Reviewed on this page:
...In The Beginning - Mr. Tambourine Man - Turn, Turn, Turn - Fifth Dimension - Gene Clark And The Gosdin Bros. - Younger Than Yesterday - The Notorious Byrds Brothers - Sweetheart Of The Rodeo - Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde - Gilded Palace Of Sin - Ballad Of Easy Rider - (Untitled) - Byrdmaniax -
Gram Parsons & The Fallen Angels Live 1973 - Cardiff Rose -
McGuinn, Clark & Hillman -
Firebyrd - Back From Rio - Live From Mars
The Byrds were a seminal act. Some would say that they
merely ripped off Dylan's songwriting and the Beatles' sound, adding to it some
jangly 12-string guitar and endless harmony vocals. But they were actually first-rate songwriters themselves, pumping out an impressive series of high-powered Top 40 singles in just a couple of years. Unfortunately, the Byrds were only able to craft
one or two solid, mature LP efforts - perhaps because they recorded too quickly and were too anxious to generate "product."
And eventually they were destroyed by infighting, with their best songwriter (Gene Clark) bailing out after just two LP's, and their best singer (David Crosby) and their drummer (Mike Clarke) leaving not long afterwards in a power struggle.
When a third songwriter (Chris Hillman) finally left to form the Flying Burrito Brothers with temporary Byrd Gram Parsons, the only remaining original member - lead guitarist and Bob Dylan imitator par excellence Roger McGuinn - carried on the band in name only, leaving a treacherous minefield of look-a-like records. I have reviewed most of these post-Crosby, McGuinn-dominated "late 60s" Byrds albums (the band actually recorded through 1971) just so you can confirm that you're better off avoiding them.
There are a number of 70s projects featuring assorted members of the Byrds - in 1973 the five original members even recorded a poorly received, eponymous reunion record - but I haven't had a chance to hear any of them. Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, and Gram Parsons recorded a small stack of solo records, and I have reviewed a few of those too (see below); Crosby's post-Byrds work is covered on the CSNY page.
Thanks to the fact that Columbia has reissued all of the Crosby-era LP's with tons of bonus tracks on CD, you won't really need the two slightly older compilations: Never Before, a lengthy and solidly entertaining CD that features original-lineup Byrds outtakes and rarities; and a four-CD boxed set that duplicates much of Never Before's material but also covers the "late 60s" Byrds, and includes a half-dozen new Crosby/Hillman/McGuinn tracks recorded in 1990.
The Byrds newsgroup (alt.music.byrds) has an excellent FAQ maintained by none other than netmaster Roger McGuinn, which you can obtain at their nascent web site. However, there's much more nuts-and-bolts information at a second, informal Byrds site. There's also a pretty decent Gene Clark tribute page. (JA)
The original Byrds - Gene Clark (vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine); Mike Clarke (drums); David Crosby (vocals, rhythm guitar); Chris Hillman (bass, vocals, some mandolin); Jim/Roger McGuinn (lead guitar, vocals, some banjo; name changed in 1966). Clark quit, early 1966. Crosby and Clarke left, late 1967, replaced in early 1968 by Gram Parsons (guitar, vocals) and Kevin Kelley (drums). Band collapsed when Hillman and Parsons quit, late 1968. Clark died, 1991.
The late 60s Byrds - Roger McGuinn (guitar, vocals); Gene Parsons (drums, vocals, guitar, harmonica, banjo); Clarence White (guitar, mandolin, vocals - featured on many earlier Byrds tracks); John York (bass, vocals). York left, late 1969, replaced by Skip Battin.
