Posts Tagged ‘The Byrds’

Gene Clark: Collected: Limited Edition 3LP

Gene Clark American singer-songwriter and responsible for The Byrds’ greatest hits, including “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, “She Don’t Care About Time”, “Eight Miles High” and “Set You Free This Time”. After making music in several group formations furthermore with The Gosdin Brothers, Doug Dillard, Carla Olson and recording several albums with members of The Byrds over the years, Clark embarked on a solo career that encompassed heavily orchestrated treasures like “No Other” and folk-focused “White Light”. Through it all and in every setting, Clark’s clear and true vocals, his poetic turns of phrase, and his skill at weaving melancholy melodies never wavered. His body of work is impressive and, long after his passing in 1991, has remained influential to each new generation of pop artists who followed in his wake.

To honour his legacy and the impressive repertoire he left behind, Music On Vinyl proudly presents the new Collected compilation album in collaboration with Universal Music. Collected is a compilation featuring Gene Clark’s greatest songs and is a career-spanning 2LP including tracks by The Byrds and with The Gosdin Brothers, Carla Olson and his other collaborations

Clark would go on to record three more albums: Two Sides to Every Story (1977), Firebyrd (1984)—reissued posthumously in 1995 as This Byrd Has Flown, featuring additional tracks—and So Rebellious a Lover (1987), with Carla Olson.

2021 marks 30 years since the passing of folk-rock pioneer and co-founder of the Byrds (formed in 1964), Gene Clark. Clark was a key figure in the brief, but influential early period of the Byrds, who played a significant role in the expansive and electrified “pop” turn of folk music in the mid-1960s. He also had an intriguing solo career in its own right, before his life was tragically cut short.

Harold Eugene Clark was born in the small, working-class town of Tipton, Missouri, November 17th, 1944, the third of 13 children. In 1949, the Clark family moved to Kansas City, Missouri, living much of the time in abject poverty.

However, in 1954, Clark’s parents saved enough money to purchase a television, through which the young Clark would be introduced to Elvis Presley. Besotted by Presley, Clark developed a deep interest in the music. His father subsequently introduced him to Hank Williams and taught him to play the mandolin, harmonica and guitar. He began writing songs as early as nine years old—his first song being, “Big Chief Hole in Pants.”

Clark would go on to play in many aspiring folk groups in the early 1960s, including most prominently Michael Crowley’s the Surf Riders and later the New Christy Minstrels led by Randy Sparks. Clark played and worked as a backing-vocalist for two albums with the New Christy Minstrels, before leaving the band in early 1964, disillusioned with the musical approach.

Like many musicians of the time, a major turning point came in 1964 when Clark came across the Beatles’ songs “She Loves You” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on a jukebox while in Canada. Clark found his calling, saying, “I knew, I knew, that this was the future, this was where music was going and … I wanted to be a part of it.”

Clark moved to Los Angeles where he met fellow folk musician and Beatles-convert Jim (later Roger) McGuinn at the Troubadour Club. In early 1964, McGuinn and Clark worked together as a Peter and Gordon-type duo, but began to assemble a band—once David Crosby was recruited—known as the Jet Set. Soon after, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke would join the trio on bass guitar and drums, respectively.

Initially playing under the name the Beefeaters, the young musicians released two singles, “Please Let Me Love You” and “Don’t Be Long” in October 1964. One month later, the band’s manager, Jim Dickson, got the band an audition with Columbia Records, where they signed as the Byrds and would soon be billed as “America’s Beatles.”

The Byrds became, in fact, a key element in the early flourishing of the “folk-rock” sound. They essentially bridged the electrifying pop studio sound of the Beatles with, literally at times, the lyrics and “edge” of Bob Dylan and other folk musicians. McGuinn’s “jangly” 12-string guitar melodies, coupled with Clark and Crosby’s expansive harmonizing, had very little precedent in popular music to that point. The band’s impact would help shape the direction of “folk rock” for at least the next decade.

Clark played a leading part on the band’s two 1965 albums, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn! with his superlative compositions and emotionally alluring voice. Clark wrote or co-wrote many of the Byrds’ best-known originals from their first three albums, including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “Set You Free This Time” and “Eight Miles High.” At a time when the Vietnam War was raging, with antiwar and civil rights protests erupting across the US, Clark focused on intimate matters. His lyrics placed emphasis on personal reflection, reconciliation and relationships. He was also capable of writing moving songs about heartache, such as the band’s “Here Without You,” set to its signature “cascading” sound.

