After the terrible reception 1971's Byrdmaniax had recieved, The Byrds were keen to win back the favour of both their fans and the critics. They quickly started work on the next album whilst they were on tour in England, recording most of it in London. They got rid of producer Terry Melcher, who they blamed for the failure of Byrdmaniax, and produced the new record themselves, going for a more stripped-down style.
However the resultant album, Farther Along, was another strange one which did little to please the fans and gave the critics plenty of ammunition. It was actually almost a complete stylistic turnaround, much of it being in the style of 50s rock & roll. With a cover of The Fiestas' "So Fine" and several band originals in a similar style, it must have confused many listeners who were hoping for some Byrds-style folk-rock or country-rock. The only single from the album was bassist Skip Battin's vaudeville-styled novelty song "America's Great National Pastime", and it went nowhere on the charts. There were a few exceptions though. Guitarist Clarence White (who previously had only sung on a few songs for the band) sang two excellent pieces of rootsy country-rock, Larry Murry's "Bugler" and the traditional gospel song "Farther Along", complete with mandolin. These numbers are often considered the highlights of the album.
Overall it's certainly not a bad album, but its understandable that it was not received well at the time, especially as it was an attempt to patch up the damage done by Byrdmaniax.
Despite the failure of their last two albums, The Byrds continued to tour, as they were still considered a top live act. In the summer of 1972 Roger McGuinn fired drummer Gene Parsons, and he was replaced by John Guerin, who toured with them into 1973 before he too left. Next McGuinn fired Battin, and called on original founding bassist Chris Hillman to help for a few gigs, who also brought with him percussionist Joe LaLa (who Hillman was playing with in Manassas) to take the drum seat. However the gigs with this lineup were shambolic, and at last McGuinn called it quits and cancelled their remaining concerts. Clarence White went on to join bluegrass group Muleskinner, but sadly died later that same year. The five original members (McGuinn, Hillman, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke) then reunited for a final album before The Byrds were put to rest.
Byrdmaniax (1971) <|> Byrds (1973)
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