...In The Beginning (recorded 1964, released 1988)
A unique document of interest to collectors, it's also a good listen. Unlike any other major 60s group, the Byrds were cutting demos right from the start. This compilation covers their entire progression, from simple acoustic folk act ("You Won't Have To Cry") to pallid Beatles imitators ("You Movin'") to fully-fledged, electrified folk-rockers ("I Knew I'd Want You"; the fine, hard-to-get "Beefeaters" A-side "Please Let Me Love You"). The material is almost completely dominated by Gene Clark at this point, with only a nod to Dylan (an acoustic version of "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man"). Although much of it was rerecorded later ("She Has A Way"; "It's No Use"; etc.), there are enough unreleased songs and unexpectedly primitive arrangements to make this a worthy companion to the Columbia albums. And these guys were good. (JA)
Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)
The first two Byrds records are dominated by two songwriters - Gene Clark ("I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better"; "Here Without You") and Bob Dylan (title track; "Chimes Of Freedom"). Everyone knows about the Byrds' electrified take on Dylan; Clark is forgotten now, but was an excellent, if somewhat derivative songwriter (too often he merely ripped off the Beatles).
His originals continue to make up most of the band's repertoire here, although McGuinn helps out on a couple songs. Some of the tracks are only half-serious (the straight-faced sendup "We'll Meet Again"), but this is an extraordinarily solid product for early 1965, full of high-energy performances, beautiful harmonies, and catchy rock tunes. (JA)
Turn, Turn, Turn (1965)
Very similar to the first Byrds effort in terms of songwriting and overall sound, with a lot of great efforts like the famous, biblically inspired title track, and Clark's "The World Turns All Around Her" and "If You're Gone." However, the Dylan covers (the dreary "The Times They Are A-Changin'") and folk numbers (the corny "Oh Susannah" and preachy "Satisfied Mind") are less satisfying. Worse still, Clark's songbook was temporarily depleted, with McGuinn and Crosby trying, but sometimes failing, to take his place: they strike out with the thin but amusing "Wait And See," but soar on the catchy, brilliantly harmonized "It Won't Be Wrong." Move on to this if you liked the first record. (JA)
Fifth Dimension (1966)
Clark quit just as the Byrds began work on their third album; it had little effect on their sound but pulled the rug out from under their gang of songwriters. The record does include the Byrds' single most memorable tune - Clark and McGuinn's breakthrough acid rock classic, "Eight Miles High," with McGuinn's brilliant Coltrane-inspired guitar solo. And there are some other marvelous recordings like the creepy, lushly harmonized folk songs "Wild Mountain Thyme," "I Come And Stand At Every Door," and "John Riley."
But the record's other hits aren't that memorable (the dreary title track; the gimmicky "Hey Mr. Spaceman"); the awful cover of "Hey Joe," later done ten times better by Jimi Hendrix, is enough to make you scream; and the usual instrumentals are weak (the utterly derivative and simplistic "Captain Soul"; the equally bad "2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)," dressed up with superfluous jet engine sounds). (JA)
Gene Clark And The Gosdin Bros. (Clark: 1967)
The closest thing to a non-Byrds Byrds album, far closer to the original sound than later, McGuinn-led "Byrds" combos. Clark appropriated Hillman and Clarke as his rhythm section, tapped Vern and Rex Gosdin to add smooth, Crosby-esque harmonies, and got a fellow named Bill Rinehart to fill in on jangly McGuinn-influenced guitar. A million L.A. studio musicians were also recruited - Leon Russell, Clarence White, Glen Campbell, etc. - and the mix not only works, but ends up more consistently professional and well-written than anything the real Byrds ever did.
Clark often imitates the Beatles, c. 1965, a bit too closely ("Is Yours Is Mine"; "Elevator Operator"), but most of the tunes are in his classic, personal style ("Needing Someone"; the catchy "Couldn't Believe Her"; the ominous "I Found Her"). And some of the orchestrated tracks go considerably beyond it ("So You Say You've Lost Your Baby"; the Dylanesque "Echoes"). Look out for the 1991 re-release on CD, retitled Echoes. (JA)
Younger Than Yesterday (1967)
Probably the best place to start with the original Byrds. Crosby is reaching his peak (the confessional "Everybody's Been Burned," one of his best songs ever); the group harmonies are superb ("Have You See Her Face"; "Rennaissance Fair"); and the usual hits (the presciently self-pitying "So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star," with Hugh Masekela on trumpet), enthusiastic Dylan covers ("My Back Pages"), and rockers ("Why") fill things out.