Notwithstanding the tremendous success of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” which peaked at Number 1 on the singles charts in 1965 in the US, United Kingdom and Ireland, and Number 2 in Canada, Clark would abruptly leave the band in February 1966, prior to the release of “Eight Miles High,” featured on “Fifth Dimension” (1966), ostensibly over his fear of flying. Clark, who had witnessed a fatal airplane crash as a youth, experienced a panic attack on a plane bound for New York, resulting in his refusal to take the flight. In effect, Clark’s exit from the plane represented his departure from the Byrds, with McGuinn telling him, “If you can’t fly, you can’t be a Byrd [bird].”

Interviewed in 1991 just days after Clark’s death, Hillman said, “We lost Gene the other day. It doesn’t matter how or why. He’s just gone. I think we lost Gene in 1967. … At one time he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby—it was Gene who would bust through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine coming on like a young Prince Valiant.”

The limited edition of Gene Clark – Collected includes an exclusive third bonus LP, which won’t be included with the regular 2LP edition. The bonus LP features “So You Say You Lost Your Baby (Acoustic Demo)” with The Gosdin Brothers, “Lyin’ Down The Middle” as Dillard & Clark, “Del Gato (Live)” and “Changes” with Carla Olson, “I Pity The Poor Immigrant”, “Stand By Me” and alternative versions of “One In A Hundred” and “She’s The Kind Of Girl” amongst others.

This 3LP edition of Gene Clark – “Collected” is available as a limited edition of 3000 individually numbered copies and includes a 4-page insert with liner notes and photos.

 

The Byrds: Sweetheart of the Rodeo - Legacy Edition Vinyl 4LP (Record Store Day)

By the time “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” was released in 1968, The Byrds had already changed the sound of rock music twice; from jangling folk-rock to experimental acid-rock, they constantly sought to push the boundaries of what rock music could be. The 1967 departure of David Crosby left a creative void filled quickly by country music-loving Gram Parsons, whose addition led Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and company to record an album comprised mostly of authentic country material in Nashville, with the aid of local session aces (including future Byrd Clarence White).

For the first time on vinyl—and on the heels of a 50th anniversary tour of the album by original members McGuinn and Hillman—this Legacy Edition of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo showcases this country-rock masterpiece alongside 28 bonus tracks, including demos, outtakes, rehearsal versions and tracks by Parsons’ pre-Byrds outfit, The International Submarine Band.

Fifty years after its creation, Sweetheart of the Rodeo looms as a cornerstone of country-rock and point source for alt-country and Americana, The Byrds’ most consequential stylistic stroke since the band’s pioneering folk-rock debut three years earlier. Yet when planning for the album began during the first months of 1968, the group was struggling against commercial headwinds and crippled by personnel changes, reduced to co-founder and lead guitarist Roger McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman.

The duo was licking its wounds at the disappointing reception to the band’s fifth and most ambitious album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which found them stretching to meet the high bar set by Sgt. Pepper. With its aggressive electronic edge and topical material reflecting political and cultural unrest, Notorious had earned them some of the best reviews of their career. By the time of its completion, however, internal dysfunction had boiled over, with McGuinn and Hillman firing David Crosby and drummer Michael Clarke. That album’s lead-in single, a wistful version of Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s “Goin’ Back,” had stalled after its October ’67 release.

By February, the two surviving members had drafted Hillman’s cousin, Kevin Kelley, as drummer and embarked on a trio tour that exposed their lack of firepower. With McGuinn and Hillman as the only signatories to a new Columbia Records contract, the plan was to proceed with hired sidemen. McGuinn, meanwhile, envisioned an even more ambitious full-length that would double down on Notorious’ scale by attempting a pan-generic survey of 20th century music.

Enter Gram Parsons. The Florida-born, Georgia-raised Parsons was a new kid in town seeking success with the International Submarine Band, whose debut album was weeks from release. Invited by Hillman to audition for the Byrds on piano, Parsons’ voice, guitar and original songs quickly established him as more versatile—and ambitious. Not content to be a mere hired hand, the charismatic Parsons lobbied for a shift away from McGuinn’s grand concept. Instead, Parsons pushed for a narrower focus highlighting the country elements he was already exploring with the ISB.

