The Byrds are cool

Richard Nightingale <> (06.02.2003)

The best sixties band? I think so:

Here are my ratings for their albums:

MR TAMBOURINE MAN OVERALL RATING 15 One of the best albums ever made.Okay half the songs are covers but the Byrds make them their own.Have you ever listened to this album back to back with Rubber Soul? it's very revealing!

TURN, TURN, TURN OVERALL RATING 11 A step down from the last one.However any album that has 'Turn,Turn,Turn' and any of the Gene Clark originals on here is okay by me.

5TH DIMENSION OVERALL RATING 13 Only half this album is brilliant.But it really does contain some of the best original compositions this band ever did ('Eight Miles High', '5TH Dimension', 'What's Happening' and 'Mr Spaceman')

YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY OVERALL RATING 14 As a showcase for the band's songwriting skills this is essential.

THE NOTORIOUS BYRD BROTHERS OVERALL RATING 15 The last Byrds album to have that distinct jangly sound.But it's far more mature and better produced than anything they had done before. 'Draft Morning' is the Byrds best song.

SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO OVERALL RATING 15 Country music, mostly covers should be crap but isn't.In fact this is the best album they ever did.

DR BYRDS AND MR HYDE OVERALL RATING 11 Good album this! Containing some Mcguinn originals for the first time since Notorious Byrd Brothers. The cover tunes are better though.

BALLAD OF EASY RIDER OVERALL RATING 11 A bit patchy this.However the title track is one of the best songs Mcguinn ever wrote. 'Gunga Din' is great too.

UNTITLED OVERALL RATING 10 'Chesnut Mare' and 'Just A Season' are great.The rest is very poor in comparison.In fact some of it is really crap!

BYRDMANIAX OVERALL RATING 9 This ain't so great.The Mcguinn songs are fine but the other songs are really bad.

FATHER ALONG OVERALL RATING 9 Suffers from the same problems as the above album.In fact this one's worse!

BYRDS OVERALL RATING 12 The reunion album.This contains two brilliant Gene Clark songs and the others aren't bad at all.Good cover of 'Cowgirl In The Sand' by Neil Young.

Pedro Andino <> (16.11.2004)

the byrds are the gods the grandfathers they made it okay for country music to get played on the radio! i even named my television telstar! and my second tv was quasar! or quastar. my grandmother got them in 1966 after she loved the byrds albums! she cried when johnny cash died i taped the hurt video for her. my grandma loved johnny cash please mr.watchamacallit get johnny cash into this site rite now! anyhow grandma got johnny cash albums like at san queintin at folsom prison and the willie nelson hits. the byrds are country and rock mixed togheter to life! it will not break yor heart!

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

I not only love this band, I, in fact, consider them one the best bands ever (they occupy the 6th place in my personal list). They had fantastic harmonies, beautiful 12-string guitar, fantastic melodies (I’m in Heaven). In fact, they deserve a real five on your overall scale. Although the problem is that they never really had a 15-worthy album. Pity!

Here we go:

Listenability: 4/5. I would give them a five, really, but I know that some have problems with getting used to their sound. But once you did that, you’d be happy with the Byrds.

Resonance: 4/5. Once again, real close to a 5. “Mr. Tambourine Man” makes my heart jump of happiness and excitement, “He Was A Friend Of Mine” moves me to tears…

Originality: 5+/5 I not only underrate their role in the development of rock music, I think they are up there together with the Beatles and the Who. Really! Folk-rock, space-rock, country-rock… God, is that not enough?

Adequacy: 5/5 You like one song, you’ll like them all (more or less so). They knew what they were doing, and they always did it well in any music style they tried…

Diversity: 5/5 …and they tried many!

As well as being masters of covering Dylan songs, they were very good songwriters. Gene Clark (I try as I may to get some of his solo stuff) was fantastic at writing catchy pop tunes; McGuinn could write in pretty much every genre (another problem is that he wasn’t that good in some of these genres); Crosby was a strange guy, one can say that those he wrote were melodiless and rather bland songs, but they were always so damn charming; Hillman’s contributions to YTY are, in fact, one of the finest in their catalogue.

They weren’t very good instrumentalists, though Roger’s jangly guitar was amazing. The others were rather mediocre (but that’s hardly a big problem). Ha, and do you know how Michael Clarke became their drummer? He just looked like Jagger! Really! Oh, those 60s!

I would recommend buying all of their early records. They are great. For me, their first two albums are so filled with that decade’s atmosphere!

Oh, and were the guys influential? Totally! Why do you think John Lennon began wearing glasses?..

Tagbo Munonyedi <> (03.08.2006)

The more I think about the history and development of rock in the 60s, the harder it is to say that any particular band or artist did this or that first or invented this or that because one of the joys of 60s rock is the cross pollination that went on and the way that artists influenced each other and were influenced by each other in musical and non musical ways. For example, little George of the Beatles goes to the US on holiday in the summer of '63 and hears some Dylan, brings a bit of stuff a completely unrelated parallel development, Dylan hears "I want to hold your hand" on the radio and is bowled over by the Beatles music and thinks they're singing about drugs {which is in itself amusing when one thinks about England in '63}.......they meet up in New York in '64 as the hot representatives of youth music in their respective nations and Dylan turns the Beats onto marijuana and challenges them about their lyrics which they'd never given thought to.......within one year Dylan has "gone electric" and incurred the wrath of folkies everywhere while going through the stratosphere lyrically; at the same time, the Beats have met the Byrds, they've tripped on LSD together and Crosby turned John and George onto Ravi Shankar.... Rubber Soul {the proper UK version} pools all these elements together and the Beats go from even greater strength to strength....the Byrds prior to all this have been immensely infuenced by Dylan and inspired to even start as a group by the Beatles in the film "A Hard Day's Night". All through the mid sixties these three are competing with each other, communicating {both affectionately and sarcastically} through records, putting each other down, nicking from each other......and not just these three. If you can imagine this situation multiplied by only God knows how many artists and groups and people not even in music, such as poets, writers, politicians, designers etc, you can start to see why so many have such fond and vivid memories of that period. Granted, some were definitely more important than others in this ongoing development, but if one thinks of 60s music as a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle, maybe the Beatles occupy 24 pieces, Dylan 15 etc, well, even the artists that only occupy one piece are still vital to the overall picture. Imagine how frustrating it would be to have completed a puzzle but for one piece !! I think I can safely say that you can't invent an evolution......To write the Byrds out of the development of rock music per se is as ridiculous as excluding Hitler, Princess Diana and AIDS from the history of the 20th century. This is a band that were crucial to it's progression and it's not their fault that they were billed as America's answer to the Beatles. At that time, Dylan wasn't accessible enough to the country at large, the Beach Boys were too one dimensional {these are all newspaper and teen mag sterotypes-musically, they were equals} and some of the other groups just didn't have strong enough songs or staying power. But the Byrds seemed different. To their credit, they didn't mouth off, they spoke with their music. And that music for a few years was excellent stuff. After the Pepper era, rivalries and who got there first with what didn't matter any more because that '66-'69 period marks the shift when the album became the dominant medium for artists to get their changes and ideas across and the importance of the single became less and less, though it was a very slow downhill slide. About 21 years ago, I picked up this LP called "The Original Singles Vol 1" and basically, it's the Byrds first 8 singles and their B sides. It's a fantastic album and anyone who honestly feels the Byrds didn't write superb songs really needs to listen to this. There is a volume 2 but this is of less importance coz it covers the latter part of '67 to '69 or '70. I'm not saying that their latter work is any less important, it is but in a different way. The '65~'67 period is crucial however, because the single was the dominant format and alot of rock's progression and development came through in songs that were contained thus. There was a kind of friendly competition among bands to see who could come up with the most groundbreaking music and get away with all kinds of naughty references and as bands and artists {with the revolutionary exception of the Beatles, followed by the Stones} thought in terms of singles, they therefore saved their strongest songs for them. And this is where the Byrds were truly strong; songs like MR TAMBOURINE MAN, EIGHT MILES HIGH and 5D and the stinging commentary of SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROCK AND ROLL STAR are revolutionary for their time and definitely helped advance rock music and push the envelope. And in common with particularly the Beatles and Stones, they put out really strong B sides in an era when the B side was as much or almost as much a highlight as the A side {even in the 70s and 80s I loved to hear the B side}. In fact, the B side was often the more groundbreaking of the two coz artists knew people would want to listen to as much of them as they could without having to shell out for an album {1968 was the first year in the UK that more albums than singles were produced; in '64 singles accounted for 75% of the record market}. That changed after PEPPER, but the Byrds influence was less by then.