The record also shows the direction that Hillman and McGuinn were about to go in, and it doesn't yet seem like a mistake (sci-fi experiments like "CTA-125"; country-rock like "Time Between" and "The Girl With No Name"). The only weak points are the mindless chord progressions on some tracks; but those same songs are among the most exciting ("Rennaissance Fair"). (JA)
The Notorious Byrds Brothers (1968)
By the time this was released, the "Byrds" consisted of Hillman and McGuinn, who had had the poor taste to reject two of Crosby's best songs for inclusion on this album: the brassy A-side "Lady Friend," and the brilliantly perverse "Triad," re-recorded the same year by the Jefferson Airplane. They exhibited even poorer judgement by then firing him - and Clarke quit soon afterwards.
The result is a half-listenable mess: mediocre covers (Goffin and King's "Goin' Back"); copies of the Byrds' earlier hits, including hippy anthems like "Change Is Now" and revved up folk numbers like "Old John Robertson"; and space-cadet psychedelic numbers like the protest number "Draft Morning," which is actually quite good, and the vapid experiment "Space Odyssey," which marks one of the very earliest uses of synthesizers on a rock record (the Monkees tried it in late 1967), and an unexpected guest appearance by Gene Clark. (JA)
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (1968)
Somewhat legendary among country-rock fans, for two reasons. First, it's the earliest full-blown effort in that genre that I can identify, featuring a host of Nashville session players. Second, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons promptly quit after cutting it to form an influential hippie country-rock act (the Flying Burrito Brothers). Unfortunately for Byrds fans, it's so countrified that hardly a smidgen of the Byrds' original sound remains. The obligatory Dylan covers ("You Ain't Going Nowhere") are done as straight-up country, as is the best-known original (Parsons' "Hickory Wind"). And some of it's sincere to the point of being nauseating ("The Christian Life," and they mean it; Woody Guthrie's "Pretty Boy Floyd"). (JA)
Dr. Byrds And Mr. Hyde (1969)
Featuring the revamped "Byrds," this is a pitiful but carefully produced ripoff with little to recommend it. The only memorable tune is a Dylan cover done in reverb-drenched late 60s style ("This Wheel's On Fire") - the original could only be better. Tunes like the silly ode to man's best friend "Old Blue" and the sneering, waltzing hippie-philosophy-meets-country-reality "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man" prove that the new "Byrds" were now solidly in the country-rock camp. But McGuinn's frustrated desire to sell zillions of records guarantees a gratuitously "psychedelic" sound, bottoming out with the ridiculous, bombastic "Child Of The Universe." (JA)
Gilded Palace Of Sin (The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1969)
Just as Gene Clark's solo efforts one-upped the Byrds' early attempts to fuse Dylan and the Beatles, the Flying Burrito Brothers - originally a partnership between ex-Byrds Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons - put McGuinn's country-rock late 60s "Byrds" to shame.
Joined by hot pedal steel player (Sneeky Pete Kleinow, who later cut sessions with Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, etc., etc.), the Brothers not only knew how to play their instruments, but had a genuine feeling for country music. And when they threw in an occasional 60s-style electric guitar part ("Christine's Tune (Devil In Disguise)"), it wasn't just to be hip.
Their debut record comprises the bulk of a compilation CD that is the most easily available Burrito Brothers product in the U.S., so I'm reviewing the nine tracks from it under the record's original name. Gilded Palace was clearly the group's greatest accomplishment: it was carefully produced; hard-edged ("Hot Burrito #2" - the refrain goes "Jesus Christ!"); dominated by original numbers (mostly featuring doubled Hillman/Parsons lead vocals, e.g., "Juanita"); and revolutionary for that time, because it took country-rock seriously ("Do Right Woman"), instead of degrading it to yet another pop-rock gimmick (e.g., McGuinn's Byrds; Poco). These guys sound so sincere you can hardly believe it ("Hot Burrito #1," a mistitled ballad).
