The Byrds Song Reviews
Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
Read the full review:
Mr. Tambourine Man 10/10
Their classic hit single sparked a revolution! (I can write infomercials, too --- I recently applied for a copywriter position, but I was turned down faster than it takes me to empty my bowels.) Oh, but let's be fair. This track was a new idea at the time, and it certainly gave the Beatles something fun to work on when they released their excellent Rubber Soul album. The jangly, 12-string guitar work never sounded this special, and neither did the original Bob Dylan composition. Their work with harmonies are absolutely heartmelting. Dylan's version will always be more soul-tugging, but this is prettier.
I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better 9.5/10
This seems like one of the many songs that borrowed The Searchers' "Needles and Pins" riff. Well, it's a good riff, and they are definitely making lovely music with it. The melody is fine although the song's strengths lie in the instrumentation and the harmonies.
Spanish Harlem Incident 8/10
Another Dylan cover, "Spanish Harlem Incident" certainly doesn't manage to surpass the quality of the Dylan original. This version just seems flat to me and the vocals sound like they're sleepwalking. As we all hopefully know, Dylan's vocals are absolutely soul-shattering. This version doesn't sound that inspired. That's just one man's opinion.
You Won't Have to Cry 8.5/10
To be fair, The Byrds were inspired by The Beatles as well! This could have appeared on an early Beatles album, and nobody would have been surprised by it. (Well, the guitars I guess would have been new.) The melody is good though they clearly were inferior songwriters to the Fab Four. But that's such a huge standard; this song is very catchy.
Here Without You 9.5/10
I used to not like this song for a reason that I don't remember. It's another Byrds original, and it sounds more specific to their style. The melody is pretty, and the 12-string guitars are very calming. This is a nice song in particular.
The Bells of Rhymney 8.5/10
This is Dylan cover #3, and it is quite gorgeous and haunting. The melody is quite good, and I enjoy the instrumentation they employ. The guitars are particularly layered on thick with this track.
All I Really Want to Do 9.5/10
This has a really nice melody, and it really suits the Byrds style enormously well. Their use of harmonies here is nearly intoxicating. But the melody seems rather inconsequential to me. Well, who cares when those twelve-string guitars are hypnotizing me!
I Knew I'd Want You 9/10
Here is another one of The Byrds more intoxicating tracks. It has a pretty melody and another great example of these fangled 12-string guitars. The vocal harmonies are quite excellent here. By the way, this sounds so much like the Moody Blues used it to write "Nights in White Satin!" It just reminds me of that song --- very uncanny.
It's No Use 8/10
It contains some Chuck Berry-esque electric guitars, which gives it a different sound from all the others. However, this track honestly doesn't do much to inspire me. I don't find the melody to be that special, and even too repetitive and it grows dull by the end of its run.
Don't Doubt Yourself 8/10
This is another 12-string jangly pop rock track ... if you're worried about getting tired of their sound, then don't worry --- it'll probably happen! I enjoy the melody, and these guys surely sounded like they knew how to instrument it. But are they just going through the motions? I'll let you sort that one out.
Chimes of Freedom 9/10
Here is another one of their Dylan covers. I enjoy this song as usual. The melody is quite catchy. I would like to write more about it, but this sounds exactly like all the other songs!!
We'll Meet Again 9/10
This is the cover of that old-timey song that appeared at the end of Dr. Strangelove. For some reason, I really enjoy this song. Maybe I'm too old fashioned for rock.
"She Has a Way" sounds exactly like the early Beatles, but somebody turned down the tempo knob, and the vocals are boring.
"I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" is an "alternate version" that sounds the same to me. Obviously these bonus releases were meant for the goofy fans who have every single note and tone memorized!
Again with this alternate version of "It's No Use" ... I think I can detect some differences, but I honestly don't care enough about it to really analyze it. This version does seem rawer somehow.
"You Won't Have to Cry" is another useless bonus track!
"All I Really Want to Do" ditto. The production doesn't sound as thick here, so the album version is much better!
"You and Me" is finally a song that didn't already appear on the album. It's an instrumental, blues jam session of sorts. It's not that fun though --- mostly inconsequential.
Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)
Read the full review:
Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) 10/10
This is the classic old song on this album if you haven't been clued into that yet! This is a cover of a Pete Seeger song, and it's quite an improvement over it. Their jangly twelve stringed guitars and their beautiful harmonizations brings the old protest song to heartmelting heights! This is gorgeous --- and thanks to Seeger for writing this.
It Won't Be Wrong 8/10
It isn't bad. The melody is OK except their harmonies really seem to jumble this one. I like the instrumentation and rhythm, which is varied throughout the composition despite its relatively short length (less than two minutes).
Set You Free This Time 8/10
A nice song but it's pretty boring to be honest. It's a Byrds original, and they do the smart thing and just let one singer go at it! The songwriting is great, and I like the melody. Their sound is always pretty mesmerizing.
Lay Down Your Weary Tune 8/10
They take on some Dylan again with "Lay Down Your Weary Tune," which sounds like an old church hymn or something! The tune is OK though Dylan certainly had better melodies! Their sleepy vocal performances are making me sleepy...
He Was a Friend of Mine 8/10
A nicer song, I think. Somehow the melody is more enjoyable to me, and I am able to take in their haunting instrumentation more nicely. Everything's rather simple, but I guess that's not a bad thing!
The World Turns All Around Her 9/10
Finally, the Byrds put together a solid little track! "The World Turns Around Her" is a relatively upbeat-ditty. The vocals seem more excited than bored, and the melody captures my attention. It's nice that this is a Byrds original --- they're really getting to be solid songwriters. (Of course, that won't be fully realized until their next album.)
Satisfied Mind 8.5/10
Actually I like "Satisfied Mind." I used to not care for it, but now I think it has one of the album's nicest melodies. Their instrumentation isn't so great though... What happened to the jangle sound? It seems to consist of a rather disrupted guitar tone and, mixed very loudly, the vocals. They add in some harmonica for good measure!
If You're Gone 9.5/10
The production is notable. I love that strange echo we hear in the background. The song was written by Gene Clark, and I also think it's one of the better songs on here. Clearly, they're taking more care with these originals than they are the covers --- there's nothing wrong with that --- just an observation.
The Times They Are A-Changin' 8/10
The bad thing about "The Times They Are A-Changin'" is that it's entirely unnecessary! They give it the same old treatment of "Mr. Tambourine Man" except it didn't seem greatly suited for that. This is enjoyable more or less, but definitely stick with the Dylan original!
Wait and See 8/10
This is pretty nice although the melody is a bit too repetitive for my tastes. I do think they're nicer when they're being upbeat and poppy though. Unfortunately, this song isn't too memorable --- by this point in the album, I am getting pretty bored with it.
Oh! Susannah 7.5/10
And now a usless cover of an old folk song that we used to sing when we were six. "Oh! Susannah" given the old Byrds treatment has its entertainment value. I don't really care about it, and I think they're boring with it frankly.
"The Day Walk (Never Before)" is a bit of riff rock! They got a lot of "Satisfaction!" out of that riff. This track is pretty enjoyable though, and the riff rock was something they might have tried more to enhance their sound and keep it from boring me to tears.
"She Don't Care About Time" isn't bad at all! Again, what's the big deal with holding these as bonus tracks and keeping them off the album? Why hold the material? Anyway, this is another nice track from these guys. There's nothing special about hearing this sound again although I do like that classical music quote they insert in here. (I don't know the name of it --- it's often played at weddings.)
And now there's another version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'" This is a type of bonus that I don't think we needed! But wait a second --- this one seems even more spirited and the production is a little strange. Hm. For some reason, this one is better.
"It's Over Now, Baby Blue" seemed more like a Dylan song that was more up their alley. That's a pretty song, and the Byrds' production is good though not the most beautiful and haunting we know these guys were capable of. Maybe they weren't trying for that. Well, this is a good bonus track just the same.
Again, with the song "She Don't Care About Time." You'd think an alternate version of a song in the bonus tracks is getting excessive! Well, certainly the fans have nothing to complain about. This one's a little rockinger and sloppier. (That harmonica is a bit icky...)
"The World Turns Around Her" is an excellent song .... again. I honestly don't have preferences between version. I don't really care enough to figure out what they are...
"Stranger in a Strange Land" begins with a pretty strange guitar pattern ---- yeesh! This is an instrumental that I assume they didn't get around to writing lyrics for. Or maybe they just wanted to show off that trippy pattern they came up with. The chord changes are nice also.... They sound familiar....
Fifth Dimension (1966)
Read the full review:
5D (Fifth Dimension) 9/10
You know, the hooks aren't as grand as I would have hoped though it's difficult to not admit that "5D (Fifth Dimension)" isn't a solid composition. The melody is fine enough, and it reminds me of a Scottish song for some reason. The arrangements are undoubtedly the greatest aspect of this --- it's extremely well done. Their layered vocal harmonies are kept in the chorus and just one guy sings the verses --- that worked in their benefit, I think.