While McGuinn and Crosby rightly get much of the plaudits aimed at the band for their writing and imaginative singing and instumental work, I feel that the late Gene Clark is so often sadly overlooked as a writer. Truth is, he was writing long before both of the two mentioned and he was writing intelligent, quality and melodic work, both gentle and rocking and he displayed a surprizing maturity in his writing for one so young. It's well documented that he was the weakest member of group and had to endure much resentment coz he made money from his songwriting. The imaginative lyrics and music of songs like FEEL A WHOLE LOT BETTER {with it's brilliant use of the word 'probably'}, SHE DON'T CARE ABOUT TIME, the exquisite SET YOU FREE THIS TIME {not to mention that he was the originator of EIGHT MILES HIGH} stand up there with some of Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Richards, Townshend, Davies and Wilson's stuff of '65 to '66. The groups' harmonies were as powerful as the Beach Boys, the Hollies and the Beatles and having three guitarists {though Clark was ousted by Crosby} gave them options that went beyond that magnificent twelve string sound, itself a derivation and extension of Harrison's HARD DAY'S NIGHT sound. Funnilly, Michael Clarke wasn't even a drummer when he first joined but he learned a bit and he did alot of naive and unexpected things that do give the music a different flavour, while Chris Hillman had just about the worst tone of any bass player I can think of. His bass figures are important to most of the songs which is why his tones were so noticeable~he sounded like a beginner that had just bought a bass and then plugged it in as is and started plucking be fair to him, he was a mandolin player not a bassist and the reason the bass on TAMBOURINE MAN sounds so fluent and smooth is coz it wasn't him. But by EVERYBODY'S BEEN BURNED it was a different story...They were the living example in their most revolutionary period that good songs outweigh how good the instumentalists are, they were even more average than the Beatles in that regard, the whole being stronger than "the sum of the parts". Also, I often find whole songs of theirs to be a hook as well as containing them. I'm not a great fan of their post '67 work but if one wants an understanding of the way music developed in the 60s as well as some brilliant songs that are eminently enjoyable, you need look no further than the Byrds.


Dan Marshall <> (23.09.2002)

Well, George, I think you give a pretty solid, decent, fair review of this glimpse into the early, early Byrds. The Byrds clearly showed here that, contrary to their first two albums, they were well capable of not just writing their own songs but writing some pretty darn catchy AND good songs. It is nothing short of a SIN that "The Reason Why," "For Me Again," "She Has a Way" (a bonus track on the reissued Mr. Tambourine Man), "Tomorrow is a Long Ways Away," "You Showed Me" (which The Turtles and, if you could believe it, Salt 'n' Pepa covered), "The Airport Song," and even "Please Let Me Love You" did not appear on any of the classic Byrds albums. If you don't have this album and you're contemplating getting it, believe me, the above-listed songs are more than reason enough to buy it. I couldn't get enough of "The Reason Why" when I first heard it. Of course, as you pointed out, George, it has its flaws, which is inevitable during a trial-and-error stage. "You Movin'" is embarrassingly Beatlesque, as are the English accents on "The Only Girl I Adore." Even the early versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "You Won't Have to Cry" are kind of dry. That said, this is a fascinating listen, with an energy and dynamic not found on other Byrds albums, except possibly the brilliant Younger than Yesterday. If there is one SAD note about this collection, it is that once you listen to it and note the songwriting credits, it becomes even more painfully obvious how underused, undervalued, and unappreciated Gene Clark was by his fellow Byrds. By the way, I give this record an 8.

Bob Josef <> (14.07.2006)

Well, it's not going to convert anyone, but it's mostly enjoyable for fans. A few of the tracks -- such as "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the earliest version of "Tomorrow is a Long Ways Away" -- are too crudely recorded for repeated listening, but are interesting in a Beatles Anthology sort of way. On the other hand, I do think that "She Has a Way" started off better than the two versions from the MTM sessions (boxed set and album reissue). This early one is taken a a more lively pace. As fun as it is, it does demonstrate that while Gene Clark was a talented songwriter, he was not necessarily an innovative one. This collection still indicates that if their manager hadn't hit on the idea of covering "Mr. Tambourine Man" and McGuinn hadn't hit on the arrangement, the Byrds might not have had long term success.

Another collection of this stuff has come out, called Preflyte Sessions, with 2 CD's of this stuff, multiple versions, etc. Too much of a good thing, perhaps?


Fredrik Tydal <> (19.12.99)

A bit overrated, I must say. There's too much covers here. "Mr. Tambourine Man" itself is of course a classic and one of the best songs of 1965. Of the other Dylan covers, it's only "Chimes Of Freedom" that manages to hold the same level as the title track. The original tracks are a mixed bag of nuts; some good, some rather pedestrian. This album actually has more symbolic than artistic value, since it showed that America had the potentials to fight back the British pop invaders. A new-comer to The Byrds should start with Younger Than Yesterday or Fifth Dimension.

<> (29.02.2000)

Overrated, Mr. Tydal? Hmm.... Nope, sez I. With all its flubs & quirks this is a balls-to-the-walls rush from start to finish in the ears of one who was there to hear what was a new dawn of popular music rising out of the West (Coast). The Beach Boys were great, R&B was great, but they predated the Beatles. Something new was needed. I knew it had arrived when I first heard those 12-string notes that open the title track and sat bolt upright and asked myself what the HELL is THIS?

So OK, the single is fantastic but the album will simply add eleven fillers, what the hell, I'll buy it anyway....

Nice to hear the single on an LP, it sounds clearer, now what do they call the first filler tune? Oh yeah, 'I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better.' Might as well listen....

WHOOSH! It's GREAT! Call-and-response stuff like the Beatles but different! And that orgiastic guitar break! This McGuinn knows his stuff.

Next track, slower, strange title but it great too! Who is this "Dylan" guy? Maybe I ought to check him out.... (Gentle reader, got a "Gypsy Girl" type in your past? You'll remember her here.)

And on it goes. Never a letdown. The breaking of new ground.

I too prefer to here the originals of anything, including Dylan, but here is where most of us first met him, in arrangements more palatable to non-folkie teenage ears.

The arrangements...not just McGuinn & his axe but also Hillman's bass & Crosby's underrated rhythm. The harmonies....Crosby's involved-nuff said!

They rocked like nothing before them on this side of the pond. I even loved Gene Clark's ballads at my tender age, what wonderful stuff although it would be a few more years before I would "get" ballads & when I did I wore the grooves out of them. (Hooray for CD's!)

Such sustained excellence would of course not be sustained on the subsequent outings. Nothing is perfect. Again, this album should be examined in the context of the music biz at the time but I still say it stands on its own merit as a rock album to be taken to that desert island even if you can take only what you can carry.

Unlike the later late-90's remastered re-releases the bonus tracks are of archival interest only. A very small nit to pick.

If you don't have it, blush.

Bob Josef <> (07.01.2001)

This album is revered more for what it does ---inaugurate folk-rock -- then for the actual songs, I would say, with the exception of the title track. But it's great. "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" is Clark's best solo Byrds composition --rather more aggressive than the rest of the album. The Dylan covers are great, because the songs are great. Turning "All I Really Want to Do" into an upbeat pop song is delightful, and if Cher (!) hadn't released simultaneously a rip-off version, the Byrds would have had another smash. However, two of the Clark ballads -- "I Knew I'd Want You" and "She Has A Way" -- are actually inferior to more energetic 1964 demo versions found on the In the Beginning collection. And he wasn't a standout lead vocalist, either. Still, no serious rock fan should be without this album.

Didier Dumonteil <> (26.02.2001)

What's the problem with the covers?Did Roger Daltrey write so many songs?Actually he covered Townshend's demos. There are five originals here and for a start they are pretty good.But what matters here is the new sound,a sound so many times imitated (see the artists I mention above on the page) Of course some might say that Dylan's songs are cheapened.But the author himself has never concealed his admiration for the Byrds.And the three covers were revolutionary for the time,blending the Beatles' beat with Dylan's folk.At the time Dylan was hardly electric!The bells of rhymney is better by far than Seeger's version.And Jackie de Shannon's- a real pioneer,one of the first women to write AND sing her own-first-rate pop-material- "don't doubt yourself,babe" is a delight.And the Byrd had a sense of humor:they ended their record with the ironic "we'll meet again",that you hear at the end of Kubrik's Dr Strangelove.(1964)

Federico Fernández <> (22.11.2002)

"General laziness and monotonousness". Yes, that's what I thought the very first time I listened to this album, but then I get used to it and found I was in love with all those jangly guitars and nice harmonies to the point I loved each an every song on here. Now I don't really find it monotonous the way I find, say, Exile On Main Street monotonous. No, each song, filler or not, has got something special about it despite that the stylistics are pretty much the same.

For me the highlights are the title track, of course, "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" and "It's No Use", the three of them terrific (and different form each other also). But there are also two originals that you don't even mention in the review that rank right there with those classics: "You Won't Have Yo Cry", a fantastic Beatles rip off (That intro!, it's exactly like "You Can't Do That") with great, uplifting harmonies (I just can't resist the line "Oh, I saw you there with tears, in you eeeeeyes"), and "Here Without You" which could pass as an ordinary love song if not for the extremely beautiful, almost dark, melody, the haunting harmonies and the obvious but sweet love lyrics.

The Dylan covers are right, but they are not as entertaining and captivating as most of the originals, mainly because, as most Dylan songs, they are pretty repetitive. The only perfunctory, still beautiful, track is "We'll Meet Again" which was sung by Vera Lynn (There's a reference to this track in Pink Floyd's The Wall, strange relations). This one's a very fine record and, despite what you say, it doesn't bores me for one second. I agree with your rating though.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

I remember when I visited Prindle’s page on the Byrds. I hated it (and, frankly speaking, still do a bit), ‘cause the reviews were not very substantial (and not even entertaining!). But now, as I’m writing all these, I understand that there is not that much to say about MTM. I like George’s assessment at the beginning. This is a truly revolutionary record with shiny and entertaining songs. I don’t care whether the album is monotonous or not, I’ll just say that I love it to death. The classics would include the title track (surprise, surprise) and Gene’s small masterpiece “Feel A Whole Lot Better”. But really, it’s pointless to mention any of the album’s tracks as they are all equally amazing and amusing. A fantastic folk-rock experience! You want to raise your mood? These unforgettable songs will do that. And more.