Chris Ethridge is on bass, Byron Berline plays some fiddle, and they use a bunch of drummers including LA session cat Eddie Hoh. (JA)
Ballad Of Easy Rider (1969)
An unexpected and short-lived rebound for McGuinn. His title track is a nice, albeit over-orchestrated acoustic number with a remarkably sincere vocal. Meanwhile, the band sounds harder-edged than previously, even when doing country-western tunes (the moanin', groanin' "Oil In My Lamp"; the gut-spilling tear-jerker "There Must Be Someone") or obligatory pseudo-psychedelic numbers (the cleverly produced cover of "Jesus Is Just Alright," not a great song but irresistable in this guise). Some of the Byrds' original sound is recaptured on the predictable Dylan cover "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" - still done better in an up-tempo, long-unreleased take by the 1965 lineup - and also on some of the originals (Gene Parsons' chipper, melodic "Gunga Din"). There is some some creaky melodrama (the Woody Guthrie cover "Deportee"), but this is still a good example of country-rock in its early, more innocent days. (JA)
The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard And Clark (Dillard/Clark: 1969)
Certainly looks interesting, but it's rare and I haven't seen a cheap copy yet. (JA)
A double album on one CD, but it's a bargain only for diehard McGuinn fans. The first part, recorded live, is predictable, tight and professional - except for a tedious, 16-minute cover of "Eight Miles High." The studio half is decent and close to the sound of Easy Rider: harmless, upbeat ballads ("Just A Season"), country crooners ("Truck Stop Girl"), grooving sing-along numbers ("Well Come Back Home," ruined by an interminable, mantra-ized fadeout), etc. But the songwriting, often the fault of new Byrd Skip Battin, is just too thin. McGuinn's well-known and pleasant "Chestnut Mare," for example, is ruined by a dull and unconvincing voice-over. And it was long past the point where anyone needed to hear yet more commercialized peace-and-love anthems ("Hungry Planet," complete with phased vocals). The group might have pulled it off if they'd just had a good tenor harmony singer like Crosby. (JA)
Burrito Deluxe (The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1970)
The second and last Hillman-Parsons Burritos record, featuring their famous cover of "Wild Horses" (rumored to have been by Gram Parsons and Keith Richards, but actually just another Jagger-Richards tune).
Even more interestingly, ace guitarist Bernie Leadon had joined the band at this point; he soon afterwards quit and founded the Eagles. From what I've heard on a compilation CD, though, it's just not as compelling as the debut record.
Mike Clarke is on drums, and they use a bunch of session players including Leon Russell. (JA)
Here McGuinn decided to add some moderately bizarre production experiments to his country-flavored Byrdsy rock sound. So there's some elaborate orchestration ("Pale Blue") and unusual instrumentation, like clarinet (the corny Hollywood sendup "Citizen Kane"), English horn, and pseudo-gospel female backing vocals ("Glory, Glory").
He also brought in some classy session players: Sneaky Pete (pedal steel), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), and Byron Berline (fiddle).
Combined with the usual honky-tonk piano, banjo, harmonica, and jangly 12-string ("My Destiny"), the effect is unique, but deadening; there's no gravelly edge, just a residue of slimy balladry. Worse, McGuinn gives away too many lead vocals to his vocally less compelling band mates (e.g., Battin's pathetic "Tunnel Of Love").
Despite all the effort, song after song is an embarassment; McGuinn's mushy ballad "Kathleen's Song" might be the closest thing to a genuine sentiment.
McGuinn and Battin split most of the writing, but Gene Parsons contributed a straight-ahead bluegrass instrumental ("Green Apple Quick Step"), and there's a cover of Jackson Browne's as-yet unreleased, would-be-classic "Jamaica Say You Will." (JA)
White Light (Clark: 1971)
Other than a cover of the Band's "Tears Of Rage," all the songs are Clark's own. There are a few big names here, like bassist Chris Ethridge of the Burrito Brothers; percussionist Bobbye Hall Porter; and producer/guitarist Jesse Davis. (JA)
The Flying Burrito Brothers (The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1971)
Gram Parsons and (I think) Leadon had quit the band at this point, and Rick Roberts fills in on guitar. (JA)
Farther Along (1972)
Apparently never released on CD, but a very kind reader burned one for me from an LP.