Wild Mountain Thyme 9.5/10
Likewise, I'm not a huge fan of the melody, but the atmosphere of "Wild Mountain Thyme" ends up winning me over. Naturally, there's the 12-stringed jangly guitars, but there's also a perfectly arranged violin that manages to give this effort an exotic and unique touch. Their vocal harmonies have never been better. It's genuine Americana, and they're as touching as ever!
Mr. Spaceman 10/10
Whenever "Mr. Spaceman" comes along, I'm always glad to receive it. It's odd to hear such an upbeat pop-song right after "Wild Mountain Thyme," but I do treasure diversity! The melody is easily the catchiest of the album, and certainly one of the Byrds' greatest overall. It's just a good song --- and I like the sci-fi lyrics!
I See You 9.5/10
This is an expertly done early psychedelia song. It's like the genre had a good reason to exist!!! (Oh, who am I kidding? I love psychedelic music.) The melody is pretty simple though they absolutely nail the atmosphere. It's thick, and they glitter it up with some guitar work that sounds like somebody took some LSD. The whole song has a nice drive to it --- a sense of urgency. This is very fresh sounding. I love it!
What's Happening?!?! 9/10
Another nice song! The Byrds are on a roll...What's Happening?!?! is an excellent track that combines their already established 12-string ideas with some weird psychedelia. Very good. It sounds solid and 100 percent fresh. The vocal performance is excellent, and I love that pseudo sitar.
I Come and Stand At Every Door 7.5/10
Uncharacteristic of The Byrds compared to the five previous tracks. It sticks out like a sore thumb. This is too slow and lethargic for me to even care about it. It's an old folk song, so maybe they should have just stuck with the originals! This is so boring that they should have left this with Turn! Turn! Turn!. Meh!!!
Eight Miles High 8.5/10
Nice! They're reverting back to the original and fresh psychedelic ideas. "Eight Miles High" begins with a nice bass riff and then some really off-kilter guitar comes in. Though that's all pretty deceiving, because a fairly ordinary Byrds tune pipes up after that. Well, I still like it... Again, they aren't much for melodies all the time, and their harmonies don't stick out at me here.
Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go) 9/10
It seems like everyone covered "Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)" until everyone finally settled on Jimi Hendrix's version... But hey whatever, this one's actually quite a bit faster and more guitar-heavy. This is pretty fun!
Captain Soul 9/10
An R&B-styled rock jam. Like you'd expect, the chord progression is dull, but this thing is very fun to hear. The instrumentals are rather busy and they're all done solidly. A nice beat and bass riff keeps the flow going, and it even features some soulful harmonica and lead guitar. Nice work.
John Riley 9.5/10
What a beautiful song. Nothing too fundamentally different except the melody and harmony work together to create something that's just utterly gorgeous. The violins they add are perfect and lend this track such a gorgeous atmosphere. Very well done.
2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song) 8/10
And the final track predominantly features airplane noises. "2-4-2 Fox Trot" is mostly a sound-effect novelty track though it's an interesting novelty that doesn't really overstay its welcome (at two minutes). That said, they could have at least wrote a nice melody or a haunting chord progression or something --- they just repeat the same bar over and over on top of sound effects. Meh!!!
"Why" is a good B-side though it would have been a weaker link if it were included in the album. I do like the instrumental interlude featuring a sitar-like instrument. (It's funny how they like to make their guitars sound like sitars --- and they never use the real thing --- at least as far as I can tell.) It's interesting!
"I Know My Rider" is an old folk cover, and it's pretty dang good. It fits the Byrds' already established style perfectly, and this is enjoyable to listen to. I like the melody, and their beautiful instrumentation is great as always. Again, there's that pseudo sitar instrumental solo...
"Psychodrama" is more like Psycho-boring city! But at least I like to listen to their guitars on the technical standpoint. The riff might be dull and plodding, but there's one guitar player who's just going nuts over this. It takes awhile for them to start the melody, but you almost wish they would have just left this as an instrumental. I still think this is a good song --- don't get me wrong.
And now there's another version of "Eight Miles High" ... Thanks guys... (Only die-hard Byrds fans will appreciate it. The final version was the best one, certainly.)
This version of "Why" is also not too essential. We already have the original version in these bonus tracks ........ Hey, who can complain about bonus tracks, anyway?
The Byrds play "John Riley" and then there's about 15 minutes worth of The Byrds discussing their work on a radio show. Again, this is great for the fans --- everyone else will undoubtedly find it boring.
Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
Read the full review:
So You Want to be a Rock 'n' Roll Star 10/10
They open with album with a great song that has some Latin leanings. The melody is great and catchy, but that's not all! They incorporate some appropriately festive horn arrangements. They insert some screaming sound-effects of teenagers in the audience for good effect. Their vocal harmonies sound pretty fab here, and the instrumental playing is wonderful. Nothing too groundbreaking considering this is essentially normal riff-rock, but it's very fun.
Have You Seen Her Face 9/10
This track is less fun, but it remains a stellar Byrds tune. This is a song very much like they already pioneered. It's a rocking track with their usual blend of jangly guitar tones. I like the melody more than most Byrds songs it seems though!
This psychedelic track starts out normally enough, but then these guys go crazy with the synthesizers in the middle of this track. One instrument might not even be a synthesizer, but a dentist's drill. You know for an incredibly goofy song, this is pretty entertaining. Usually those wild sound effects sound much more aimless and usless than they do here. The melody is OK but you don't even notice it past the sound effects. They stop the song when it's only half over, and they bring it back amidst space-ship sound effects and we hear an alien or something talking. Yeah... drugs...
Renaissance Fair 10/10
A freaking masterpiece!! The melody is perfect, but what really grabs me is that medieval instrumental fill they do. That's a very distinct sound that gives this song its character. My only complaint is this isn't even two minutes long. What gives??
Time Between 8/10
This is also less than two minutes long, but it's not quite as wonderful as the previous track. This one seems to point at country-rock, which The Byrds would explore deeply by 1968. For now, we have this upbeat ditty with some nice country-esque guitar piddling.
Everybody's Been Burned 9.5/10
This is an absolutely pretty and atmospheric ballad, and it's the most beautiful composition on the album. No real surprise that this is one of David Crosby's songs... He can write haunting melodies and harmonies when he really puts his mind to it. This'll stick with you for some time!!
Thoughts and Words 9/10
Those guitars are strange at the beginning. Up until the rather usual chorus pipes up, this is one of the more weirder and enchanting songs from the album. The guitar sounds are so brilliant! I wish they would have just kept up with that sound. Bringing in that funny backwards noise wasn't such a grand idea, unfortunately. All in all this is a great song though.
Mind Gardens 7/10
This strange song with pretty obvious Indian ties. David Crosby sings out of tune, but it's a non-melody anyway so it hardly even mattered. The guitar sounds weird, and I'm not exactly sure why. Again, those reverse sounds don't do it much favors... Mh. I was trying to like this, and I would have been ready to compliment it for seeming to gain inertia as it moved along --- but then the reverse sound screwed up that.
My Back Pages 9.5/10
And now a much-appreciated Bob Dylan cover. No surprise that this is also one of the most melodic and instantly catchy songs from the effort. The instrumentation is straight-ahead more or less except a particularly echoey guitar sound makes it interesting.
The Girl With No Name 8.5/10
Again with the short songs! Eh, this one doesn't seem to do a whole lot anyway. This is more of that typical, jangly Byrds music that's quite fun to hear. The melody is quite catchy, though.
Because I said so! This melody isn't their best, but who cares? The song is still pretty engaging and I like their layered vocal harmonies especially here. They bring in a nice guitar solo in the middle. All in all, it's a decent, conclusive ending!
"It Happens Each Day" isn't too exciting, but I like the laid back atmosphere and melody. The chord progression is pretty engaging and I like the guitar playing (though a tad sloppier sounding than what they usually do). It needed a good jolt of electricity, though.
"Don't Make Waves" makes a pretty decent listen, but the melody doesn't manage to move mountains. There's nothing particularly special about this to set it apart from anything in the album.
This is just another version "My Back Pages," the Dylan cover that already appeared in the album. This one's good, too.
This version of "Mind Gardens" sounds less strange than the album version, but there are no vocals and just the instrumentals. It's really not so bad to listen to... especially when you don't have that annoying reversed sound getting in your way.
The melody of "Lady Friend" is a little clunky, but this is an interesting song regardless. The instrumentation is ultra-flooded and busy --- the most interesting bits come in the horn arrangements. This might have been worked on a bit more, but who knows what this track was really for...