Not that the Byrds were strangers to country, especially Chris Hillman. As a teenager, he’d established himself as a mandolin player with Southern California bluegrass bands. As a Byrd, he had persuaded his bandmates to cover Porter Wagoner’s 1955 hit, “A Satisfied Mind,” and his Byrds debut as lead singer and songwriter came with “Time Between,” a brisk country shuffle on 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday. In Hillman, Parsons gained a crucial ally and future collaborator, and together they closed ranks with McGuinn around Sweetheart’s focal concept. With producer Gary Usher, they headed for Nashville and a week of March sessions reinforced by seasoned country session musicians. Subsequent Los Angeles sessions would follow in April and May.

Sweetheart’s opening track underlined the Byrds’ pivot from Hollywood to Music Row vividly. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” found them turning yet again to Bob Dylan for material, this time tapping into the bucolic spirit of the as-yet-unreleased Basement Tapes. In place of McGuinn’s signature Rickenbacker 12-string, the arrangement spotlighted Lloyd Green’s giddy pedal steel filigree, dancing between the vocals above a loping country beat. The album would close with another Basement Tapes gem, “Nothing Was Delivered,” but the set list otherwise leaned on country and folk material, plus a recent R&B ballad, William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water.”

Bell’s soulful weeper was tied to Parsons’ no-longer-hidden agenda in his Sweetheart input, a second draft for what he deemed “cosmic American music”—a junction of Southern idioms that prized both white country and black rhythm ’n’ blues. Vocal harmonies, pedal steel (by Jay Dee Maness) and honky-tonk piano (by Earl P. Ball) were anchored in Nashville, while Bell’s lyrics were pure Memphis, but Parsons’ original vocal ran afoul of protest from Lee Hazlewood and LHI Records, to which the International Submarine Band was signed. McGuinn tracked a new vocal lead in a compromise intended to quell the dispute.

The same fate befell several other Sweetheart tracks, most notably “The Christian Life,” an Ira and Charlie Louvin classic celebrating faith despite the loss of less devout friends. Parsons may have been a wealthy trust-fund kid and practicing libertine, but his reverent vocal featured here honoured the Louvins’ sincerity, nodding toward the axis of sin and soul shared by country and R&B. As heard on the finished album, McGuinn’s sarcastic drawl betrays his ambivalence, if not contempt, for the Louvins’ fervour.

The legal détente with Hazlewood and LHI over Parsons’ ISB obligations didn’t entirely erase him from the tracks. Most crucially, Parsons landed two original songs on the album. “Hickory Wind,” written with former ISB member Bob Buchanan, was a homesick reverie, a country waltz set against sighing fiddles and graced with gorgeous vocal harmonies. Parsons’ aching lead vocal projected weary vulnerability, alluding to worldly “riches and pleasures” that prove powerless against loneliness.

Parsons was less fortunate, however, with his second Sweetheart original, “One Hundred Years From Now,” another concession to LHI. Once more, McGuinn was pressed into service for the lead vocal, providing one of the set’s two mid-tempo rockers alongside “Nothing Was Delivered.”

Parsons’ lead vocals were retained for covers of Merle Haggard’s penitent “Life in Prison” and Luke McDaniels’ barroom lament, “You’re Still on My Mind,” clinching the newest Byrd’s prominence on Sweetheart.

Elsewhere on the album, McGuinn turned to Woody Guthrie for “Pretty Boy Floyd,” which cast the ’30s gangster as a Depression-era Robin Hood. Hillman, meanwhile, contributed the album’s other nod to country gospel, “I Am a Pilgrim,” and took the lead vocal on Cindy Walker’s “Blue Canadian Rockies.”

By the time “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” was released on August 30th, 1968, Parsons had left the group after refusing to play dates in South Africa. Hillman would soon follow him to join forces in the Flying Burrito Brothers, building on the “cosmic American” blueprint that would be further refined with Parsons’ solo albums with protégé Emmylou Harris.

Although other bands, including the Beatles, Lovin’ Spoonful, Buffalo Springfield and Monkees had nodded affectionately toward country, the Byrds had leaned into country too far, too soon, for Sweetheart, notching the lowest sales of any Byrds album to date: however, the project’s legacy would slowly reveal itself in a rising tide of country-rock full-lengths from the Burritos, Poco, ex-Byrd Gene Clark and, yes, the Byrds themselves, in a line-up now featuring Clarence White, whose nimble country guitar leads had been featured on the band’s studio albums since 1967.