Maybe I’m biased, but nothing but a solid 14 would satisfy me.


<> (11.03.2000)

The precedent-breaking (for a US band) formulas of the first album worked so damn well that this was no time to monkey with success, except for some needed tweaking of the production values and editing. Knowing when and when not to do said monkeying is more evidence of Mr. McGuinn's greatness-at this particular time. He would slip up somewhat later, in the post-Crosby era.

This was not the beginning-to-end rave that the first album was. The fuel starvation finally set in on 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' and 'He Was A Friend Of Mine', which sound too dirge-y to me. Weary tunes indeed.

I can't hear where their version of 'The Times They Are A-Changin' is done with the lack of conviction mentioned here and elsewhere, including the remastered version's own liner notes. "Ambiguous and ironic?" Huh? It sounds just fine, "In your faces you old farts!" to me.

Of course you're taking 'It Won't Be Wrong ' out of context! It's a body commercial. to use Frank Zappa's term. What kind of yearning questions are going thru your mind when you finally meet...her. That girl.... Desperation can sound funny to third parties.

And hey, the rest is vintage Byrds. With those great Gene Clark ballads. And don't just rely on the lyrics. Cuddle up with your Squeeze to these and enjoy the sheer sound.

Oh yeah, the reissue has some great bonus tracks this time! Don't Forget 'The Day Walk'. Love 'Baby Blue' . And that wiggy little Crosby instrumental 'Stranger In A Strange Land' just gets under your skin. It's become someone's theme music in my mind....I can do without the alternate version of 'Times They Are A-Changin'- now this IS done a little too slickly and sounds for all the world like a Sonny & Cher arrangement!

Y'know, there's something about the sound of a 12-string that sounds-I dunno, emphatic, righteous. imperative, I dunno but I know what I like. Thank you, Mr. McGuinn!

Yes, the formula worked and the niche was carved. Now it was time to test those wyngs.

Fredrik Tydal <> (17.03.2000)

The title track ultimately proved that The Byrds were musical geniuses. Who else could have turned an old folk song with lyrics derived from the Bible into a brilliant, beautiful piece of music which reached the top at the singles charts? Too bad the rest of the album doesn't come near the marvellous "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)". I don't care much for "The Times They Are A-Changing", but the other Dylan cover, namely "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", is really good. The second best track on the album turns out to be the beautiful Gene Clark ballad "Set You Free This Time", which I used to dislike until I got into it. And the closing "Oh! Susannah" is just pure fun. All in all, a solid album, though a step down from the previous.

<> (18.03.2000)

I guess I have to disagree with the "feel" of the given review.I hold this album in high esteem along with titles such as Rubber Soul,and Revolver.This piece of work has to be taken as a time piece.A missing puzzle piece of the 60s.I could load up this cd at any time of the day at work,and be totally satisfied.True,some of the songs tend to push the formula a bit.I wouldnt qualify these songs as "dirge-y",but as anthemic.

I believe that after this work the band went a bit too heavy Height-Ashbury.Too much tripping,too little content.

Bob Josef <> (07.01.2001)

I was going to defend this one to the death, but relistening put me more in line with the review. First, "The Times they are a-Changing" is really the only Dylan cover the Byrds did that totally missed the mark. This time, changing the song into a cute Merseybeat pop song was a mistake. Dylan's original may be full of annoyingly angry self-righteousness, the Beach Boys' version an intentional spoof, but the Byrds just make it ridiculous. And there are TWO versions of it here, with a third yet unreleased! Good thing they never made it a single.

The other two major miscalculations are the two McGuinn tunes -- too obvious Beatle clones. "It Won't Be Wrong" -- another tune demoed in 1964 -- in particular should have been left in the can permanently -- the time signature change from the chorus to the bridge is extremely awkward. It bombed as the followup single to "Turn Turn Turn", not surprisingly.

But the album, on balance, is still almost up to the level of its predecessor. "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" is a gorgeous hymn to nature, stately and powerful. (And if you want an incentive to get Biograph, Dylan's five-verse acoustic original is there -- he foolishly left it off The Time they are a-Changin'). "Baby Blue," again, contains aggressiveness that is that is rather atypical for the Byrds. The title track is of course of a classic, Clark's contributions have great melodies and clever hooks. "The Day Walk" is a very unusual, cool-sounding song, but his vocal is unfortunately a bit murky. "He Was a Friend of Mine" is very moving and lovely (just lose that tambourine!). On the whole, the album only pales in comparison with the first -- if this had been album #1, it would have hailed as classic.

Didier Dumonteil <> (26.02.2001)

The book of Ecclesiaste:what a choice for young dudes like the Byrds!Turn turn turn was appropriate to 1965 in a way songs like my generation were not.dig the lines:a time for peace,I swear it's not to late(the last words are not in the Bible).THe Byrds version is once more far superior to Seeger's flabby renditionThere are 5 originals and all are virtually great,plus two songs they make theirs: a moving "he was a friend of mine" (at the same time,¨Phil Ochs wrote "that was the president")and an ironic Susannah that closes the record .Dylan's "lay down your weary tune" was very interesting because the singer hadn't released his own version then.Don't forget on the reissue the bonus tracks:she don't care about time,a Bach rip off (like the Beach Boys' Lady Lynda), another Gene Clark triumph is the stand-out.

Kevin Baker <> (21.04.2001)

After starting a revolution in the music world with Mr. Tambourine Man, the Byrds figured "hey, why not try it again?" And it works quite well. I even enjoy this one more than Tambourine Man. I may be the only person on this earth who does, but 'tis true, I do. On a song-per-song basis, I personally find this one to be "closer to home" and more fulfilling than Tambourine Man.

Of course, everybody and their uncle's pet French bulldog Phideaux who wears doggie Kwaanzaa sweaters has heard the title track. And probably almost as many love the song, and I'm one of them. The pauses at the end of each verse are really quite nifty, and I don't think anyone had ever tred doing that before this song. Of course, the idea of "start-stop" later was perverted and resulted in Black Dog, but we'll let that one lie. The next song, 'It Won't Be Wrong', is marked by typical Byrds harmony, but it has a bit of a darker edge to it, which certainly gives this otherwise almost banally simple love song a fairly ambiguous element. Track 3, 'Set You Free This Time', is a definite highlight in my book. Very lazy and slow. Worldweary. But that's it's beauty. It's a perfect worldweary song. So is 'Lay Down Your Weary Tune' which follows it. For that matter, worldweary is not a half-bad adjective to attach to this album.

Some people think that song number 5 ('He Was A Friend Of Mine') is just a commonplace folkie lament for JFK. I think it's beautiful. It makes me, a mere teenager, think about what it'd be like to have someone so loved by a nation murdered in cold blood. And I'm a die-hard conservative. However, forget lamentation for JFK, here comes my favorite on the album! 'The World Turns All Around Her' is hands-down the best song Gene Clark every wrote without collaboration. From that crystal-clear jangle that opens the song to the tempo to the words to the vocal delivery.....perfection in my eyes. Ears actually. The next two tracks are fairly unremarkable; I really can't explain why. I suppose they sound too samey after 6 Byrdsongs. However, 'The Times They Are A'Changin' comes in to save the day. Why does everybody and their AUNT (hahahahahahaha! Fooled you!) bash this one? I think it's a great cover of a good Dylan song! The vocals sound scornfully angry at the authorities of the time. This was not the approach Dylan took when he initially did the song, but does that make it bad by default? Of course not! Give it a try with an open mind. 'Wait and See's opening sounds too much like a ripoff of 'The World Turns All Round Her', but the tone is totally a bad way. Too optimistic for thsi album. Finally, we reach the end on a very unusual cover of 'Oh! Susanna'. I think it's kinda cool meself.

But what Byrds re-release would be complete without a jillion and one bonus tracks? This one really wins on the bonuses. 'The Day Walk' is stupid, 'She Don't Care About Time' is quite good, the alternate take of 'The Times They Are A'Changin' is not as good as the original, 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue'.......that one rules! Their best Dylan cover other than 'Tambourine Man'. Why did this one stay in the vaults? The rest of the bonuses are passable to good. Everybody needs some Byrds action in their lives. Who couldn't be nourished by some 12-string jangle and soaring harmony? Of their two folk-rock albums, this is my favorite. A must-have for any Byrdsfan, and also quite a good listen for the casual Byrdsfan.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

And they do the trick again. Same keywords (bar revolutionary , which is its main problem, it seems). I don’t mind. The problem is that the album’s too short (can be said about almost every Byrds’ album). Anyway, forget about Turn! Turn! Turn! being not groundbreaking and similar to the debut, because the songs are catchy. It’s still first-rate folk-rock. The title cut is easily the best here, but the rest are great too (after all, Gene Clark is Gene Clark). I will still lower my rating to a high 13 here as there are fewer songs (a little) and “Oh Susannah” is just a joke (although amusing!). The main flaw (minor flaw, to be more correct) is that the atmosphere is a bit wearier here. Ah, never mind. Great! Great! Great!