Like the previous two albums, it features the Battin-Gene Parsons-White lineup, this time with no session players.
The three of them and McGuinn split the songwriting roughly evenly, sometimes collaborating, although three of the tunes are covers.
White adds mandolin, bassist Battin is also on keyboards, and drummer Parsons plays many other instruments.
Produced by the band and recorded in London. (JA)
Last Of The Red Hot Burritos (The Flying Burrito Brothers: 1972)
This is a live record with a by-now almost entirely transmuted lineup: Hillman, Mike Clarke, Rick Roberts (guitar), Kenny Wertz (guitar, banjo), Al Perkins (pedal steel), and well-known country fiddler Byron Berline.
I've heard it, and frankly it didn't make much of an impression on me.
Fans beware: this is the last of the Chris Hillman-era Burritos records, and afterwards a lineup having nothing to do with Hillman or Gram Parsons continued to pump out minor-label records. Unfortunately, these are in some cases easier to find than the real thing. (JA)
The Byrds (1973)
This is the original Byrds, all right - all five of them. The tracks are new studio recordings and the songwriting is split all around, but critics panned it anyway, and the reunited band soon fell apart again.
You can hear why: Crosby produces, and he gets the same sludgy, mid-tempo country rock sound out of every track. Even the harmonies seem lethargic.
The two songs each by Clark, Hillman, and McGuinn are all weak, and although Crosby's moody minor key masterpiece "Laughing" is up to his high standards for this period, his other contribution is a toss-off ("Long Live The King").
And then he has them cover two major works by his associates: Joni Mitchell's "For Free" and Neil Young's "Cinnamon Girl."
They're so much more compelling than the rest it's not even funny.
Young also donated a second, pretty substantial tune ("See The Sky (About To Rain)"). (JA)
Roger McGuinn (McGuinn: 1973)
The short-lived Byrds reunion cured McGuinn of willfully appropriating the band's name. I'm not sure how his solo debut turned out, but I'm hoping to get my hands on it eventually. (JA)
G.P. (Parsons: 1973)
After a couple of years doing god knows what, Parsons formed a country band with singer Emmylou Harris, toured, recorded two albums, and by the end of the year died suddenly. Ironically, these musical efforts earned fewer headlines than a bizarre incident in which a close friend stole Parsons' body before burial, drove it out to the desert, and burned it.
Both studio albums have been packaged as a single CD; I have it and I'm still formulating an opinion. (JA)
Gram Parsons & The Fallen Angels Live 1973 (Parsons: rec. 1973, rel. 1982)
This is a taped radio show from early 1973, and considering Parsons' rather small solo catalogue, it's worth tracking down.
The band is smooth and professional: Jock Bartley (electric guitar), Neil Flanz (pedal steel), Kyle Tullis (bass), and N. D. Smart (drums, some backing vocals).
Harris and Parsons strum acoustic guitars and sing in easy harmony, with Harris taking the lead on "Country Baptizing."
Sincere to the core, they stick strictly with traditional country music conventions but wring every last drop of emotion from each note.
Parsons' original material is in the minority - "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," done a million times better than the Byrds' version; and "Big Mouth Blues" and "The New Soft Shoe," from G.P.
But he has such a solid grasp of the genre that the material he chooses to cover is uniformly strong: wrenching love songs ("Love Hurts"), mid-tempo dance tunes ("We'll Sweep Out The Ashes"), and just a brief encore medley of 50's rock 'n' roll ("Bony Moronie/Forty Days/Almost Grown," added to the new CD version along with a bunch of intermittently entertaining studio chatter).
If it turns out that many of the songs aren't repeated from Parsons' studio albums, I might up my rating.