And the fun-fest comes to a close with the "Old John Robertson," a return in a big way to Mr. Tambourine Man-era Byrds. This would later appear on The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)
Read the full review:
Artificial Energy 8.5/10
The entertaining and upbeat "Artificial Energy" begins this effort on a positive note. For listeners who still have their previous albums in recent memory, you'll probably notice that it's not as utterly deep as those efforts, but that doesn't negate the fact that this has an engaging and upbeat melody. And who's to say anything bad about that absolutely fantastic trumpet? Those arrangements are lovely!
Goin' Back 10/10
This manages to sound a bit like "Mr. Tambourine Man." But that's only a great thing, because this song has soooooo much beauty that the average band would knock themselves silly to be able to come up with something as gorgeous as this. The instrumentation is atmospheric and thick and they even have some funny, 'twinkly' guitar effects during the chorus. This track is absolutely stunning!
Natural Harmony 8/10
Yes folks, the end of the Byrds are nigh! "Natural Harmony" is rather hard to sit through at times and it doesn't have anywhere near a great melody like the average song of their previous works. The synthesizer-heavy chorus is interesting for the time, but it comes across as just a gimmick to make up for its lack of catchy melody. All of that said, it's an OK song and kind of fun. It does have a thick sound that you probably don't hear too often. Ah, they're just having fun with this 'modern technology.'
Draft Morning 10/10
Oh, the beautiful 12-string guitars these guys are famous for is back with a mission in "Draft Morning!" What's its mission, do you ask? Why to be so beautiful that you can hardly stand it. I love beautiful songs, so I love this song! The melody is very good and catchy. The instrumental interlude is very off kilter (featuring some crazy horn sections and space age sound effects) and manages to give this track a ton of interesting personality. Give me this song for all the knowledge in Albert Einstein's head!!!!
Wasn't Born to Follow 9/10
And the country-tinged ditty "Wasn't Born to Follow" gives a cool precursor to their revolutionary but flawed follow-up album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. This is a marvelously well-written tune with so much beautiful guitars that it's difficult for anyone who values that instrument. The pounding instrumental interlude isn't as crazy as the previous song's, but it's creative enough to also lend this track some solid personality.
Get to You 8/10
"Get to You" manages to have a melody that sounds a lot like some old church hymn or something. The melody is OK, but the instrumentation seems sublimely messed up this time. For some reason, the instrumentals don't seem to be playing on cue this time ... that violin seems off horribly. It does have a unique sound, and you can't deny The Byrds the level of creativity that they put into this. It's just a tad too off-base this time.
Change is Now 8/10
It doesn't have a promising start ... but I will give it that it's creative. It features a pretty off kilter rhythm as a rather psychedelic bass guitar pulsates back and forth. But then, all of the sudden, a country-western tune starts to play. This only happens for a little bit, and they sink back into that mentally insane psychedelic section with a very spaced out (and pretty awesome) electric guitar noodling. Well, this is interesting. You cannot deny that The Byrds were some of rock's most creative forces even if this album was somewhat removed from their peak.
Old John Robertson 8/10
The Byrds take a melody that sounds like it's from an old sea shanty or something. "Old John Robertson" is a remarkably upbeat tune with some busy instrumentation. I like the part where they stop the folk craziness and start playing some classical violin. There was no reason in hell for them to stop and do this! But they did it! Hah!!! Well..... gosh.... I guess I can't hate this song, either.
Tribal Gathering 8/10
They go in a bit of a jazzy route with "Tribal Gathering." The melody doesn't manage to excite me ... it does seem to cater to the cliches of the genre. All the same, though, this is a marvelously played song and it is very enjoyable. There's an interesting moment in the middle when a dark electric guitar starts playing an unrelated groove and attempts to take over the jazzy tune. I'd think most bands wouldn't be able to do this and sink gracefully back into the jazzy melody, but ... well these are The Byrds!!!
Dolphin's Smile 7.5/10
They're really enjoying those synthesizers. The very beginning of "Dolphin's Smile" contains some neat, watery synth noises that sounds like a combination between a dolphin and whatever sound they could get out of their new toys. Despite that neat gimmick, I do think this one has one of the lesser melodies of the album. I don't get anything too hooky! Hm.
Space Odyssey 7/10
And now their experiments with synthesizers has been reduced to sheer wanking. "Space Odyssey" consists of an incredibly dull synthesized groove and some scaling oscilator noises going up and down the musical scale with nothing in particular in mind. The melody they sing is like a boring hymn and a heavily distorted electric guitar just echoes that boring melody. They don't even have the sense to insert an off-kilter instrumental interlude in the middle of it! Previously in the album, they might have been getting boring, but they'd do something crazy to catch us off our guard. Not here, folks.
BONUS TRACKS Moog Raga
And the first bonus track is another synth-odyssey. There's more synths doing goofy things in "Moog Raga" than you would have hoped for after hearing "Space Odyssey." But at least they don't bother inserting the boring vocal melody and concentrate on the weird sounds these new-fangled moog synths are capable of producing. This sounds like a synth version of a sitar song. It's goofy.......... Bound to Fall
It's well played and has a nice rock 'n' roll groove and a good theme. Where's the singing? Well, I guess it's OK if they want to do an instrumental! It makes a fine at-the-moment listen, but it's unremarkable. Triad
This seems more like a product from the psychedelic era. It's a perfectly fine effort and might have been a highlight on the average band's album of the time. But for the Byrds, the melody just isn't that great....... I mean, it's fine, but I miss the deathly catchy hooks. Also, it's pretty straitlaced for these guys in this time. Oh, apart from the infamous lyrics... yeesh. Goin' Back
A more stripped down version of "Goin' Back." I also believe that it's played a bit more slowly. Yes, I like the original one better. The rhythm section seems so much better paced and I like the atmospheric instrumentation better there, also. Draft Morning
This is rather similar to the other version... It's just less atmospheric and compelling. Universal Mind Decoder
And then there's "Universal Mind Decoder." It's a thirteen minute track featuring some instrument playing and then a lot of studio dialogue. I assume people who just pick up this album for all the lovely songs it contains in the non-bonus-track sections would only listen to this track once ... or until that little psychedelic jam stops playing. The studio bickering inserted at the end is interesting for fans, though. The Byrds were on the verge of a break up, and this is foul-mouthed ridden dialogue gives some insight there! Apparently, The Byrds weren't as harmonious as we all thought!
Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968)
Read the full review:
You Ain't Going Nowhere 8/10
Good old Bob Dylan contributed this straight-ahead country-rock song. It has a decent melody although the instrumentation is sure corny. That slide guitar is boring and so is the general atmosphere of the song. Eh, what am I complaining about? This is tastefully done, and it's even mildly enjoyable. This would have been a much more successful effort for them if it were fresh-sounding. Already, they're sounding like crusty cowpokes with the old-person smell.
I Am a Pilgrim 8/10
These dorks gave themselves song credit along with Mr. Traditional. Eh, whatever. I suppose they should give themselves credit for those generic arrangements! Again, I'm complaining when it's not warranted; I actually enjoy this song. Its country-melody is fine, and the arrangements are like down-home cooking. (Why do they say "down-home?" Are houses in the country full of feathers?)
The Christian Life 8/10
Yeah, no adultry! This is a nice old song sung by some good old guys. The flow is nice and the melody is alright. I miss those fresh melodies The Byrds were previously responsible for, but I guess some of the key band members are missing. There's some good vocal interplay here, and this has nice flow. I'll admit these are the worst lyrics ever, though... Geez...
You Don't Miss Your Water 7/10
...That's right. I don't miss my water. I don't think there's anyone alive in the 21st century who wants to go back to using latrines... (I'm feeling cynical right now. Heaven knows why.) This vocal performance is worthy of any random singer at a karaoke bar. What's with that slightly off-key, droning voice? I have no idea who that is, but I'd wish he would shut the heck up. Alright, maybe that's a bit harsh, but I do seem to recall this band having beautiful singers in their immediate past. Oh well. Otherwise, this isn't a bad song. There's some honkey tonk there and a fine old rhythm.
You're Still On My Mind 7/10
You should see me now! I'm bobbing my head in a very mocking fashion. The gods of country-rock are frowning down at me and would probably strike me dead right here if they weren't so busy making moonshine. This overly simplistic melody might just prove that these country western people have no imagination whatsoever. OK, maybe just the cowpoke who wrote this song.
Pretty Boy Floyd 8/10
This is more bluegrass-tied, and therefore it's better than any country-western song. I like the sound of a quickly plucked banjo instead of the pukey sounds of a mediocre slide guitar! This is a reworking of an old Woody Guthrie song... It seems like this should have been better. Well... I suppose Woody was more about the lyrics than the music.
