The Essential Byrds
First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2003, Volume 10, #5
Written by John Metzger
With little argument, one could make the case that a true collection of essential tracks from The Byrds would feature the bandís first six albums (Mr. Tambourine Man, Turn! Turn! Turn!, Fifth Dimension, Younger than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo) along with Ballad of Easy Rider and Untitled. No less would ó or should ó suffice. After all, The Byrds began nearly 40 years ago by redefining the folk music revival, turning it into a folk-rock blend of Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Under the guidance of Roger McGuinn (and initially David Crosby), the bandís influence has been widely felt across the varied landscape of rock ínĎ roll. Although numerous greatest hits compilations have been released over the years, the purchase of any of them in place of these eight magnificent albums would allow far too many terrific tracks to fall through the cracks.
Nevertheless, there will always be those who simply want a snapshot of the bandís career, and for them, The Essential Byrds might be the perfect compilation. This two-disc set features 33 songs, touching upon every album the group recorded thereby spanning every incarnation (and there were many) of its career. In essence, it significantly expands upon the previously available Greatest Hits collection, improving it immensely. Naturally, the bandís early hits, such as Mr. Tambourine Man, Iíll Feel a Whole Lot Better, and Turn! Turn! Turn! are included. Likewise, Eight Miles High, Mr. Spaceman, and So You Want to Be a Rock íní Roll Star cover the groupís psychedelic era. Also showcased, however, is The Byrdsí often-overlooked later period, and from this comes such notable tunes as the bandís sterling interpretation of Carole Kingís Goiní Back, the kaleidoscopic colors of Renaissance Fair, the lazy country flair of Hickory Wind, David Crosbyís final contribution Lady Friend, and one of the finest folk narratives ever penned ó Chestnut Mare.
Still, The Essential Byrds only begins to scratch the surface of what this legendary group had to offer. Indeed, there is a litany of songs that could have been added to the collection, and while many ó such as Here without You, Satisfied Mind, Wild Mountain Thyme, Time Between, Get to You, One Hundred Years from Now, and Gunga Din, to name just a few ó are lesser-known, they are, quite simply, just as strong as anything contained on this set. Regardless, the fact remains that The Essential Byrds is a terrific appetizer for those desiring little more than the briefest of glimpses into the career of one of Americaís most influential bands. Ĺ
The Essential Byrds is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box