Fredrik Tydal <> (17.03.2000)

What makes this album really revolutionary was that it was released *before* Revolver. Which means that The Byrds beat the Fab Four with both psychedelia and sound effects (as in "The Lear Jet Song" and "Yellow Submarine"). Not to mention that Crosby and McGuinn had turned on George Harrison to the music of Ravi Shankar the previous year. While Harrison used a real sitar on "Norwegian Wood", The Byrds couldn't really play the instrument so they decided on emulating it instead (The Byrds actually never used a real sitar on any of their records). This is probably The Byrds' most diverse album, in terms of musical styles; there's space-rock, folk-rock, folk, psychedelic, raga-rock, jazz-rock, rock and roll and even a little blues-rock. Pretty impressive, though The Byrds disliked being catagorized.

This is just a great album, and I too think that it's clearly superior to the previous two efforts.

Didier Dumonteil <> (25.02.2001)

M.Tydal has explained the revolutionnary side of this album quite well.I've got nothing to add to his brilliant statement.I just want to show that,if the Byrds were close to perfection technically,their commitment to their songs was extraordinary.

Take "I come and stand at any door ":This song,the most pessimistic of the whole Byrds canon will move you to tears if you HEAR the words:it's the stolen childhood,the worst crime humanity can commit.This little victim of hiroshima that haunts this dirge can also be an abused child or a starving children in Somalia.

Emotion in John Riley too:the string arrangement is discreet and powerful all at once.Listen closely to the magic moment when the hero reveals her beloved one the truth.We feel happy for them,for two heroes from an old ballad of long ago(There 's a Joan Baez version from the early sixties)

Needless to say the rest of the songs is up to par,but I wanted to focus on the emotional side of the great group.

Glenn Wiener <> (23.01.2002)

Good yes but spectacular no. Some nice harmonies and some pretty chord progressions but the songs in general just lack a little. I guess the song hooks are not as well defined as the say what the Fab Gang would write. Don't get me wrong, 'Eight Miles Hight' sets a groovy mood and David Crosby sounds great on 'What's Happening?' And many of the other songs are pretty cool. However lets say the Byrds with all their strenghts and diversity are just not on the same level as the Beatles, Stones, Who, Clapton, etc....

Bob Josef <> (11.03.2002)

I hate to say it, George, but the presence here of "Eight Miles High" -- which is probably the band's Quintessential Single (the only other possible candidate, of course, is "Mr. Tambourine Man") -- has biased you too much towards giving the album "Quintessential" status.

I have to go with the majority which says that this is the weakest of the band's first five albums. I mean, there is just so much filler. "Lear Jet Song" should be called "Lear Jet Song Fragment" instead -- it's just a chorus dressed up with sound effects. Annoying. And although the Byrds were very versatile, the one genre they could not pull off is black music, as evidenced by the dull jam "Captain Soul."

The band's choice of covers is also not as good this time around. I assume they were trying to avoid seeming too dependent on Dylan and Seeger, but these aren't the best replacements. The overdubbed strings on "John Riley" and "Wild Mountain Thyme" sound like, well, overdubbed strings. The producer evidently added them just for the sake of making the songs sound different, but they sound out of place (it took "Yesterday" and Pet Sounds to show how strings should be integrated into rock tunes). I agree that "I Come and Stand.." is well performed, but it is morbid and a bit heavy handed, like the dated anti-nuke stuff on Simon & Garfunkel's first album. And although I really like the lightspeed guitar and drumming on "Hey Joe", Crosby's ranting vocal (an awful precursor to "Almost Cut My Hair") just obliterates the melody. As for "What's Happening?!", I find it lethargic and lazy, like Cros wrote the song in a foggy pot haze.

What the album needed was more McGuinn, because he was clearly coming into his own without Clark around. "I See You" has more of that crazy cool "Eight Miles" guitar, "Mr. Spaceman" is amusing. And if Roger was upset that ""Eight Miles High" was misinterpreted as an acid song, than why did he release the title track as the next single, which was even more spacy? But it's a pretty cool song. And it was a mistake to leave "Why?" off the album when they were so short of good material.

The bonus tracks do jump the rating by a few points. The early versions of "Eight Miles High" and "Why?" are darker, but still awesome. And it's too bad that "I Know You Rider" and "Psychodrama City" weren't done before the album came out. The latter is at least a bit of an improvement over "What's Happening?!" , and the former is a lot better than the folk tunes they did include. However, the original album does indicate that the Byrds were in a bit of a slump at the time, or being pressured too much for product. It's a good thing this situation did last too long.

Andy Slater <> (28.03.2003)

Not a great album, and one of the lesser played in my collection, but still very good. I really like the chorus to 'Mr. Spaceman', it hits a nerve. 'Eight Miles High' is a top-notch song, and it most certainly was psychedelic: Crosby said, "I didn't think it was a drug song- I knew it was a drug song." Worth purchasing as an early, influential psychedelic rock/ folk rock album. However, I'm pretty sure that this didn't really unduly influence the Jefferson Airplane, who were making their first album at the same time, not later. Maybe it's just a sense of local pride, but by late 1965, and certainly 1966, San Francisco was leading the way and all other scenes, including L.A., were just following the glorious craziness in the Haight.

Pedro Andino <> (01.08.2003)

oh yes! i loved this album so much because it's psychedelic! mr.spaceman is like a sci-fi movie! maybe the byrds watched too many jetsons episodes! '2-4-2 fox trot' is a trip! 'eight miles high' is a daring tripped out song that pussy radio never plays! i loved trippy music! do not bash this or i will kill you! that's just me.

Adrian Subrt <> (22.08.2004)

For the previous two albums, it seems as if the Byrds were hanging around the terminal at LAX researching Bob Dylan and having fun making old folk songs "electrical". Finally, it seems as if one of the members of the Byrds looked out the window and said, "Hey, we could fly in one of those!" David Crosby quickly agreed, and they all started taking acid. This album is where the Byrds finally overcome their fear of flying (except for Gene Clark, who quit the band because he was afraid of it).

Their wonder never reaches higher levels than in the title track. Here, the Byrds boldly proclaim that all science is flawed, and that the universe is truly beautiful and loving, all set to a very pre-'Teach Your Children' vibe. It works as unintentional humour, and as a psychedelic powerhouse. The Byrds take it to an even greater level on the album's big hit, 'Eight Miles High'. A wrecking ball of a Coltrane rip-off (or tribute, as they like to call it), it broke the superstructure of their folk rock leanings, leaving them with just a foundation to build their psychedelic fantasies on.

But they weren't quite ready to build up on that yet, so they decided to play more diverse folk songs. From powerful damnations of World War II American politics ('I Come And Stand At Every Door') to breathtaking vistas of the Irish countryside ('Wild Mountain Thyme'), the dynamic edge of 'Eight Miles High' still lies underneath the surface of these seemingly traditional songs.

In fact, this album is teeming with astral energy. Listening to 'Mr. Spaceman' and '2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)' you can see Syd Barrett buying this album at his local British record shop and seeing it pave the way for Pink Floyd's artistic energy. Even 'John Riley', which is basically an old English folk tale, seems like it came from another dimension. The 5th dimension perhaps? Who knows?

However, this album is flawed. The second half is an incredible letdown. 'Captain Soul' and 'Hey Joe' are half-assed attempts at music that should have been replaced by one of the bonus tracks heard after the album is over, such as 'Psychodrama City' or 'I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider)'. Plus, '2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)' sucks. Why did you put this song on there? Why?

After this 33-minute flight lands at San Diego International Airport, the Byrds have experienced their love of psychedelic and diverse music that will lead them to explorations of new musical territories on the next couple albums. Though not perfect, this album's starting seven is good enough for a low thirteen out of fifteen

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

Third album in a row of folk-rock would be too much even for such a conservative person as I am. So, the guys decided to stop and go into another direction (and thank God they did). Gene is gone. Unfortunately. But, on the other hand, we might have been left with that sound forever, so…

They do a psychedelic album! In 1966! But they are still easily accessible. That guitar is there, the harmonies are there. The songs are more ambitious, really memorable, happy, trippy… In fact, seven undisputed classics in a row. If they managed to carry on, I would have been hooked to death, really. “Hey Joe” is good, but not very interesting; the closing instrumental is memorable, but a little too weird.

A 14!


Fredrik Tydal <> (18.10.99)

Currently on my personal list of most over-looked and under-rated albums of the sixties. This is the Byrds at their very best. If only the line-up would have lasted one, just *one* album more - there wouldn't been any telling what the Byrds might have pulled off.

Joachim Pente <> (20.08.2000)

"Lady friend" is a brassy waste of vinyl? How dare you! I regard it as a masterpiece of pop music: galopping beat, great singing, hilarious instrumentation--what more can you hope for?