Hickory Wind 7/10
Oh, the pukey sounds of the slide guitar! They don't make any excuses. They start right in on that sound!! Well here's the real dissapointment of the album... it's an original song written by Gram Parsons, but it's not any more compelling than the covers. You'd hope they would work on pushing country music forward instead of distinctly backwards. This is where the boredom is really starting to settle in... Oh get me out of the saloon!!!
One Hundred Years From Now 9/10
One hundred years from now, nobody's going to remember Paris Hilton, nobody's going to think Fall Out Boy was any good and everyone's going to wonder what the deal was with those nasty tongue studs. But I digress. Parsons does a much better job redeeming himself here with this more upbeat song with *gasp* a solid backing beat. I guess this is as close as it gets to country-ROCK. The slide guitar sounds less intrusive, and it's actually pretty fun. Oh heck, yes!!!
Blue Canadian Rockies 6.5/10
Oh here I am again besmirching the holy name of country music. YAWN. No, I can't even be nice to it and say it was well performed or well arranged, because it just wasn't. This song has a boring melody and these guys are all performing like wind-up monkeys.
Life in Prison 6/10
More of that hokey country nonsense. I think they've already used this melody before, but I guess that's just more proof that all country music sounds alike! (I'd better be careful or the Liberal Left will start labelling me as a music racist.) Speaking of these song lyrics, I wish this "pain" will go away. Alright it did. Next song.
Nothing Was Delivered 8.5/10
That's how I'm feeling right now! Where are the melodies? Where are all the good old times? I guess that's why England invented The Beatles. This is a really strange song, and I really appreciate that, because everything sounded so samey until now. The fact that it was a Dylan song probably explains it. Anyway, it starts out as another so-so country-western ditty, but there's a crazy and awkward upbeat section in the middle that catches me off-guard. Geez, these guys are clumsy. Well, I'll take whatever originality they'll give me I guess.
What's this? "You Got a Reputation" is easily better than any of the songs from the album. It has a deadly unique sound... It's definitely a blend between country and rock, but it has a funny, robotic quality (in a very constructive way). The slide guitar fluttering around actually has enough nerve to be constructive. Well this is something.
Oh "Lazy Days" is some roots rock. Some Chuck Berry pandering. Other than the general ROCK feel to this that the original was lacking, I can't say this really contributes anything special. The melody is generic and boring. I suppose that was the point... This also seems about a minute too long.
Hear all those hillbilly guitars! "Pretty Polly" is alright. I'm not too wild about it though... I'm just going to sit politely through this and not say anything else.
Hey, I heard this song! Oh. It's an outtake. "The Christian Life." Do not put your hand in a young lady's petticoat. That's the moral of the day.
"Life in Prison......" What's with this? One life sentence wasn't enough? I thought he wanted to die!
Yup, I really wanted to hear an alternate version of "You're Still On My Mind." These guys are too kind.
Hey, I liked "One Hundred Years From Now," didn't I? This isn't quite as fun as the studio cut. There. Next.
Here's something different! Not that "All I Have Is Memories" is an instrument, and we get to hear that slide guitar in all its glory. Hmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmhmmm. Yeah. I don't care. Next! ... Oh the album's over. Well, good night then. -----Oh crap. After thirty seconds of silence, there's the cheesiest radio ad I ever heard. Why not fly with them? I'll tell ya why not...
Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde (1969)
Read the full review:
This Wheel's on Fire A-
Every time I review a version this song, I always make one exclamation, and I must continue the tradition. OMG!!!!!!!! THIS IS THE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS THEME SONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Band had recorded a version of this Bob Dylan song a year earlier in their hallmark album Music From Big Pink, and by all accounts The Band's version was superior! But I like this version as well... It's somehow darker and more evil. That incredibly fuzzy guitar noodles along with the catchy melody. That bass creeps along very darkly... I kind of miss The Band's frills, but this version is quite effective.
Old Blue A
A straight country song that would have had a nice home on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Sure, that album was a little bit miserable, but isn't this thing enjoyable? It's an incredibly lightweight country song with a catchy though derivative little melody and ... those hand claps! Well, fortunately I love the claps! These jangly, country guitars are so well-played that I'm sure anyone who plays that instrument would be jealous of it. I don't mind derivative country music as long as it's presented well... and as far as I'm concerned, this is tops.
Your Gentle Way of Loving Me B-
I suppose you wouldn't say this is as lightweight as “Old Blue.” It's also not quite as charming, and the melody isn't as memorable. The instrumentation actually seems a little bit muddled sometimes, which might have been something that they could have polished a little bit before recording it. Perhaps worse, this song is forgettable. I like the laid-back atmosphere, but it's never something I long to revisit.
Child of the Universe C-
Ew! ... Now, I like to think I'm one of the first people who like weird ideas in pop-rock music. But this is just clumsy. That pounding drum and odd time signature do not meld well together in this otherwise ordinary Byrds folk-rock number. Frankly, it's a little painful to listen to. ...And even the regular Byrdsian melody is remarkably dull. I mean, it's only three minutes and I'm sick of it after 30 seconds. Sorry, guys. I like that they're trying to be creative, but they done screwed up.
Nashville West D
Oh no... This was a pretty solid C until the end when they do this terrible yee-haw noise. The worst town I've ever been to was Branson, Missouri, a town that doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of what music is like. This track is exactly the sort of hillbilly jam I would hear at one of their concerts. Slightly amusing for sure, but totally devoid of substance. And then there's that wild drumming, and that corny “yee-haw” at the end. At that point of the concert, I'd sink into my chair feeling embarrassed for myself and even more embarrassed for them. Not a comfortable experience!
Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man B
Here's an ordinary old country waltz! This isn't bad as far as these sorts of songs go... I think we can't understate how good their instrumental abilities are. Derivative country western music tends to make me puke! But they do a great job texturing this up with their array of jangly guitars. And the slide guitar is first-rate. So, this is country-western done right! It's just a shame they couldn't come up with a more original melody... I mean, how many times do you think I've heard this song?
King Apathy III C-
Are they trying to be Led Zeppelin? ... Can't they hear how silly they sound? That riff is OK, but the guitars they use don't have any body whatsoever. And Roger McGuinn sounds almost comically weak. And for some really strange reason, they turn it into a regular country song. Again, I like the weird ideas! But this succeeds neither as a metal song or a country song... so it's stuck in rock 'n' roll purgatory with no place to go.
Bad Night at the Whisky C-
This is more along the lines of what the Byrds should be doing ... quasi-psychedelic rockers. But why the heck is this thing so boring? It's this clunky, toneless thing that just never seems to click. The melody is instantly forgettable, the song structure is clumsy... even that guitar solo is ridiculously underwhelming. Otherwise, I like some of the arrangement ideas. But those can't help a song that was dead-in-the-water to begin with. Geez. Come on guys!
Medley: My Back Pages / B.J. Blues / Baby What You Want Me To D
McGuinn does his best Dylan imitation ... and it's not that bad, I guess. But even then, it seems so much like these guys are on autopilot through this whole thing. The last half of this is positively embarrassing. They're only half-singing it, and the instrumentals are flat and boring. That harmonica is really poorly done... that thing starts fumbling over itself, which starts to make ugly clashes with the guitars. .............. And they literally stop playing and have a short conversation. I really don't understand what that was about. I can imagine that when these guys played this song back to themselves later on in life, they probably winced. This is poor, poor quality.
Stanley's Song C
A very unremarkable derivative country song that's just as boring as the status quo on Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Really not worth listening to. The bass line and melody might be utterly boring (with McGuinn giving a completely sleepy performance as if he really was sleeping), but I do like the jangly guitars.
Lay Lady Lay B-
This is really annoying as far as Dylan covers go. Again, these guys seem like hollow shells when they're performing this, which is a shame because the source material is so excellent. Those tiny stabs from that electric guitar were stupid. Sorry... They shoulda known better.
This Wheel's on Fire (alternate version) B
This is a more country interpretation. The guitars are a little more jangly here, which I like, but I think the darker, more menacing interpretation is leaps and bounds better than this flatter version.
My Back Pages / B.J. Blues / Baby What You Want Me To (alternate version) D+
Frankly, I'm a little surprise they had multiple takes of this. I wonder if they actually meant to release this song instead of the sloppier version that appeared on the album. But in all honestly, this thing is pretty dang lame, too. They're just going through the motions—flat and boring. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Nashville West (alternate version) D+
They must be including alternate versions of the two songs I hated the most just to mess with my mind. There's no yee-haw at the end, but this is otherwise very flat and lifeless. I feel like my soul has been sucked out of its ribcage.