Produced by John Delgatto and Marley Brant. (JA)
No Other (Clark: 1974)
Don't know anything about this other than that all the tunes are Gene Clark originals, and that the producer was Thomas Jefferson Kaye, who worked with Clark on some later albums as well. (JA)
Peace On You (McGuinn: 1974)
Grievous Angel (Parsons: 1974)
Like his first, Parsons' second solo album went on to become a country classic. Have this one too. (JA)
Roger McGuinn And The Band (McGuinn: 1975)
Slippin' Away (Hillman: 1976)
Tim Schmit (then still trudging along with Poco) is one of the guests here. (JA)
Cardiff Rose (McGuinn: 1976)
McGuinn gambled here that ex-David Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson could give his career a shot in the arm, letting Ronson produce and play a lot of the guitar and keyboard parts.
But the combination just doesn't work: McGuinn sounds like he's faking it on the Bowie-inspired, remarkably Clash-like proto-punk number "Rock And Roll Time," and everywhere the flashy dynamics and immaculate multi-track mixes just distract from his usual folky schtick.
Whenever he delivers the obligate cliched sea chantey ("Jolly Roger"), morbid English folk tune ("Pretty Polly"), or longwinded Dylan cover ("Up To Me"), it borders on self-parody.
At least the upbeat "Take Me Away" is catchy, and then there's Joni Mitchell's galloping, lyrically loopy "Dreamland," which appeared on her Don Juan's Reckless Daughter the next year.
Although McGuinn avoids the depths he plunged with the late-era "Byrds," the record is still a bloated, overproduced mess of interest mostly as a bizarre 70s relic.
Jacques Levy collaborated on most of McGuinn's lyrics (the pompous yippie memorial "Partners In Crime"), Tim Schmit sings some barely detectable backup vocals, and the backing band includes folk multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield (fiddle, mandolin, banjo, steel guitar, you name it). (JA)
Two Sides To Every Story (Clark: 1977)
This was cut with a bunch of Nashville session players like Byron Berline. (JA)
Clear Sailin' (Hillman: 1977)
Thunderbyrd (McGuinn: 1977)
McGuinn's last solo record until Back From Rio. Ironically, there's a cover here of Tom Petty's open Byrds imitation "American Girl." (JA)
McGuinn, Clark & Hillman (McGuinn, Clark & Hillman: 1979)
Produced by the Albert brothers, this weak quasi-Byrds reunion is a smiley-faced sellout that's completely disconnected from the group's classic sound.
Working separately and with their own assorted collaborators, the three ex-Byrds exhibit almost no personality at all (at least McGuinn's sappy, childlike "Bye Bye, Baby" is a "Chestnut Mare" ripoff).
McGuinn's lead guitar work is almost inaudible, Hillman eschews his characteristic country stylings, and Clark's brooding romanticism is smoothed over by the glossy production (the saccharine "Feelin' Higher"), which employs contemporary clichés like light disco beats ("Backstage Pass"), swooping strings, and say, the occasional sax solo ("Little Mama") or very mild funk vibe ("Release Me Girl").
In other words, apart from the occasional flaccid Eagles imitation ("Stopping Traffic") or faceless mid-tempo rocker ("Sad Boy"), the record could practically be an Art Garfunkel confection.
They even stoop to taking a donation from Rick Vito ("Surrender To Me"; presumably that's him taking the guitar solo) and using some outside harmony vocalists (John Sambataro and Rhodes, Chalmers & Rhodes).
Everything is so completely bland you'll forget most of the tunes no matter how many times you hear them.
The near-exceptions are Hillman's light, frothy "Long Long Time," which has a little pop, and the chorus of McGuinn's fluffy but fun "Don't You Write Her Off," which mixes in a goofy Caribbean lilt on the verses.
The disc is entirely harmless and of zero interest to anyone.