Thomas M. Silvestri <> (16.12.2000)

When a group has made as much great music as the Byrds, the question of a favorite album isn't my primary interest. (For those who do go for that sort of thing, I myself might pick 5D, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and the studio album of Untitled if I was limited to three.) But you're way off historically, George, to say there's nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking about this record. Indeed, when it came out in early '67, just about EVERYTHING on it was revolutionary! For starters, no one was as quick (or as clever) as the Byrds in skewering the increasing commercialization of rock 'n' roll as McGuinn and Hillman on "Rock 'n' Roll Star." In case you're wondering what they're specifically referring to, the Monkees' TV show and wretchedly derivative records had debuted only a few months before and L.A. rockers, living in the shadow of Hollywood, were quite struck by this kind of thing. (Stephen Stills and his friend Peter Tork tried out for the TV show, and word is Stills was quite upset when he didn't make it.) "Renaissance Fair," by the way, is a song that everyone thinks is about drugs but is in fact about a visit to the actual yearly Renaissance Faire (a celebration of all things Elizabethan) that was held at that time in Topanga Canyon and today takes place in Glen Helen Regional Park. (That's not to say that the idea of the song or some of its images might not have been inspired by the use of LSD, which had only been declared illegal in America for personal use a few months before the release of this album.) For a real surprise, check out the punk-rock sounding version of "...Fair" on the Monterey Pop Festival boxed set, on which the Byrds turn in a rather terrific (and unjustly criticized -- hell, we can't all the Jimi Hendrix) performance. Assessing the other groundbreaking stuff, let's see..."C.T.A.--102" is arguably the first "space-rock" song. McGuinn always went out of his way to explain that it's about a quasar, and I believe it's also one of the first American songs to feature a Moog synthesizer. Hillman's two country-rockers, "Time Between" and "The Girl with No Name," are absolutely landmark pieces, with only the Beatles, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds themselves having done much experimenting up to this point with what became known as country-rock later on. What's more, both songs feature the astonishing finger-picking guitar work of Clarence White, already a legendary country musician with surprisingly assured rock chops and at that time a guitar and mandolin teacher at the Ash Grove (a nightclub/music school in L.A.), as well as a studio musician and member of the band Nashville West. White and N. West drummer Gene Parsons, of course, helped drive the second-era Byrds to glory under a fairly different musical strategy a few years later. As McGuinn recently commented (I think in the liner notes to a recent reissue of a Byrds album), "Jimi Hendrix used to come up to Clarence at the shows and shake his hand."

It's true enough that the backwards guitar solos on "Thoughts and Words" had already been pioneered on the Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping" almost a year before. But "Thoughts..." is a fabulously moody and evocative rocker just the same, with quintessentially daring harmonies from Crosby, especially on that dreamy, contrapuntal last verse. And "Everybody's Been Burned" is probably within the top five or six most revolutionary songs the Byrds ever did! It's a pure jazz ballad, something almost no rock 'n' rollers had attempted yet, with minor exceptions like the Blues Project and the Springfield. (The latter's somewhat similar-sounding "Pretty Girl Why," which appeared on 1968's Last Time Around, was actually recorded around the time of Younger's... release.) It stands even today as one of Crosby's finest and most experimental songs, both lyrically and musically. It's rarely mentioned that while it was McGuinn who furiously embraced jazz around the time of "Eight Miles High," it was Crosby who first played him the John Coltrane albums that so memorably influenced McGuinn's guitar style. Indeed, in those days little quirks like the jazzy instrumental ending to Moby Grape's "Someday" (released on their first album less than four months after Younger...) were a revelation, with "jazz-rock" not a genre at all until the release a few years later of the first Blood, Sweat, and Tears album, John Mayall's The Turning Point, and, of course, Jethro Tull's This Was. But none of those records approximated the Wes Montgomery-esque, guitar-driven jazz-rock of "Everybody's..." Finally, "Why," originally the B-side of the "Eight Miles High" 45 almost a year before in a somewhat less polished version, is, along with "...High" itself, always cited as one of the first (and best) "raga-rock" songs. Hell, even the frequent use of organ and piano (probably Van Dyke Parks, as on 5D) on the record wasn't at all common among guitar bands of that time. And everything bursting forth here went completely over the top in terms of compositional, musical, and textural brilliance on Notorious... in January of '68. In short, this was just about the most "revolutionary" stuff around and it took many folks years to catch up to it. (Check out the Stones' purely Byrdsy "Child of the Moon," the flip side of the "Jumping Jack Flash" single, released a full year or so after Younger...)

P.S. "Lady Friend" was originally a failed (commercially) if gorgeous (melodically and sonically) 45 from June of ''67. That's Crosby double-tracking the vocal, a first for him in the Byrds, though McGuinn sang the low part when they did it at Monterey minus the horns -- which reminds me, hiring Hugh Masekela to play trumpet on "Rock 'n Roll Star" was also pretty revolutionary! (Hugh and drummer Big Black sat in with the Byrds on "...Star" at Monterey, but you can't really hear them in the mix of the boxed set.) But "Lady Friend" and its country-rock-with-classical-in-the-middle B-side "Old John Robertson" did point the way to the coming triumph of Notorious... ("...Robertson" was rendered more psychedelic by way of a phased remix on Notorious... -- one of the first uses of phasing on a rock record, by the way!) I'd particularly advise Fredrik Tydal to pick up a copy of Notorious..., as despite Crosby's departure halfway through it fully realizes the promise to which he refers in his remarks on Younger... And hey, let's not be too hard on George W. -- he IS a fan of Merle Haggard, without whom there might not be any Byrds, probably wouldn't have been any country-rock, and almost definitely wouldn't have been any Gram Parsons! (who was once supposed to produce an album of Merle's)

P.P.S. Correction re "Lady Friend": If I'm not mistaken, that's Crosby double-tracked vocally on "...Fair" and "It Happens Each Day," too.

Didier Dumonteil <> (01.03.2001)

I know that this album is looked upon by pretty much as the Byrds' peak.(But beware of peaks:see Sgt Pepper's,Pet sounds or Exile on main street ,are they genuine peak for the artists I mention?)AS for the Byds,I have a tendency to prefer the three previous efforts.Part of the reason is simple:David Crosby.I 'm simply allergic to his works when he's on his own.Here he bestows two(yes!) of his efforts on us:the first one is listenable thanks to his mates' treatment,the second one "mind gardens " is a big bore IMHO.The other Byrds didn't want it in the first place.How wise they were!When associated with McGuinn,it's much more worthwhile ("why")But here,the meat can be found in the other tracks:

-"So you wanna be a rock'n roll star,",written with the Monkees in mind,and covered by Patti Smith.A jazz feel filter into it.

-CTA -102 ,the sci fi track,that continues the vein of 'M.Spaceman',and would be imitated by the Stones (Their satanic...),the Jefferson Airplane (Have you seen the saucers?) and countless others...

-Have you seen her face ,Hillman's pop plat du jour.

-My back pages,one of their most successful Dylan cover;there's a second version as a bonus which highlights the organ.

-2 Hillman compositions:time between and girl with no name are forerunners of the country- flavored albums just around the corner.

-And the last Hillman's song recalls "if I needed someone" but we can be indulgent because "if I needed someone " reflected the Byrd's influence.

And in the end,the love they put in this album is equal to the love we take.

Bob Josef <> (11.03.2002)

Now this is definitely more like it. Obviously a response to Revolver, but a lot more unified. Hillman just comes out of nowhere as the dominant songwriter, and his stuff is great. Crosby improves a lot as well. I don't even mind "Mind Gardens," although I can understand why people hate it. To me, the cacophonous guitars suggest a howling storm, with Crossbar's vocal a cry of despair. The only real dog here 's "C. T. A. 102," which may have more sound effects than "Lear Jet Song," but it's still an incomplete song. Why they put that on instead of "It Happens Each Day" (better than any of the Crosby tracks that did make the record) doesn't make much sense.

As for the bonus tracks, I find the "Leslie'd" guitar on the alternate version to be quite overbearing. The original is quite poignant -- I hear a bit of regret in McGuinn's voice. The band finally learned how to put a string section to good use on "Old John Robertson," another very moving tracks. And I agree with the previous writer that you shouldn't have dissed "Lady Friend," another wonderful Crosby track. But I guess I'm the only once who approves of the 1987 mix on the Never Before anthology. Clarke did some drum overdubs which are pushed forward in the mix, but the horn section also is made more prominent, making the song punchier.

I think you should hear The Notorious Byrd Brothers before making judgment on the Best Byrds album, although I go back and forth between them myself.

Bob Josef <> (25.09.2003)

Now this is definitely more like it. Obviously a response to Revolver, but a lot more unified. Hillman just comes out of nowhere as the dominant songwriter, and his stuff is great. Crosby improves a lot as well. I don't even mind "Mind Gardens," although I can understand why people hate it. To me, the cacophonous guitars suggest a howling storm, with Crosby's vocal a cry of despair. The only real dog here is "C. T. A. 102," which may have more sound effects than "Lear Jet Song," but it's still an incomplete song. The reasoning behind putting that on instead of "It Happens Each Day" (better than any of the Crosby tracks that did make the record) doesn't make much sense. As for the bonus tracks, I find the "Leslie'd" guitar on the alternate version of "My Back Pages" to be quite overbearing. The original is quite poignant -- I hear a bit of regret in McGuinn's voice. The band finally learned how to put a string section to good use on "Old John Robertson," another very moving track. And I agree with the previous writer that you shouldn't have dissed "Lady Friend," a wonderful Crosby song. But I guess I'm the only once who approves of the 1987 mix on the Never Before anthology. Clarke did some drum overdubs which are pushed forward in the mix, but the horn section also is made more prominent, making the song punchier. I guess you've heard The Notorious Byrd Brothers and still judge this as the Best Byrds album. I go back and forth between the two myself.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

I agree. It’s their best. Just because everyone (‘cept Clarke) writes some songs and the number of covers is very close to zero (though Dylan’s cover is great as usual, if not a bit better). So, are these songs great? Yeah, and diverse, too. Interesting, one of the most diverse bands made only one diverse album. Hillman’s tracks are particularly strong: “Have You Seen Her Face?” is perfect pop, “Time Between” (the first song of its kind) is perfect country. But my favourite is probably David’s “Everybody Has Been Burned”, where the melody is not very evident but it’s not the point as the atmosphere is so pleasantly dreary. His “Mind Garden”, while the weakest song here (as everybody tells you), still has its Crosby’s charm. Needless to say, their most representative album. (Maybe) should be your first buy. Their highest 14 ever!


