Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by stereoptic, Mar 17, 2015.
Occam's razor vs. Crosby's drugs. I can't decide who wins.
I think it's a very safe bet that recording isn't as good as Gene's 1987 version. Looking at the tape boxes, it appears there were versions sung by Roger and by Gene. I'm guessing it wasn't included in part because Gene already had four lead vocals, and Crosby didn't want Roger to have more than two.
"Sweet Mary" might just as well be a traditional folk tune, as it sounds so derivative musically and lyrically.
Wow! Thanks for this. Amazing stuff I'd never heard before. This band is cooking. What a shame there is no decent sound quality recording of this gig. To me, it makes nonsense of all that "the Byrds were no good live until 1970" talk.
"My New Woman" is the track I use to replace "Born to RnR". That done, the reunion album becomes a fine work IMO. I don't get all this stuff about them trying to sabotage it etc. Why do that. I think they tried their best to do a great album in the mode of the time, and in the way they were all singing, playing and writing at the time, and when the critics savaged it, The Byrds got disheartened and started trying to rationalize why they'd received such a response. Then they all moved on to other things.
I do wonder if there's a longer version of "My New Woman" in the vaults - it fades too early.
I think they were just more inconsistent as a live act until the Parsons White lineup. Many of the shows in 1966 and 67 in particular got brutal reviews and the set at Monterey Pop is disappointing but they do sound better on the 67 Tonight Show broadcast and on the 67 Winterland tape.
Obviously I disagree. I wish that "Born to Rock 'n' Roll was the only weak track on that album. To me there's four good tracks (the ones Clark sings), three that are pretty bad (Born to RnR, For Free, Long Live the King), and four that are mediocre (the rest). I find their retrospective claims that they weren't trying their best to be plausible, because they did produce better work in the years immediately before and after the album. I don't think anyone was deliberately trying to sabotage things, but there were a variety of personality factors. Crosby was overcome by ego and grudges against McGuinn. McGuinn chose to be passive rather than fight Crosby's decisions or try to impose more of his own musical vision/sound. None of them seem to have been particularly enthused about working together again, and money (plus the attention a reunion brought) seems to have been the primary motivation for all of them except Crosby. The amount of covers on the album makes it clear that (aside from Gene) they either didn't have enough material or weren't willing to cough it up for this project. And Crosby's famous hash seems to have increased their apathy and undone their critical perspective.
Your assessment is bang on, except for the covers argument: I'm pretty sure the '73 album has fewer covers than all but two (Younger and Notorious) Byrds albums!
The Neil and Joni covers are, however, presented with an uncharacteristic lack of imagination, I'll grant.
The difference is that the 1965-67 Byrds never had four fully developed singer/songwriters in the band all at the same time. The 1972-73 Byrds did. So there's really no excuse for the latter to need to use covers to fill an album. The conditions that necessitated covers in the early years no longer applied. Regardless of the rationalizations given ("we let Mike suggest the two Neil Young covers") you'll never convince me it was anything but laziness and/or withholding of material that caused them to use those covers.
I think the biggest problem was the lack of a strong producer; The One in a Hundred track Dickson made with them a couple of years earlier is way better than anything on the reunion album. The Byrds sounded best under Usher and Melcher and the hubris was thinking they didn't need any help.
I'm inclined to agree. I don't think the songs on the reunion are that bad at all (though I could happily live without the "rolling and a-rocking" from Born to Rock n Roll...ugh), but the sound of the album stinks. By 1973 there were so many good sounding albums out there that I have a hard time anyone involved in this project listened to it back and thought "yep that's a winner!". It's not exactly lo-fi, but it's not a very 'expansive' album - there's no depth to it, especially the drums; if it had sounded more like say Farther Along, it'd be a pretty neat album.
I think they sounded their best (both in terms of the recorded sound, and their playing as musicians) with Allan Stanton, who by all accounts was a passive and completely hands-off producer. The Byrds were at their best when they really cared, and that meant caring enough to be at each others' throats all the time. The mellowness, passivity, and lack of arguing in the reunion sessions is telling. Nobody really cared that much, so they got along fine. Perhaps a strong producer could have motivated them to care more, but there's still the paucity of good material to contend with... there's no producer in the world who could have turned "Born to RnR" or "Long Live the King" into good tracks.
