The BYRDS – ” The 1973 Reunion Album “

Posted: May 25, 2021 in MUSIC

In 1973, the Byrds’ classic line-up of Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn and Michael Clarke fully reunited for the first time since 1966, when they released the album, Byrds.

Recorded at the Wally Heider studios in Los Angeles during October and November 1972, the album featured compositions by Gene Clark (“Full Circle” and “Changing Heart”), Roger McGuinn (“Sweet Mary” and “Born to Rock n’ Roll”) and Chris Hillman (“Things Will Be Better” and “Borrowing Time”) along with David Crosby’s “Long Live the King” and a new version of “Laughing” (originally recorded by Crosby on his 1971 solo album If Only I Could Remember My Name).

The album also featured a cover version of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” and two Neil Young compositions: “Cowgirl in the Sand” and “(See the Sky) About to Rain,” the latter not released by Young himself until 1974 when his version appeared on the album On the Beach.

Byrds reached #20 on the U.S. album chart, soaring higher than any release since 1965’s Turn! Turn! Turn!. There were very high hopes for this album prior to its original release. McGuinn had helped to fuel this sense of anticipation some months earlier by telling a journalist that the new album would “continue where ‘The Notorious Byrd Brothers’ had left off.”. When ‘Byrds’ finally appeared it seemed as segmented as the latter day Byrds’ Columbia albums and had little of that remarkably unified sound that had been the hallmark of the same line-up between 1965 and 1967.

The two Gene Clark compositions (‘Full Circle’ and ‘Changing Heart‘) have become classics and are worth the price of admission alone. McGuinn’s ‘Sweet Mary’ is in the style of a traditional folk song and features some excellent mandolin and acoustic guitar. Neil Young’s (then unreleased) ‘See the Sky About to Rain’ sees some stunning 12 string guitar work, great harmony and the kind of Gene Clark vocal that we would hear from him on ‘No Other’ the following year.

David Crosby is very much in his element as a harmony singer – especially on ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’ and the version of his own composition ‘Laughing’ contains enough of McGuinn’s Rickenbacker raga sound to render its inclusion worthwhile. And don’t forget that there is an astonishing outtake from this album –‘My New Woman’ on McGuinn’s self titled solo album from a few months later.

The album was remastered and reissued in 2019 by Cherry Red Records’ Esoteric Recordings label. The updated edition of Byrds restored the original album artwork and features an illustrated booklet with essay.

In 1966, Gene Clark had left the group in part due to his fear of flying. (He died at just 46 years old on May 24th, 1991.) The following year, Michael Clarke departed and ultimately joined the Flying Burrito Burritos. (He passed on Dec. 19th, 1993, at age 47.) Soon thereafter, Crosby left and soon formed Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Originally released on the Asylum label in March 1973, Reissued through Cherry Red Records’ Esoteric Recordings label.

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