The Byrds - Byrds (1973)

The Byrds were an influential American rock band who in the 60s were pioneers in the genre of folk-rock, and later both psychedelic rock and country-rock.

By 1972 The Byrds were nearing the end of the end of the line - Roger McGuinn (the only remaining founding member) had led the band since the late 60s, but he had become dissatisfied with the group as their later albums had not sold well and had generally been dismissed by the critics (though its worth noting that the band were still considered a top live act). At the same time, the other four original members (Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke) all found themselves at loose ends, and the idea of a reunion was brought up. David Geffen approached the five of them with an offer to record for his Asylum label, and the deal was done. Whilst the McGuinn-led Byrds still performed live, the five original Byrds got to work in the studio.
The album came out in 1973. It featured two songs from each member (with the exception of drummer Michael Clarke), plus three covers - one Joni Mitchell song, and two Neil Young numbers. The result was not quite the sound of a unified band, but rather a loose arrangement of solo artists, which is understandable. Stylistically it incorporated a broad range of folk-rock sounds, with the original lineup's trademark 12-string guitar jangle noticeably absent, but with excellent vocal harmonies (plus some good mandolin from Hillman, and harmonica from Clark). The star of the show was definately Clark, who contributed the two best original songs (one of which, "Full Circle", he had already done before on his Roadmaster album), and sang on the two Neil Young covers which were also highlights ("Cowgirl In The Sand" and "See The Sky About To Rain"). It is claimed that the other members held back their best material, keeping it for their solo careers.
The album recieved generally poor reviews, and has been dismissed by all five Byrds themselves as a generally rushed and badly thought out project. Such criticism is perhaps a bit harsh, as it is indeed a very good album, with certain highlights being particularly good - certainly not worthy of instant dismissal! However after its release all five of them went back to what they were doing before, and the brief reunion was over.
McGuinn himself went back to his own touring version of the Byrds, but it didn't last much longer as he soon brought it to a close and the Byrds name was finally put to rest. He released his first solo album later that year.

Farther Along (1971) <|
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Anonymous said...

had this on vinyl since it was first released. it remains my favorite Byrds album.

david said...

could have been a classic, with less covers, better production, and more Gene Clark originals.