Adrian Denning <> (05.05.2002)

I knew there was some reason I liked this album, and when you compare it in terms of length to an early Beach Boys record, it's all fallen into place! The running order of the tracks was chosen almost at random but once played back, there was no doubting it was the correct order for these particular songs. The flow of this record is wonderful and half of the reason I believe it works so well.

Mark Konzerowsky <> (05.05.2002)

(Hi George, another excellent review, cheers! Please let me add another short comment here, to "redeem" myself in your worthy eyes for my earlier Uriah Heep praises!) Actually, the hidden track documents the 5 million failed takes of "Dolphin's Smile", not "Change is Now", and that's David Crosby hectoring poor clueless Michael Clarke (and later, Chris Hillman leading the "Fuck you! No, fuck YOU!!!" exchange!). Is it only me that really relishes the grotesque irony of such a pathetic melee ensuing during the recording of one of the Byrd's most truly "pacific" songs? TNBB is easily my favorite of the Byrd's original-lineup-era lp's. Yes, due to the conflicts of perspective/attitude/recreational poisons of choice,etc.,it may also be their most schizophrenic and disjointed (I said MAY be! Get a copy of Byrdmaniax and compare, haha!) release, but cut for cut, it continues to astound, inspire, resonate, and revelate as strongly to these long-ago-jaded ears of mine as it did upon my first listen (many more moons ago than I'd care to reveal to the kids who may be reading this!). I guess "Draft Morning", "Wasn't Born To Follow", and "Natural Harmony" are my especial desert island compilation slices du jour off this platter o' platitudes, and let me add I think the "phasing" effect on WBTF is used to quite mindblowing effect! And oh! good god, let us never forget the earth-epochal/ Music-of-the -Spheres/near-paradigm-shift-eruption-in-49-notes-or-less, ahem, "guitar solo" in "Change Is Now" (Clarence White, by the way,NOT McGuinn!). "When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake!" And as an added bonus, the cover art contains a deliberate snub of the departed "guru" Crosby--three Byrds and a Horse!!! MAN, was he pissed when he saw that!!! Every picture tells a story,eh??? Definitely a high 13 in my book.

Dan Marshall <> (09.09.2002)

HEY GEORGE, I think you need to give The Notorious Byrd Brothers a couple more spins and revise your review, including some facts. For a start, you're wrong on saying that there is no conception on this album. Heck, it's probably the most conceptual album ever made. In case you're interested, the overall theme is a search for the innocence of childhood, which seems to have been lost in the turbulent decade of the 60's. This is something every single song addresses. If you couldn't even find a connection between two of the songs, say, for example, "Natural Harmony" (in which people "dancing in the street side by side" is imagined) and "Change is Now" (in which we are urged to "dance to the day when fear is gone"), I can only conclude that you didn't pay shit worth of attention to this album.

And, by the way, how original would it have been if "Space Odyssey," an Anglo-Saxon-styled ballad, was done to an acoustic guitar? Isn't that the way Anglo-Saxon ballads had always been played until then? The song is about space exploration, hence the "spacey moog." Give the Byrds some credit for being original.

As for "Tribal Gathering," it's no throwaway to me. I think it is by far the catchiest song on the album, especially with it's speedy psychedelic chord arrangement. Most critics actually think it's one of the highlights of the album.

Notorious is an easy 9 for me, a pleasant, sometimes startling, and mature album. Had "Triad" been put in the original version, this album would be a 10.

Bob Josef <> (27.09.2003)

Both you and John McFerrin downgrade this to a 7 from the last album. Even if you don't think it's the best, I still think it's much higher up there in quality than you guys do. I do agree that it's not as up front and accessible at first, with all sorts of weird production twists. And the vocals seem more distant and ethereal than ever before. Nonetheless, there are wonderful hooks everywhere and excellent, thoughtful lyrics. The Carole King covers are marvelous, much more interesting and innovative than her own versions (which are really nice anyway, don't get me wrong!). And I disagree about "Space Odyssey" -- at last, they come up with an actual song about sci-fi (as opposed to the throwaway fragment of "C.T.A. 102"). I do think the phasing effects are a bit unnecessary on the "Old John Robertson" remix and obscure the charm of the song somewhat. I'd stick with the single version (now on YtY). However, despite the lack of commercial success, it shows that the Byrds were capable of keeping up with their peers in musical advancement, even as they were falling apart.

I wonder about "Artificial Energy" -- is that Michael Clarke singing? It's the first (but, unfortunately, not the last) time that a Byrds lead vocal is mediocre -- it doesn't sound like the other Byrds. He co-wrote the song, and the lyrical couplet at the end is a jolt: "I'm coming down on amphetamines/And I'm jail 'cause I killed a queen." Drug abuse in 1967, yes, but gay-bashing?! Only Lou Reed dared to write similar stuff at the time.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

Come on, a bleak 11? Deserves more. To tell the truth, the album needs many many listens to fall under its charm. It differs greatly from their previous works and seems more well thought and more serious. At first the album was like very unimaginative atmospheric music for me. Then I started to find one exciting moment after another. Now I know for sure (as it seems): NBB is a very beautiful flow of wonderful ideas. No truly bad songs (I admit that the last one kinda grags, though), but they don’t really matter individually. A great music exploration (you’ll find here many special effects) it is. Let this album get under your skin, it’s that kind of a record. A perfect 13! Why only a 13? I don’t know, but it’s too short for that kind of a record. Ha.

Oh, and Crosby’s “Triad” is amazing (better than Airplane’s). Should have been on the album, no doubts about that!


Gustavo Rodriguez <> (19.06.99)

If you like, understand, or are able to appreciate country music, this is a great album. You're right, George: people looking to hear the beginnings of "country rock" will be disappointed. It's not absolutely pure country music, but a new take on the genre. I personally love this album and I don't find it dated--quite the opposite in fact. It was, and still is an incredibly bold and daring move for a band like the Byrds to make. Over the past few years I've changed my mind about country music and have grown to admire a lot of classic artists of that genre and I owe a lot of that to Gram Parsons. He really was a major artist and influence on many of his contemporaries. It seems his enthusiasm was absolutely infectious. Songs like the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women", "Wild Horses", etc. had more than a little to do with the presence of Gram Parsons. If there's a major flaw with the album it's that Parson's lead vocals are limited to three songs. The reissue is great for that reason. You get to hear some of the songs as they were originally intended. You forgot to mention that there is another Parsons original "One Hundred Years From Now" and "Lazy Days" (one of the bonus tracks).

As for your comment that all the tracks seem samey and boring, I have to disagree, but I can understand how some uninitiated country listeners might feel that way. Country music, like the blues and early rock n' roll relies on simple familiar melodies and the same three or four chords. This album like most country albums is less about musical invention that it is about creating a mood or an attitude. That's probably why the Byrds did mostly covers: they were learning this music as they went along. "You Don't Miss Your Water" is a fantastic track and so is "The Christian Life" (a very gutsy choice for a rock band). I also love the Dylan songs too. "Hickory Wind"'s popularity escaped me at first, but now, like a lot of Parson's music, has really sunk in. I also highly recommend his two solo albums G.P. and Grievous Angel.

I may be branded a blasphemer, but for me this is the only Byrds album worth owning. For me this album was their finest hour and what made them truly stand out from everybody else. I'll take Parsons over Crosby and Clarke any day. Their other stuff, to me, personally sounds a bit dated and bores me easily (although I do like to hear some of their hits once in a while).

Parsons WAS a musical and lyrical geinius. You should really check out his solo work and Flying Burrito Brothers stuff with Hillman. Look at the lyrics for "$1000 Wedding" and "The New Soft Shoe" and you might see what I mean. He was really on the verge of something great when he died.

Joachim Pente <> (20.08.2000)

You're so right, George. This album is a great, big bore. I bought it twenty, no, thirty years ago, and I still wonder why when I listen to it every once in a while, hoping to find the hidden hook at last. It just refuses to grow on me, except for "You ain't goin' nowhere", but this one didn't ever have to grow on me. To me this meant the end of the Byrds as we knew them.