Ballad of Easy Rider (1969)
Read the full review:
Ballad of Easy Rider A+
This is where Roger McGuinn redeems himself for Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde. In fact, I'm willing to forget that album even exists, because this is a pretty even trade! Perhaps it's no great surprise that he collaborated with Bob Dylan, but this is one of the most beautiful things that Dylan was ever associated with, also! The melody might be rather simple but it's incredibly addictive... They bring back those 12-string guitars, which sort of hints at The Byrds' past, but the overall sound of it is very different from their past sound. For a start, it's just McGuinn singing... none of those harmonies. And those smooth violins in the background is different as well. This is the sort of song that you'll want to listen to while driving cross country in the springtime sun... And if you don't happen to be doing that, this song is so warm that it will help you imagine it!
Welcome to the band, John York! Some might wonder what on earth he was doing writing another dog song after the fans ridiculed “Old Blue,” but I liked that and I like this! Of course it's paler than the album opener, but virtually everything in the world is. It's quite a confident rocker with a formidable melody and some nice guitar licks here and there. Even that drum-heavy excursion in the middle (it approaches a full-blown solo) is quite good! It's rhythmic and I like the texture he creates. ...Those yelps toward the end of that is a bit reminiscent of “Nashville West,” except it's not nearly as cheesy.
Oil in My Lamp B-
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that these guys were obsessed with country music. Well, this isn't that notable other than the fact that I like they're opting for purer guitar sounds. The vocal performance, however, are dreary and have a tendency to drag this whole song down. However, the guitar comes up with enough interesting guitar licks to generally keep this think afloat.
Tulsa County B
A very straightforward cover of a very straightforward folk song. But there's actually life in this song... Roger McGuinn's vocal performance doesn't do anything to try to sound country-ish so I'm keeping my groans to a minimum! The melody is a little cliche, but I think it's a tad better than average.
Jack Tarr the Sailor B+
I guess McGuinn was trying to sound like a sea-worn sailor with that shaky vocal performance, but it sounds more like he was about to cough up a hairball. At any rate, this is an English folk song, and I haven't made it a secret that I have a weakness for those!! The cliches in that genre don't get old to me nearly as quickly as the folk and country ones. There's a sort of glass harmonica sound whaling in the background along with some dark electric guitar and a plucky banjo. This instrumentation is very atmospheric, and that makes this a tad more unique than most English folk covers...
Jesus is Just Alright A-
I think it would be funny to sing this in church and see how the others respond to the lyrics “Jesus is Just Alright,” which seem a bit apathetic on the surface! This song basically consists of a repetitive hook, though it only lasts for about two minutes, so it doesn't exactly get old. I'm guessing the original songwriter was going for gospel-rock, so it would make sense for it to be repetitive. What attracts me to this is that really mean riff. There's real energy to this.
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue B
A Dylan cover! Ohhhh yeah. Why is this rendition all sleepy sounding? It sounds like Roger McGuinn accidentally took a sedative before recording the singing... and the other instrumentals have a sleep-like quality. The electric guitar noodles around like it's dreaming about something. I don't care much for this overall interpretation, but at least this is consistent with itself. That is much more than I can say for the status quo in Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, which I supposedly forgot about.
There Must Be Someone (I Can Turn To) B-
They start to lose me with this one, although it's a perfectly earnest country-ballad. The melody and the instrumentation isn't too eventful, but that sort of resembles what the lyrics are like. But I don't think that's much of an excuse to create something this boring... You can express your love angst in a more exciting way, too!
Gunga Din A
The 12-string guitars are back again! This time, they sound a little bit more like wind chimes than they did in the classic albums, and it has a very similar, hypnotizing effect. That's something bands should experiment more often with, because I like how it sounds! The melody is also nice, and it's relative slowness provides a good contrast to the guitars. The melody is simple though effective. Very nice song to hear!
Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos) C
And now they've officially lost me. Honestly, I felt about as bored through “There Must Be Someone” as I do with this, but the previous song had that nice lyrical delivery. This is a political folk cover, which doesn't interest me much at all. They give a nice atmosphere to folk music, which has the tendency to be boring, but it has a lullaby effect. Therefore, it's boring.
Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins B-
This is a very brief tribute to the moon guys. The first 50 seconds is some astronautic soundbytes and the last 50 seconds is a folky song. The only thing interesting about the second half is that synthesizer that's slowly waving in and out. Yeah... synthesizers were the new, cool thing in 1969!
Way Beyond the Sun A-
This is their sleepy take on the blues. It's weird how this attitude feels in other genres sometimes. If McGuinn gave an even slightly more boisterous performance, he would have ruined that apathetic effect. The instrumentals are very appealing being quiet though crisp and upbeat. As it stands, this thing is pretty fun to listen to.
Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood B-
Not nearly as interesting as the previous song... This is much more dreary, and the melody doesn't work that well. I like certain parts of the instrumentation. The drum changes rhythms sometimes, which helped keep the effort fresh throughout.
Oil in My Lamp (Alternate Version) B-
This version makes the song sound even more like a hymn than it originally did. Though it's played a little faster, and it's missing those guitar licks. There's a trade-off there. I like this pace better, but those guitar licks were coo'.
Tulsa County (Alternate Version) B
This isn't fundamentally different than the other version... I'm not going to study it closely or anything. Both have the same overall feel and effect.
Fiddler a Dram (Moog Experiment) A
Somehow, this song turned out to be awesome. The Moog has about the same droning effect as a bagpipe except it's much cleaner and less annoying. Meanwhile, they bring out a banjo and start singing a fairly typical folk melody. This atmosphere is interesting... even for these '60s Moog experiments!
Ballad of Easy Rider (Long Version) A+
A longer version of that great Byrds song? BRING IT ON!!!!!! These extra few seconds aren't life-changing or anything, but ... whatever. It's a bonus track!
Build it Up (Instrumental) B+
A very sleepy instrumental that somehow worked in these little lethargic Who-style power chords in the mix. It retains this sleepy atmosphere well while delivering a bunch of very busy guitar lines. It's hypnotizing! This fades out and there's a “hidden track,” which contains a bunch of promos for the album.
Read the full review:
Lover of the Bayou A
I guess Roger McGuinn proved that he wasn't going to stop writing excellent Byrds songs. He wrote this with the help of Jacques Levy who would later collaborate with Bob Dylan... but I'm not talking about the lyrics. This is a good song musically. It's a straight rock 'n' roll song, too, with no country posturing whatsoever. That's one of the reasons it sounds so fresh! The guitar licks throughout give it a good texture. The drum rhythm is upbeat and snappy. The running bass line keeps the good flow going. Very nicely done!
Positively 4th Street A-
This is a Dylan cover, of course. After all, what would a Byrds album be without a new Dylan cover? McGuinn gives a pretty good Dylan impression. I also appreciate that they're refraining from giving it a country flavor, and I'm pretty sure Dylan appreciated that too! This was played live, and the result is that it's a tad sloppier than it would have been in the studio. But we forgive live performances, right? Well, maybe those guitars didn't have to sound so jumbled... and maybe that ending didn't have to be so sudden.
Nashville West B
Oh no! Not this song! I hated listening to it in Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde and now they're subjecting me to it again. Fortunately, this is actually much easier to take. The biggest difference is an actual change in style. It's much tighter and much less cheesy. Most importantly, I can't imagine there's a band anywhere in Branson that would be able to play those tight guitar riffs. That running bass-line is also undoubtedly cool. They still have that “yee-haw” moment, but the groove doesn't fall apart ... and they're actually yelling “yee-hoo.” So it's OK now.
So You Want to Be a Rock 'N Roll Star A
There's nothing amazing about this rendition of one of their best songs EVER. Of course, it's an amazing song, so I love hearing it here as well! It does sound considerably tighter and more rocking than the original version, but the original seemed more authentic. (I realize the only reason for that is because it's been so firmly cemented in my mind.) At any rate, the song's original texture is far more superior than this relatively streamlined version.
Mr. Tambourine Man A-
This suffers the exact same problem as the previous track. This version is much more streamlined sounding... They don't even play those 12-string guitars! It's a more danceable version, though, and it's still fun to listen to. The electric guitarist takes a few too many liberties and starts noodling past the out-of-bounds line in a few spots...
Mr. Spaceman A
This is a hoot, though. It makes sense that they would turn this into such a fun exercise considering this was all McGuinn from the get-go. The pacing is much faster than the original and you can dance to it, but the guitars go off on some very enjoyable tangents! These guys show off their chops beautifully here with some very intricate twists and turns. I've always loved the melody, and they do nothing to change it. Wonderful!
Eight Miles High B
This is a 16-minute rock 'n' roll jam that ends in the said title song. As far as jams go, this one is actually pretty fun to sit through. As I've been hinting at all along, these guys knew how to play their instruments, and there's much more proof of that here. It's an incredibly fast-paced thing with the drums and bass playing a very tight rhythm. The rhythm guitar is more off-kilter, which lends to an interesting overall texture. The lead guitar sounds positively avant-gardeish at times! ... So these are the ingredients of a pretty good jam! Considering I never like jams, The Byrds should consider this a high compliment.