The band is Paul Harris (keyboards), George Terry (guitar, piano), Joe Lala (percussion), and Greg Thomas (drums). (JA)
City (McGuinn and Hillman: 1980)
More or less a follow up McGuinn/Clark/Hillman record, as Clark sings lead on two songs that he contributed. The other songwriting credits are mostly split evenly between McGuinn and Hillman. The Albert brothers produced, and a bunch of no-name players filled out the backing band. (JA)
Firebyrd (Clark: 1984)
This confusingly packaged album really is a new recording. But you'd never know that from the production, which is tasteful mid-70s pop rock all the way. Sometimes Clark's moody, droning vocals strongly recall REM's contemporary sound, but that's the only real hint that you're not just listening to a low-budget Eagles record. It's good, though, and Clark doesn't seem to have lost an ounce of his talent.
His voice even seems to reach a bit higher than on his 60s recordings. The bad news is that he treads water with some superfluous covers, like a piano-driven "Mr. Tambourine Man" and a pretty but vapid "If You Could Read My Mind" (originally a Top 10 hit for Gordon Lightfoot in 1971). There's also a hokey, embarassing country-western song ("Rodeo Rider"). At least the rest of the tracks are Gene Clark originals; so true fans will definitely should look for cheap copies of this widely available release. Pretty much an anonymous backing band here, but Chris Hillman sings some of the backups. (JA)
So Rebellious A Lover (Clark/Olson: 1987)
At this point Clark began a collaboration with blues rocker Carla Olson.
They split the songwriting and do several covers, including "Deportee" and "I'm Your Toy (Hot Burrito #1)."
Produced by drummer Michael Huey, with guest appearances by a bunch of people including Hillman. (JA)
Back From Rio (McGuinn: 1991)
McGuinn already had cut quite a few solo records back in the 70s, but only broke through commercially after taking a long break, building up some material, and then recruiting a bunch of big-name guest stars. Elvis Costello donated "You Bowed Down" and sings backup on it; Crosby and Hillman showed up to create a de facto Byrds reunion on two tracks; Tim Schmit sang a little backup; and Tom Petty collaborated on the record's biggest hit, "King Of The Hill" - ironically, Petty's long-standing Byrds influence makes it hard to tell you're actually listening to the master himself.
Despite this, as well as predictably modernized production values and a full backing band, McGuinn was in full control here: he sang both lead and backing vocals, co-authored almost all the tunes, and layed on thick, shimmering 12-string lines that often recall his best Byrds work. Plus the usual love song lyrics and other cutesy annoyances ("Car Phone") are broken up by a few innovative numbers like the political rocker "The Trees Are All Gone," arranged and vocally backed by Petty. Unlike so many other recent "comeback" efforts by middle-aged rockers, this album is everything a fan could reasonably hope for. (JA)
Silhouetted In Light (Clark/Olson: 1992)
A live record released after Clark's death. (JA)
Live From Mars (McGuinn: 1996)
Don't be fooled by the MST3 packaging: this is a low-key affair intended strictly for balding Byrds fans. Playing solo to a medium-sized crowd, McGuinn delivers a "show" that's more of an autobiographical narrative with musical illustration than a concert. Most of it is acoustic, and the electrified second half is nearly as quiet.
McGuinn has nothing to say about his career after 1967 (he does run through "King Of The Hill"), so instead he starts with tunes that illustrate his pre-Byrds folk period, and then runs through some predictably selected, big-name Byrds hits ("Eight Miles High") - they do seem pleasant in such a stripped-down form.
Oddly, most the "early" material either in fact does date from his post-Byrds career ("Gates Of Horn"), or isn't really folk ("Heartbreak Hotel"; his early surf rocker "Beach Ball"), or is more familiar from later, revved-up Byrds incarnations - and on those numbers, McGuinn emphasizes where the songs ended up, not where they started ("Chestnut Mare").
Unfortunately, after a couple of spins you'll get really tired of the sweet, but lengthy and over-practiced historical commentary that introduces the songs.
On the plus side, there are also two well-crafted studio bonus tracks that use enough violin to put them in Camper Van territory ("May The Road Rise").
Nothing here is essential, but it's harmless as nostalgia goes. (JA)