Kevin Baker <> (28.11.2000)

Being a native Texan, I've grown up listening to country music.  I'm no expert on any kind of music, mind you---I'm just the normal opinionated listener.  I personally enjoy Sweetheart of the Rodeo.  I have to agree with you that 'You Ain't Going Nowhere' is the best song.  Granted, I far prefer material from the Clark and Crosby eras, but 'YAGN' is one of the best "late-period" Byrdsongs I have ever heard.  I don't particularly care for 'I Am A Pilgrim' or 'The Christian Life'; I respect the lyrical content, but I just don't care for the sound.  The tinkly honky-tonk piano on 'You Don't Miss Your Water' saves the song from sharing the same fate as its two preceding tracks.  'You're Still On My Mind' is a great country song, even on the level of Hank Williams.  I never liked 'Pretty Boy Floyd' UNTIL I read the book The Grapes Of Wrath.  A little more familiarity with the subject and original composer added a new dimension to it, and I'm genuinely impressed with the arrangment of the very traditional bluegrass/country instruments.  I like 'Hickory Wind' a great deal; the steel guitar on it is simply phenomenal.  'One Hundred Years From Now' is decent; too bad they couldn't have gotten Crosby to participate with the vocals.  That would have made a perfect meld of "early" and "late" Byrds sound.  I enjoy 'Blue Canadian Rockies'; it perfectly (for me) creates a very lonesome but lovely mood.  Mood-and-environment creating is what good country is all about.  Thats often why country can sound generic more so than other genres.  I really don't care for 'Life In Prison'; Parsons didn't even want it on the album.  'Nothing Was Delivered' ends the album on a note almost as high as the one it started on; I simply love the steel guitar at the very start, and this track actually has a more rock-style rythm track.  On the bonuses, I could have done without the Parsons vocals track versions.  'You Got A Reputation' is groovy, 'Pretty Polly' is a good modern take on what McGuinn called "nasal Appalachian stuff", 'Lazy Days' is alright, and I could survive without 'All I Have Are Memories'.

Thomas M. Silvestri <> (03.12.2000)

I loved the Bakers' remarks on this album, not only for their musical value but for the cultural context in which they were placed -- George himself might dig this disc a little more if he read The Grapes of Wrath! (I doubt if anything short of a trip back through time to the Sunset Strip circa '65 would help Tikhonov Konstantin get hip to the Byrds.) But I gotta wonder how any native Texan could dislike "Life in Prison," a great song (sung so soulfully here by Parsons) from one of the greatest country artists ever (Merle Haggard) who gets a yearly birthday phone call from the current governor of Texas and likely next president of the U.S.! (Got that off a piece and actually, ol' Merle didn't make it entirely clear whether he was saying he gets the call from George Sr. or W. -- I could make some really bad jokes here about alcohol and brain cells, but let's move on.) More seriously, those who don't go for Hillman's reading of "I Am a Pilgrim" might try Sam Cooke's rather different (to say the least) take on the song back when he was still in the '50s gospel group the Soul Stirrers. And more directly to the Bakers: You weren't the only ones wondering what Crosby's harmonies would sound like over this type of stuff, as that's David himself singing the harmony to Gram's vocal on "Do Right Woman" on the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, The Gilded Palace of Sin.

P.S. to Tull fanatic Mr. Konstantin: I just got an e-mail from Mick Abrahams and he says the Burritos are one of his all-time favorite bands! (He covers the classic "My Uncle" from the first Burritos LP on his recent One album, on which Anderson guests on several tracks.)

Didier Dumonteil <> (26.02.2001)

A bit overrated by the critics,it's nevertheless this album that spawned the country craze :Nashville skyline came a year after!It's pleasant, laid-back ;the covers are in majority but it's a well chosen menu:you ain't goin' nowhere,the Christian life,hickory wind and you don't miss your water stand out.The Byrds would produce one more very good album:untitled now a double CD with inissued!

Bob Josef <> (29.09.2003)

The boxed set has enough of the original album tracks, alternate versions and outtakes to give one a good sense of the record. And my take on it: what IS the big deal here? It's supposed to be the first country rock album, but there's no rock! I guess a "return to the roots" thing was inevitable for the Byrds -- every other major rock band was heading that way in 1968 -- but there's not much that's particularly all that interesting here. A rock band doing a pleasant, but ordinary, country music album may have been novel back then, but that novelty has pretty much worn off. I agree with everybody else that "YAGN" is by far the best song. I also agree that it's better than Dylan's own version. Bob actually recorded a proper studio version (on Greatest Hits 2) and added more lyrics that are even goofier, but McGuinn adds an emotional resonance that Dylan's actually lacks. I also have to go with the vast majority and vote "Hickory Wind" as # 2 -- I find the nostalgia in the lyrics (which are really unlike the rest of the album) very moving, with the slow melody and Gram's vocal perfect for them.

As for the rest, I don't mind them while they're on, but they're not something I would play over and over again, like the first five albums. I guess I wish that Parsons had never come along and, basically, ruined the Byrds' original sound, which was evolving along rather nicely without him, thank you very much. He didn't even stay in the band long enough to see the album actually released! The group was never the same after his disruption.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

My idea is that these songs are good. They just can’t make a truly great record being packed in just one album (turn into a bit boring and monotonous). But once again: the songs are good. Are you seriously telling me you that “Hickory Wind” and “You’re Still On My Mind” are not beautifully written country songs? On the other hand, I have to agree: the album is not really very interesting as a whole thing (despite being revolutionary). These guys seriously needed to be more diverse on their individual albums! Really, if you mix the songs from first six albums and get new ones, it would be fantastic and would score rather high grades. Still, I’m not gonna give a low one here. A high 11 or a low 12. But if you’re a fan of country music…


Greg Bischoff <> (19.10.99)

how could you put down the rock numbers of Dr. Byrds? 'This Wheel's On Fire' kicks ass. I tell you this version of the Dylan number on here is a lot better than the cheap version some stupid blues band from your country tried to do. 'Child of the Universe' is great too, try to get your head out of your mudhole and have a heart for some good music.

Matthew Wunsch <> (23.02.2001)

Clarence White never took a "generic" or "metallic" solo in his life. He was an innovator on the acoustic and electric guitar who played with precision and taste.

You need to listen to Untitled, and pay close attention to the musicianship, I think you have overplayed the early Byrds stuff and are missing the point of their later works.

To a man, the later Byrds were much better players, especially live. Check out Live at the Fillmore, and hear the genius of White, McGuinn, Parsons and York.

p.s. your reviews are at least amusing, and you certainly seem to put a good deal of effort into your writing.

Pedro Andino <> (16.11.2004)

hey asshole! have you seen the movie mackenna's gold?! the byrds are trying to make a soundtrack outta that movie! the wheel's on fire can be a battle theme! guns shooting in the desert! candy can be the love theme! the blues jam at the end is the powerful ending when the man and his enemy are at the bridge full of dynamite! BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM! ANYHOW ENJOY WHEN YOU DIE! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Richard Nightingale <> (02.06.2004)

Blimey George!!!!

Are we listening to the same album? Although nowhere near the standards set by the earlier albums this is still a fine example of late 60's country rock. As far as i'm concerned this is the last consistent album they made. There's some pretty damn fine guitar playing on this album. Clarence white was certainly a great musician when doing country or rock. Gene parsons drumming however sounds a bit clumsy. This is the only album the Byrds made that has Roger Mcguinn singing lead on all the songs.Maybe that's why it holds together better than the later albums that followed it. Not a masterpiece i admit, but certainly worth a listen. This album is far better than Farther Along. I'm still in shock after reading your review of that album.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

Their classic period is over and the songs start to get rather plain. The album is very patchy, I must note. The songs are more or less decent. McGuinn is a good songwriter, but he simply can’t do that alone (“but how, how can you do it alone?”). Anyway, I like the opening hard rocking “This Wheel’s On Fire” with a great vocal delivery from Roger, “Drivin’ Man” is a pleasant enough country song, “Your Gentle Ways” is very nice, too. But let’s be honest, there is not a single great track here. And some material is truly bad, like the hopeless medley, which is just awful. To sum it up: very inconsistent, not very interesting album with a number of enjoyable moments that make the album a “good, but flawed” experience. I give this a 10 overall, of course.


No reader comments yet.


Fredrik Tydal <> (05.07.2000)

Knowing that their association with the Easy Rider movie would generate much-needed publicity for the group, McGuinn took great care to put together a really solid, professional album. And he succeded, to a certain degree. The album is throughly enjoyable, with few drawbacks. The title track is great, of course, used in the final scene and closing credits of the classic movie. The Byrds take on the song is, however, far superior to the minimally arranged McGuinn solo version used in the movie. To me, there's just one stinker on the album; "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue". What was McGuinn thinking? It's practically anti-Byrds with that dragging, sleeeepy arrangement. It's in fact, possibly along with the Grateful Dead's "Attics Of My Life", the song in my collection most likely to put anyone to sleep. Apart from that, I mostly agree with your review. A small gem in the otherwise much bashed late-period Byrds catalogue.

Pedro Andino <> (16.11.2004)

the title track is sweet then the other tracks are worthy! gunga din county blue fido! are all great! the space theme works wonders too ! for you it is certinly a comeback from the dr byrds fiasco! remember this album is powered by telstar and quastar!

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

Good. Ballad Of Easy Rider is a very humble and pleasant sounding album. No revolutions, no diversity, but the songs are quite solid (well, not THAT solid, but still good). This effort is definitely more consistent than DBAMH. The highlights include the absolutely gorgeous title track, the catchy “Jesus Is Just Alright” and the upbeat “Fido”. There is not much to say about this album. It’s rather monotonous, very atmospheric and not ambitious at all. An 11?