Chestnut Mare A
This marks the beginning of the studio tracks, and Roger McGuinn managed to contribute yet another excellent song in the Byrds discography! The melody is catchy, and the instruments continue to *rock* out. The only problem with it is this decision to put spoken narrative in it... it sort of has a nice storytelling quality to it, but it didn't work incredibly well.
Truck Stop Girl B+
Another good song, but it's without that distinctive quality that “Chestnut Mare” had. This a very ordinary country-rock thing. McGuinn's vocals are so dreary that it sounds like he was about to fall asleep! It sounds like he was going for an old cowpoke vocal performance, which ... er ... is interesting, I guess.
All the Things B
Here's another McGuinn original, and it's not bad. It's one of those songs that I can sit through and listen to without being moved or anything. The melody is OK, but not too memorable. The instrumentation is very standard for the genre. It's pleasant enough. OK.
Yesterday's Train C-
This was a collaboration between the new bassist Skip Batton and the drummer Gene Parsons. If they were 12, I would say this was a good composition. But this thing is very boring. The melody isn't too interesting... and things get a little silly when he's reduced to singing “Do do do do do.” YAWN!
Hungry Planet B-
Not bad... The instrumentation is a little more interesting this time. They're really cluttering things up with those guitars, though it's not quite the 12-string sound. There are other sound effects they put in here, and I can only guess about what they are. McGuinn sounds like he is singing through in sort of echo chamber. These embellishments turned another potentially boring song into something that interests me slightly... But none of that really saves the fact that this doesn't have any good melodic hooks in it.
Just a Season B+
Certainly one of the best songs here, this one actually has a nice vocal melody and a few catchy guitar lines interspersed here and there. I wish McGuinn would get out of his sleepy-singer mode, because for some reason that's getting more tiresome here than it had in previous albums... Or maybe I'm just on-edge. Those big organ pangs at the end were a bit... bluh.
Take a Whiff on Me B+
This is an old standard from Lead Belly. I usually don't care for it when bands do so many covers, but I guess this is better than most of the originals. They're having fun with it at least... The vocals are a little more enthusiastic, and so is that harmonica.
You All Look Alike C+
Here's another song from Skip Batton... and I hate to say it, but that guy is really boring. There's nothing interesting about this song! It's like he's just copying the old style and nothing else. The result is this song is like an empty shell. Again, this is the sort of thing that's fine if you're just going to sit through it... But I want to hear music that's worth remembering!!!
Welcome Back Home C-
This is another Skippy song, and it starts out pretty well. There were some hooks in it, and it had nice flow. The instrumentation worked fine... it's a return to the 12-string guitar sound, which is very welcome! But he really lost it in that bizarre bridge at about the 1:15 mark, which is so poorly done that I can hardly believe it. It's just incredibly sloppy... it doesn't fit in with the rest of the song, and even those vocals sound like they're going to fall apart. ..........That was bad enough, but they decided to extend it for nearly eight minutes. All they're doing is repeating the same 90 seconds three times. And the end is this bizarre Buddhist chant. I thought it was a joke, but apparently Battin actually was a Buddhist and he was being serious as cancer. It's very very very very unintentionally funny.
All the Things B+
This marks the beginning of the “Unissued” portion of the album. This is the studio version of the song that we already heard from the live portion, and it's not bad. I think the cleaner and more disciplined take in the studio was slightly better than the live version. This seems more colorful ... I can hear those jangly guitars a little more clearly. Otherwise, I really wish he would have come up with a more interesting melody!
Yesterday's Train B
This is massively better than the live cut. The live version was very sloppy and dull, but this one is cleaner and more vibrant. The guitars are a little more contemplative and so is that harmonica. The vocal melody is still boring, but the instrumentals are so calming, peaceful and well played that I love listening to it!
Lover of the Bayou A
This is also a little better than the live version... But that version came off so well that I don't have any particular preference. The live version had more fuzz guitar, which made it kinda rock more. This version has more impressive and intricate instrumentation overall. I'd usually go for the intricate instrumentation, but both versions are still completely awesome! Roger McGuinn wrote a great rock melody, and they work in both settings.
Kathleen's Song C+
And I'm sure Kathleen appreciates it! Kathleen no longer has to buy sleeping pills!! ... OK, let's be nice. I do like this song. It's an incredibly quiet, laid back song with a bunch of acoustic guitars playing and Roger McGuinn sounding like he's half asleep. The melody and harmonies are dull. But it's OK.
White's Lightning Pt. 2 B
Where's part 1? ... Oh, I shouldn't ask such questions. This sounds like it was part of another rock jam. These guys really enjoyed doing that stuff! They're having fun with the new bassist, I guess. As far as rock jams go, this is OK. They're playing really tightly, which is exactly what made that “Eight Miles High” jam listenable. This thing only lasts two minutes, so that's even better!
Another one of their dull, laid-back songs. This one makes me a little more bored outta my mind instead of giving me that pleasant calm that songs like this should be like. It would've helped if the melody wasn't so cliché!
You Ain't Goin' Nowhere C+
OK, I'm freaked out. The guy who says “Ladies and Gentlemen, let's have a fine hand for The Byrds” sounds exactly the same as it did for “Lover of the Bayou” at the very beginning of the album? Doesn't planting these soundbytes in live tracks compromise their integrity?? Anyway, I guess they wanted to have that cool intro to an actual cool song instead of this boring song that originally appeared on Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
Old Blue B+
This isn't nearly as likable as the version that appeared on Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde... and I hate to say it but the biggest reason for that is there's no longer any clapping! I still like the melody, though, which is why it still deserves that B+. The instrumentation is OK, but it also seems much more jumbled than the studio cut.
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) C
Not even close to the most appealing Dylan cover these guys ever did. Though I understand that The Byrds couldn't be too well expected to be a great live band. The instrumentation is surprisingly minimal. McGuinn comes in with his singing occasionally, as a very quiet guitar strums around and a harmonica plays a bunch of blues cliches. This is very clumsy.
Ballad of Easy Rider B+
Again, this live version comes nowhere remotely close to matching that immortal studio version. McGuinn says some weird thing at the beginning about a haircut. When he starts singing, his vocals seem only half-engaged. The drummer starts making this trotting beat, which doesn't fit the material at all. Of course, I still like the melody... But the instrumentation sort of smothered it out.
My Back Pages A-
Now, here's a very decent live version. McGuinn's vocals sound more passionate (well... as passionate as they could possibly get). The instrumentals are still a little sloppy, but there's bolder and more conducive to the overall experience. This was a Dylan cover that they famously did on Younger Than Yesterday, and this is a fine rendition of that!
Take a Whiff on Me A-
I'd actually prefer it if they didn't take a whiff on me! This is the second time this particular song showed up on the album, and I like this version better. The guitars are done in more of a finger-pickin' hillbilly style here, which is very appealing! The one thing this version doesn't have is the harmonica, but I don't miss it that much!
Jesus is Just Alright A-
This was close to an A, but that vocal performance is a little too rough on the edges, which doesn't strike me too well. Otherwise, this instrumentation is really excellent. It's done in a more hard-rocking way, which I'm still a little surprised that this band was able to do so well once they put their minds to it.
This Wheel's on Fire B+
IT'S THE AB FA....... The version on Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde was pretty good, but the guitars here are a little more jangly. Although I still gave that version a much higher score, because it packed much more of a punch. Roger McGuinn's vocal performance isn't that good, though... He's trying to be too frilly, I think.
Amazing Grace B
A fitting closer for this album, because I'm feeling a little religious after reviewing 31 tracks and I was questioning whether I'd make it or not! This is just a 1 minute a cappella rendition of that classic gospel song. The guys layer their vocals in the classic Byrds way. I don't care about it, and neither will you!
Read the full review:
Glory, Glory B-
This is a piano-heavy gospel song. Those thick pianos are kind of nice, I guess, but they are a bit cheesy at times. Especially considering that the song itself is so generic, there's a certain level of fakeness to it. There's nothing very special to this. It's a very ordinary gospel number with Roger McGuinn giving his usual sleepy-man vocals, which sometimes sound too drowned out. That said, it's perfectly listenable and not offensive, so that's worth something!
Pale Blue B
Not bad! It's a very slow ballad with their usual 12-string guitars, and there's nothing more to it. Unfortunately, a more captivating melody would have been needed for a song like this to have been wholly successful. But it's very brief and very peaceful, so I like sitting through it OK.
I Trust B-
This is a sort of country-blues song that sounds very Byrdsian. Roger McGuinn knows exactly how he's supposed to be! But why does this sound so flat? The melody isn't that interesting to me... The instrumentation sounds a bit flat sometimes. It's a likable song, for sure, and I enjoy listening to it just fine, but it really could have used a more pronounced distinguishing factor.