What's everyone's problem with Long Live the King? I don't mind it myself. I mean, I'd be hard pressed to say it's a 'great' song, but eh it's ok. No?
I too think it's OK. I don't like the tight-ass castrati sound of the vocal harmonies that are typical of what Crosby's shtick sounded like during this period. But I do think with a more interesting instrumental arrangement -- e.g., with a scorching 5D-era McGuinn guitar part -- it would be pretty cool.
Four YouTube links that have more of that Winterland show from Dec. '67
Feel a Whole Lot Better, Satisfied Mind, Have You Seen Her Face (fragment), My Back Pages/Milestones/Baby What You Want Me To Do on the first, followed by Renaissance Fair in the second and Eight Miles High in the third, Rock 'n' Roll Star in the fourth.
What was the line-up for that show? Was Michael still in the band?
When they cared (or at least listrned to someone like Jim Dickson who deeply cared) the result was "One In A Hundred" (the last truly great Byrds of the orginal 5, although "Full Circle' comes close too) and "My New Woman".
And where did they go after the reunion album? Gene continued his stellar songwirting but with diminshing commercial success. Roger had a sort half-assed solo career, the highlight of which might have been his rolling along in the Rolling Thunder review. Chris dicked around with a solo career and SHF in which someone forgot to tell him he would actually ahve to write more than one or two decent songs. Desert Rose Band was o.k.but I don't see many threads here related to them. Crosby got even bigger commercially and coke-ingestion wise and then finally had to confront his own addictions. Michael got to play with Firefall, which is o.k. I guess but I don't see many threads here related to them. Other than Gene, and the occasional song or two, none of them did anything ever approaching their best work with the Byrds imo.
It’s Michael Chris and Roger
I thought it sure sounded like Michael.
I don't get the Farther Along comparison. The latter was OK but not a bit weak. The reunion album had some fine moments and the version of ‘See The Sky About To Rain’ is pretty fab to my ears, certainly its conclusion. ‘Laughing’ is an interesting contrast to Crosby’s solo version (but not as good, although it’s always difficult to improve upon a song your audience already loves in a different version). Yes, could have done with another Gene Clark song, maybe. Michael’s drumming sounds fine to me, quite chunky in places. I remember reviewers at the time applauding McGuinn’s solo debut and saying that if ‘My New Woman’ had been on the reunion album, it would have transformed the work into something approaching greatness. Or maybe they meant if there’d been another track or two of that calibre.
My opinion, FWIW:
Musicially, the song isn't much. A basic sort of midtempo rocker that just kind of plods along without much drive or energy. Lyrically, I guess it's an examination of the fleeting nature of fame/stardom, but it's not particularly clever or insightful, and the repeated references to Humpty Dumpty at the end seem somewhat silly.
Performance-wise, a song like this really needs something unique in the production, arrangement, or instrumental work to elevate it, but the Byrds don't bring anything to the table besides mediocrity. This type of rocker is outside their wheelhouse to begin with (much like Born to RnR) and that does not help. Even moreso, the song is of the type that Crosby is ill-suited to sing (much like Hey Joe) since it requires him to sort of rock and sound heavy. Crosby is at his best when he's singing gently or subtly... he just is not born to rock and roll. His yelping about Humpty Dumpty at the end is to me a cringeworthy moment.
I still think the reunion is a fine album. Could've been better. The Byrds' "Laughing" I heard before Crosby's. I prefer the looser, soggier Byrds version. First heard "Things Will Get Better" on the radio back in the day, loved it then and still do. Chunky. "For Free" is a beautiful track. "Long live the king" is a dark little curio. Gene's tracks are all stunners. I also like the way it's almost a concept album with all those veiled references to the music biz. I'd rather listen to Byrds than anything by CSNY! But none of the Byrds' albums is perfect, although "Notorious " comes close.
A power trio!
Anyone listen much to Roger's 70s solo albums these days?
My personal fave is Thunderbyrd. I think Cardiff is stodgy and overrated . Half of Peace is magnificent, the rest is dire. And Band is not as bad as it's made out to be. The first s/t is okay apart from "M'Linda".
I put them on occasionally. Pleasant to listen to but a lot of the material is not all that memorable.
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