Dan Marshall <> (24.09.2002)

Okay, George, I agree with a lot of what you say about Untitled but, of course, not everything (big surprise, huh?). It is definitely the latter-day Byrds (or Neo-Byrds) at their best. This album has a lot of highlights, many of which rival the best of the early Byrds. For CD 1, the live material is great, much better than the Live at the Fillmore performances. "Lover of the Bayou" is especially good proof that The Byrds could really rock when they wanted to. How 'bout Clarence White's playing on that? By the way, I live very close to where Clarence is buried, in Lancaster, CA, and to see that guitar engraved on his tombstone is really something. Back to the album, on all the live tracks the more powerful guitars really give the songs some extra kick, especially "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star." For the studio work, "Take a Whiff On Me" is the only song I really think is lousy. They repeat that chorus just too many damned times, and it sounds rushed to me. I agree that "Chestnut Mare" would have been more preferable if it had ALL been sung. "Just a Season" is absolutely amazing, with the purest blend of Folk and Rock I've ever heard. It has the most spine-tingling chimes I've ever heard too. But, with "Yesterday's Train," I think you were a little harsh, George. First of all, it is somewhat erroneous to refer to this as a Battin tune, considering that Gene Parsons was the primary writer of this song, sang it, and the song has Parson's style written all over it. Think "There Must Be Someone." I love this song, and I think Sneaky Pete's steel guitar ADDS to its soft, flowing appeal. And, George, I don't understand your remark about getting George Harrison. Afterall, Harrison got Eric Clapton whenever he wanted some good guitar work. Think "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." To me, "You All Look Alike" is a good, meaningful song, with quite a catchy mixture of Country fiddling with Rock. Finally, I think CD 2 is an interesting listen to alternate recordings of familiar songs, though none of it has the quality of what can be heard on CD 1. If there is one part I monumentally disagree with you on, George, it is definitely your take on CD 2's "Lover of the Bayou." I personally think it sucks. It is waaaaaayyy tooooooo sloooooowww (get the idea?). The guitar work drags compared to the live version; It sounds as if Clarence White had to slow it down too much just so that it doesn't pass up McGuinn's far-too-lagging vocals. The playing isn't as dynamic, thrilling, or spontaneous as the live version's. I could also do without that annoying bluesy harmonica. The rest of CD 2, again, is just a neat little look at alternate approaches, which is actually a Big welcome for a Byrds fan like me. Anyway, with or without CD 2, I give Untitled an 8; if you were doing halves, I'd give it an 8 1/2. The Byrds were rarely this consistent before, and never after.

Bob Josef <> (21.07.2006)

Segregate the live stuff on one disc and the studio on the other, and this new reissue comes out better than you might think. The live stuff is where the new lineup struts its stuff, instrumentally, anyway, I agree. They were really good musicians, but sometimes they get a little too busy. I'm not sure that "Mr. Tambourine Man" or "Mr. Spaceman", for instance, needed all that noodling going on in the background. At least McGuinn retains the basic vocal melodies, and I do find his new, slightly rough vocals somehow appealing, even if the backing vocals are no longer the tight harmonies of the original lineup. I do have mixed feelings about "Eight Miles High". It would have been nice to hear most of the actual song, and the showbizzy ending is pretty corny. Again, though, they do get it on instrumentally. The unissued live stuff -- from a different show -- sounds even better. The vocals are still pretty rough -- the harmonies on "Jesus is Just Alright" and "Take a Whiff on Me" don't quite make it. The latter gets an interesting electric arrangement, as does "You Ain't Going Nowhere" and "Ballad of Easy Rider". "It's Alright, Ma" comes of fantastically. "This Wheel's on Fire" is tons better than the studio version, without that overdone production. The boxed set also has three songs from yet another show on the tour -- another live "Lover on the Bayou" which is even better than the one here; a nice live version of "Willin' "; and a short jam called "Black Mountain Rag", along the lines of "Nashville West", but acoustic. More proof that the guys could play. The studio stuff is more problematic. While Battin, Parsons and White were strong musicians, as singers and songwriters, they just were not up to the standards set by McGuinn, who was certainly challenged by Crosby, Hillman and Clark. For instance, "Truck Stop Girl" and "Willin' " are good songs, but they're good Little Feat songs -- there's nothing Byrdsian about them. The former (as is Litttle Feat's version), for instance, is totally dominated by piano -- the Byrds are a guitar band. Plus White's rather flat, nasal vocal isn't up to snuff. "Yesterday's Train" is, I think, a bit better in the all acoustic alternate version -- nicely played and sung. As for Battin, his stuff isn't terrible (at least here, but I don't tihnk it's by chance that there is only one song he sings and none he wrote on the boxed set), but he doesn't seem capable of coming up with anything but pedestrain blues/rock chord sequences. "Welcome Back Home" actually has a catchy chorus, but he delivers another flat lead vocal. As for the ending, I actually expected a fadout with an endless acapella chant, along the lines of Pink Floyd's "Absolutely Curtains". Instead, the mumbled Buddhist phrase sounds totally out of place on top of that too long jam. Really dumb move.

So, McGuinn, not too surprisingly, comes up with the only real Byrds stuff. "Chestnut Mare" is indeed a classic, and we finally have the definitive studio version of "Lover on the Bayou" (his wimpy solo remake didn't cut it). The alternate "All The Things" is the one they should have used. The piano one is nice, but this one has more of the 12 string, which is what we need from the Byrds. The boxed set also has an (slightly) alternate mix of "Just a Season" and another extract from "White's Lightning", but you don't need those if you've got this.

I actually e-mailed McGuinn and asked him if they knew Little Feat, and how they got those songs, which were actually recorded before Little Feat did theirs for their first album. He actually replied and said that Gene Parsons brought those in, and that's all he knew. Unfortunately, I can't find an e-mail address for Parsons..


David Gould <> (03.02.2003)

well your's is the first positive review of this album that i think ive ever seen. but i gotta correct you on two things:

1) thats clarence white singing on "jamaica say you will" and "my destiny".

2) the use of all the overdubs was down to producer terry melcher, who did so supposedly without the byrds' knowledge or consent. so for that reason the byrds themselves hate this album. For example, on gene parson's Kindling Collection (his debut solo album and songs he wrote in the byrds and flying burrito brothers) he leaves out "green apple quick step" from this album, and clarence white claims they did a much better take of "Jamaica...", which terry melcher didnt use. even byron berline criticises melcher's production of "green apple....", on which he plays the fiddle.

but i do think this album is usually treated a little harshly. listening to the whole album leaves me totally unsatisfied, but the individual songs are mostly nice ("pale blue" and "absolute happiness" being my favourites), just with terrible production. "tunnel of love" is absolutely horrid though.

Alexey Provolotsky <> (04.07.2005)

I had the album some time ago and gave it a couple of listens. It’s no good. Well, I actually enjoyed both the opener and the closing cover, but that stuff in the middle IS NOT THE BYRDS! Very mediocre and truly lifeless. I kinda liked the humorous “I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician”, ‘cause it’s quite catchy and short (I taped the three mentioned for myself, actually). I do admit that the album is listenable and there is nothing offensive about it. But I want more. So, a good 9 overall is all I can give this album.


Richard Nightingale <> (05.04.2004)

Bag of pants George! I don't like anything on this album. It's all so boring and generic. A huge shame as The Byrds are my favourite band. But this wasn't really the Byrds was it?. In fact this album really stinks!!!!!! And while i'm at it New Morning by Dylan is crap aswell.


Didier Dumonteil <> (18.02.2001)

This lp won almost universally lousy reviews and i've always thought it was unfair.First of all,with Young's decision not to release on the beach on CD ,it's the only place you can find his "see the sky(about to rain)";the difference between the two versions is amazing:Neil Young 's one is depressing,lugubrious,wistful(that doesn't mean bad,au contraire);the byrds' if gleeful,cheerful,with a full chorus,in a word :contagious.

It's the best track but some are pleasant too:clark's 'changing heart',Hillman's titbits -'things will be better' and 'borrowing time'-,and the other young's cover"cowgirl"

On the minus side 2 painful Crosby songs and- I totally agree with you- a very poor Mitchell tune.I've never understood the strong cult this songstress enjoys while so many female artists remain underrated-the wonderful buffy sainte-marie,the mcgarrigle sisters,even nico and (gulp) yoko!-.

You're right:definetely not abbey road,by a long shot,but not the miserable end most critics say.


Didier Dumonteil <> (17.08.2004)

A propos "I'm so restless":the first verse (Hey Mister D....)was aimed at Dylan himself,the second one (Hey Mister L ....) at Lennon and the last one (Hey Mister J) at Jagger.Homage or irony?Probably both


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Bob Josef <> (09.04.2004)

Yes, a rather nice comeback for Roger here. It's a little bit slick, I suppose, but I do prefer it to the back-to-the-roots approach of the latter day Byrds or his earlier solo albums. Melodically, it's quite strong, and the whacked out 12-string is all over the place. And his voice at least sounds a lot better than Brian Wilson's at this point. I think the weakest track is "King of the Hill," which sounds like a monotonous reject from one of Petty's own albums rather than a prime song. My main gripe with Roger's originals is the lyrics -- I find his similes in "Gold Mine" to be quite ridiculous and unconvincing. Wife Camilla either provides awkward social commentary ("The Trees are All Gone") or trite love songs ("Without Your Love," "Someone to Love"). Maybe he should have called Jacques Levy? The best of these is the interesting story line in "Car Phone," although it's dated by now. Maybe he should rewrite it as "Cell Phone." But I can forgive the lyrics, since the melodies and performances are quite good. As for the covers, Roger did well. Jules Shear is a pretty obvious and smart choice. But one wouldn't think an Elvis Costello song would work with a Byrds sound, but it does. All in all, anyone who likes the sound of the original Byrds would like this updated version.

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