Tunnel of Love C+
This is the exact same thing as a number of '50s ballads and probably less interesting. It goes on for five minutes repeating that predictable chord progression. The instrumentation is OK, though. It's a tad on the overproduced side, though the business of the instrumentals keep the experience from growing too boring. I can sit through it without feeling too bored, but I still wish they would've written something a little more original...
Citizen Kane C
There's a goofy resemblance to The Kinks' “Celluloid Heroes.” It has the same sort of old, '20s jazz flavor, the melody is sort of similar, and even has those fond references to old movie stars in the lyrics. The Kinks song came out after this, so it's possible they were influenced by this! But surely, the Kinks version is far more superior... Its melody flows better and the instrumentation is far less clunky. The Byrds weren't too well-equipped to do songs like this, but I like that they tried at least!
I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician B
This is a mildly enjoyable song... Actually, they have a good use of a jazzy horn solo in this, which might suggests that they might have been able to do this sort of Muswell Hillbillies song if they tried a little bit harder. Unfortunately, the melody is so cliché that it's boring. They should've tried coming up with more interesting melodies... Anyone could have written this.
Absolute Happiness C
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... This song is so exciting and memorable that you might just forget that it exists. I have to pay close attention to it in order to think of things to write in this track review, but I'll tell ya... It's a struggle. The melody isn't very good at all. The chord progression is OK, though. It seems based on Pachelbel's cannon, but so was “Let it Be!” They might have thought of a bolder way to put this. Those twinkly instrumentals are as boring as the melody.
Green Apple Quick Step C-
This is a rather brief hillbilly jam. Why do these guys continuously try to prove to me that they're nothing but a bunch of hicks! It's played very straitlaced ... in a way that any half-talented bluegrass band would play it. There are no melodic themes... it's just a bunch of rapidly played instruments. BORING.
My Destiny B-
Geez, this album is BORING. This is another gospel-led ditty with McGuinn doing his sleepy-man vocal renditions. In all fairness, this isn't that bad. The instrumentals are fine. The piano isn't too polished and sounds rather full-bodied. The guitars compliment it well. The problem is, I can't think of any good reason to hear this. I hear this sort of thing played by amateurs at church, but at least they find better singers!
Kathleen's Song A-
A version of this song already appeared in Untitled/Unissued, and I didn't care for it. I thought it was boring. What they do differently here is add a very quiet orchestra, and that really fits the mood of the song! Naturally, they keep the 12-string guitar sound, which gives it some extra texture. This is gorgeous, and a massive improvement!!
Jamaica Say You Will B
This is a Jackson Browne cover... I can't say I ever cared for Jackson Browne. He's sort of a boring songwriter, but that just means his composition fits in well with the album! And anyway, this isn't so bad. The melody is OK... It doesn't help that the instrumentation is a little too dreary, but this serves as an OK closer to the album. Not bad.
Just Like a Woman B
This is a pretty boring Dylan cover... Naturally, the songwriting level is better than most of these others, but in the end it's just another snoozefest. The instrumentation sounds like the guys were half-asleep in the studio. Why don't they bother doing anything interesting?? Aren't they excited to be living the American dream?
Pale Blue B-
This version is more heavily orchestrated. That just made the already-boring song even more dreary!
Think I'm Gonna Feel Better C-
That vocal performance is terrible. I don't know who that is, but if he sings in that whiny growl again, he's going to get SLAPPED!!!!! ... These bonus tracks aren't very good, unfortunately. This is just another averagely played song that doesn't do anything unusual. Except for that awful singing, that is. After this, there's a pointless retread of “Green Apple Quickstep” that is also known as “Byrdgrass.” The only thing interesting about it is hearing the studio chatter at the beginning of it... one of those guys sounds like that homeless guy who was hanging around Dallas that one time I visited there... and just as confused.
Farther Along (1971)
Read the full review:
Tiffany Queen B+
Not bad at all! This one has a pretty good fuzzy guitar riff at its core that's a little far removed from average Byrds' fare. Though the verses are appropriately wimpy even though the chord progression sounds exactly like “Johnny B. Good.” So, the melody is very obvious... But despite all of that, it's quite likable and fun to hear. Nothing too terribly memorable, but it's a nice pleasant bit of blues.
Get Down Your Line B+
This one's from Gene Parsons (the drummer). This is a very laid back folk-country rock, which was popular stuff at the time, and I can't say this is any worse than average. There's enough spirit in it to keep it just from getting too dull. Though the chorus sounds exactly like “Blueberry Hill.” They should have just done a cover of that... It would've been funnier.
Farther Along B
Ha! Now they're doing old covers! This is an old-timey gospel, and they even bring in some old-timey piano to keep the mood going. The whole band joins in the vocals equally together, like they were singing it in a little old church or something. Again, there's a nice sort of spirit in this... Despite the dull-ish source material, they keep it fun enough to tide us over until it's over.
B.B. Class Road B+
This isn't anything too phenomenal... It's just a typical boogie song with a melody as generic as those things always are. But that guttural vocal delivery is very much fun to hear... I'm a little bit surprised to hear these guys sounding like they're having fun. I always thought they were pretentious snobs.
This is really the first time The Byrds deliver a song that actually sounds like The Byrds. We hear some of that high-pitched guitar strumming and a breezy vocal melody that vaguely sounds like their '60s classics. Some beautiful slide guitar comes in later on to make the whole experience even sweeter. (I discovered that you can judge the quality of a country album by just hearing the slide guitar ... and this baby passes.)
America's Great National Pastime B+
Silly! A lot of people probably hate this song, but it's funny. It's done in a sort of a fast-paced Dixieland style as though they were putting on a cheesy dinner theater production with silly skiffle guitars and some music hall piano. The lyrics are very fun to listen to... almost seems like it was meant as a Coke commercial, except the verses are incredibly sarcastic.
Antique Sandy B
Wow... They were having fun. Musically, this sounds exactly like something on any one of the albums they released in one of their more recent albums, except they were having a little too much fun with the vocal effects in there. They sort of make it ultra-echoey. Otherwise, this is a fairly average folk song that sounds a bit like a sea shanty. (I like those guitars, though. They're numerous and well-mixed. Exactly the way they should be.)
Precious Kate B-
Eh... Not bad. Just too usual this time, and I don't get that sort of goofy vibe that I had been receiving from some of the other pieces. Just a lot of seriousness, and the songwriting is just as bland and generic as ever. Nonetheless, I won't call it anything if it isn't wholly pleasant. Just... Meh. I'm glad Kate's OK, though.
So Fine B
Once again, this is a fairly generic country-ish song, but they give it enough spark for it to be likable. ...I'm really enjoying these guys now. Either they used to come off as half asleep or pompous asses. Now they're non-brilliant musicians who want to be your friend!
Lazy Waters B
This is probably one of the more boring ones that they could have done... We hear McGuinn's sleepy-time vocals, and the pacing of this is verrrrrry slow. Though at least the melody is pretty good, and I don't feel particularly bored or anything. It's a nice composition though not terribly inspired.
Bristol Steam Convention Blues C+
Yeah... This stuff is so unoriginal that I would expect this track to have been royalty-free stock music much less something on a Byrds album. This is just a track of some of the most generic bluegrass fiddling than you'd ever hear! But really, is this track doing any harm?
Lost My Drivin' Wheel B+
Actually, this is pretty good. I usually wouldn't expect that from a bonus track! While it's not really anything special, it's slightly bolder than most of the tracks on the regular album, and I think it has a nice folksy melody. This track would later appear on McGuinn's first solo album...
Born to Rock 'n' Roll B+
This is also a song that would later surface in McGuinn's solo career. I'll tell you that McGuinn was not born to rock 'n' roll unless he meant sitting in a rocking chair on a dusty old porch! This song moves back and forth between a country-esque ballad and a more rockin' chorus. The ballad is very nice... but the rockin' chorus is lame-o.
Bag Full of Money B
Not as fun as the previous two songs, but this one is pretty nice. I can't display any negative emotions toward these guys right now... They're so pleasant!
Bristol Steam Convention Blues C+
I'm not sure what the point of having this one again. It's exactly the same as the album version, except they seem to have trouble starting and we hear someone counting down. Apparently, it took them at least five takes! ... I've always wondered about that!!!
Read the full review:
Full Circle A-
Hey, this is very nice! Gene Clark starts the ceremonies with this sweet little folk-pop number with the jangly guitars and a catchy melody. I'd might as well tell you right now that this is closer to resembling The Eagles than The Byrds, but that's OK. This is a nice, unpretentious piece of music. Just sit back in your easy chair, and soak it up.
Sweet Mary B+
Ah, now this sounds like the preservation society has restored the Ye Olde Byrds. Those layered vocal harmonies are back, the melody sounds like it was written in 1845, and the instrumentation continues to be jangly. There was a cool idea to bring a mandolin in the mix. Once again, this is a completely pleasant song... if you were still sitting back in your easy chair, you can continue to relax!
Changing Heart A
Gene Clark only wrote two songs on this album, but they are both incredibly endearing. This one is more upbeat than the previous two with a shuffley rhythm and some bouncy acoustic guitars strumming. Once again, the vocal harmonies are back in all their glory, and they're gorgeous! Selling the deal is the melody, which is catchy. If you're still in that easy chair, take a sip of your lemonade.
For Free C+
This is a Joni Mitchell cover, and this isn't bad ... but it also isn't good. They don't do anything special with it, other than translating it in a more traditional folk-pop setting with jangly, acoustic guitars... and Joni Mitchell's distinctive songwriting style really doesn't mesh well with The Byrds' style. So, I'd now be taking a nap in that easy chair!
Born to Rock & Roll B+
Roger McGuinn's fantasy that he was born to rock 'n' roll surfaced earlier on the bonus tracks from Farther Along. The instrumentation here is quite a bit crunchier, and the transition to the more raucous chorus sounds a lot smoother. So, this is slightly better. But I can't say I'm too thrilled with the melody, which still doesn't do much for me.
Things Will Be Better B-
This one is based on a fairly bland though decent electric guitar riff with a strictly unmemorable vocal melody. This is nice enough to appreciate, but they didn't put enough life in it, so it doesn't catch fire. It sounds like they were falling asleep, and it's without the benefit of sounding like old cowpokes.
Cowgirl in the Sand B+
Neil Young? I never heard of him. ... But The Byrds did, because they're covering one of his songs! And, the dude is apparently a pretty good songwriter who knows a thing or two about subtle melodic hooks and creating a mildly engrossing song. The Byrds give it their own brand of treatment, but they're not doing anything particularly unusual with it. They're just singing with those tight vocal harmonies and they didn't even break a sweat playing those acoustic guitars. ...Well, that's all you need, I guess.
Long Live the King B
David Crosby wrote this, but he sounds more like a Cream wannabe and not a lapsed-Byrd like he should have sounded. Honestly, it's not too bad, though. It has a melody that works OK. The vocal melody at the end, especially, sounds like it was geared for heavy metal, and it doesn't sound as bad as you'd think.
Borrowing Time B+
Another very pleasant though ultimately unmemorable folk-pop tune from Chris Hillman. It has plenty of good spirits, though, and it does its job for the somewhat too-brief two-minute running length. They did sound like they were having fun performing this, which is a quality that was supposed to be in rock music from the very beginning!
This is by far the longest song of the album and it is also by far the worst. Amazingly, it would have been the worst song even if it was just two minutes long, so what was the point of extending it well past five minutes? What's more, David Crosby just lifted this off of his 1971 solo album... There was no good reason at all to release this. That said, I'm exaggerating a bit. This isn't an excruciating listen at all; the melody is OK and so is the vocal performance. It just needed better pacing.
(See the Sky) About to Rain B
They really like that one dude titled “Neil Young.” This is the second song of his that they covered! ...And, it seems, I'm already aware of how the original sounded. Well, this is much worse, of course, because The Byrds didn't care to give it the same sort of atmosphere that Neil Young injected into the original. Again, they don't break a sweat here. They were just being lazy and played it in the way that required the least amount of planning. But that's OK, it fits in with the other songs then.
Live at the Fillmore, February 1969 (2000)
Read the full review:
Nashville West B
There’s a rather unenthusiastic band introduction from an announcer who sounds sleepier than Roger McGuinn himself! And then there’s an actually decent rendition of that song from Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde that I hated so much except thankfully there is no yee-haw noise! Also, the instrumentals seem much more worn and heavy here with the occasional cool bending effect. They’re not just playing those tired old country cliches. So, this is good.
You’re Still on My Mind B-
Again, the guitar is very different from the original. It’s a little less disciplined. But considering I thought the original song’s guitar was too normal and played to the cliches. This goes to show that originality is typically better! ...Well that melody is still very boring, but the sort of wildly sliding guitar is interesting enough here to keep it alive.
Pretty Boy Floyd B
Yeah, they’re not exactly singing their most inspiring tunes, but I guess that’s what you get for listening to a live Byrds album from 1969. (I apologize. I have no respect for Woody Guthrie!) This was originally a better song than the previous one just because it was more upbeat and bubbly. There was also a bluegrass-banjo playing around, which is one of the few things decent about country music in general. This is another fine listen but hardly inspiring.
Drug Store Truck Store Drivin’ Man B
Just before this track pipes up, you can hear Roger McGuinn tell us how they came up with inspiration for this song, which is a good tidbit for people who are fans! (It’s pretty sad, though, that this was based on a real person.) This gets the same score as the original, even though these are also very different. This song benefits from the better guitar and the shorter running length, but I am also rather caught up by the original’s more polished arrangements.
Turn! Turn! Turn! / Mr. Tambourine Man / Eight Miles High A-
As long as you remember that this band is treating this material extremely loosely, I think you can sit back and enjoy this nine-minute medley of some of The Byrds’ most classic material. Those guitarists is being especially sloppy with his solos and the song is much better for that. Hey! They’re giving me interesting new interpretations of the old songs... and the guitars are really messed-up. So that’s good! They’re fumbling around everything, and they’re awesome at it!
Close Up the Honky Tonks B
This was a Flying Burritos Brothers song, but it’s virtually indistinguishable from Sweetheart of the Rodeo-era Byrds. Yeah... it’s a very generic country-western song. Again, that really scraggly guitar is the only thing that makes it enjoyable. In the middle, that guitar slides around aimlessly and without a care about how weird it sounds. Therefore, it is awesome.
I have no idea where this came from, but it’s just a jammy country-western tune. It’s done quite well, actually... the pace is kept beautifully, and I love the way those electric guitars are sliding around so much (and sounding a little less aimless than the previous track). They’re giving us a really weird texture! Very cool. Compositionally, this isn’t amazing, but the way they presented it was quite good!
The Christian Life C+
This wasn’t a very good song to begin with... but once again, it’s better than the original. It doesn’t sound nearly as tinny, and this is sloppier of course. The guitars don’t intrigue me nearly as much as the previous two songs, but at least they’re there.
Time Between B
If they cover one song from Younger Than Yesterday, it’s obviously going to be this one. The country music song back when country music was just a silly flirtation. It was one of the lesser songs from that album, and they don’t do anything to improve it here. The guitar is OK, but not nutty enough to be different.
King Apathy III C+
They’re barely able to hold this one together, but based on the original, they didn’t have much to hold together! Although, the heavy metal part seems more confident here thanks to another semi-conscious guitar noodle. (I don’t know why I’m falling in love with these guitars ... )
Bad Night at the Whiskey C-
Is this album getting worse, or is it just me? I always try to keep these song scores objective, so to speak, but it’s impossible to know if I’m only downgrading it because I’m getting terribly bored. Looking back at my track review of the original, I wasn’t incredibly impressed then. This plods along in a monotone blur, and the guitar isn’t strange enough to pique my interest. Meh.
This Wheel’s on Fire B
...I’m not going to say it. I promised myself I wouldn’t. .......OK, I’m going to break that promise. THIS IS THE ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS THEME SONG!!!! ... McGuinn sure sounds like he’s going to fall asleep more than usual here... either that or he had the flu or something. I’m guessing the guitarist took a snort of cocaine before playing that solo, which is why it again sounds demented.
Sing Me Back Home B
A Merle Haggard cover? I don’t have any opinion about that guy because I never heard any of his songs. I’ll do him a favor and not listen to the original song, because I’ll just insult him in the end! Um. The song itself isn’t anything special. That’s why Mr. Sloppy Licks comes in handy.
So You Wanna Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star A-
Oh yeah! And they cover another song from Younger Than Yesterday other than that silly country one. Why didn’t they do more of this to begin with? This is a hella cool song, and they give a surprisingly solid rendition of it. Alright, there are a few kinks in there. The drummer seems out-of-sync sometimes, and I’m not sure he was doing that on purpose. The guitars don’t do anything especially weird, but they’re taking some liberties here and there.
He Was a Friend of Mine B
Wow, they’re reaching all the way back to 1965 with their sophomore release for this piece from their back catalogue. Although the original didn’t inspire me much, and neither does this one. It’s nice to hear them remember that they used to have intricate 12-string guitars in their past, and McGuinn used to not sing like a dope.
Chimes of Freedom B
It’s the song from Mr. Tambourine Man, their first ever album. Remember that old thing? Yeah... This was a very excellent song to begin with of course, and they give it an OK rendition. They’re doing that sloppy guitar stuff again, but it’s not quite so impressive here because the original song was good.
Movie Reviews | Short Stories | Message Board | Contact Me