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David Singer’s Fillmore posters that I really like that the American Flag is incorporated in. Here we have BG number with the Byrds, Fleetwood Mac and John Hammond and 211 with Chicago, Guess Who and Seals and Croft

See the source image

Numerous autobiographical songs have been written since the dawn of rock, but few have told the story of a band’s formation as vividly and colourfully as The Mamas and the Papas“Creeque Alley.” Released as a single in late April 1967, it climbed to No5 on the Billboard Hot 100; it also appeared on the quartet’s third album, “Deliver”

The song, credited to the group’s husband-and-wife co-founders John and Michelle Phillips, chronicles the events leading up to the 1965 creation of the Mamas and the Papas, which also included Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. The lyrics are stocked with names and places, some of which may have been (and still are) unfamiliar to fans of the group. 

First, there’s the song’s title. “Creeque Alley” (pronounced creaky) is a real place, one of a series of alleys (actually named Creeque’s Alley and owned by the Creeque family) on the docks on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The soon-to-be members of the Mamas and the Papas spent time there shortly before changing their musical direction and taking on their new name. There they were still performing folk music, at a club called Sparky’s Waterfront Saloon, and basically trying to make ends meet and figure out their futures.

The song’s story line only makes passing reference to the Mamas and the Papas’ time on the island though, and never mentions Creeque Alley by name. It starts in the years leading up to the seemingly preordained coalescence of the four singers. The first line, “John and Mitchy were getting’ kind of itchy just to leave the folk music behind,” refers to John and Michelle Phillips activities as folk singers in the early ’60s. John Phillips, then 26, had been singing with a folk group called the Journeymen when he met 17-year-old Michelle Gilliam during a tour stop in San Francisco. They fell in love and, after John divorced his first wife, married on December. 31st, 1962, moving to New York where they began writing songs together while Michelle did modelling work to earn some cash.

By late 1964, with the rock scene exploding, John and Michelle had become, like many others, “itchy” to move away from folk. It wasn’t all that easy, they quickly discovered, and the couple, along with Doherty formed the New Journeymen in the meantime.  In the meantime, other similarly inclined folk artists were coming into one another’s orbits. First, there were “Zal and Denny, workin’ for a penny, tryin’ to get a fish on a line,” which refers to Zal Yanovsky and Dennis (known as Denny) Doherty. Both Canadians, they’d been working together in a folk trio called the Halifax Three in their home country.

In a coffeehouse Sebastian sat” brings into the picture John Sebastian, the New York City-born singer-songwriter who at the time was part of the Even Dozen Jug Band and would soon form one of the most beloved American rock bands of the era. And then there were “McGuinn and McGuire, just a gettin’ higher in L.A., you know where that’s at.” McGuinn, of course, was Jim later Roger McGuinn, whose group the Byrds would vault to the top of the charts with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the late spring of ’65, while McGuire was Barry, whose rendition of P.F. Sloan’s protest song “Eve of Destruction” struck a nerve that summer, also catapulting to the No1 position.

The first verse leaves off with a name-drop of the fourth member of the Mamas and the Papas: “And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.” Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen), originally from Baltimore, she also had a background in folk music when she came to the attention of the other folkies in the song. She’d sung in a trio called the Big 3 with Tim Rose and Cass’ husband, James Hendricks, but like the others she saw the proverbial writing on the wall and wanted to expand her range of music. The “gettin’ fat” remark has a double meaning, however: not only was Elliot physically large but she was the only future M&P member who was making a decent living with her music, singing jazz in the Washington, D.C., area.

The second verse begins with a couple of mutual compliments: “Zally said, ‘Denny, you know there aren’t many who can sing a song the way that you do, let’s go south.’ Denny said, ‘Zally, golly, don’t you think that I wish I could play guitar like you?’” And so they headed south from Canada, soon finding themselves at a popular club in New York’s Greenwich Village: “Zal, Denny and John Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl), and after every number they’d pass the hat.” (More trivia: The Night Owl would become the home base of the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sebastian and Yanovsky’s group, and much later on would be the site of the famed New York record store Bleecker Bob’s.

Meanwhile, McGuinn and McGuire were “still a-gettin’ higher in L.A.” and Mama Cass was still “gettin’ fat,” but no one had yet found their destinies. Verse three gives us some more background on Cass’ run-up to joining the group. She was planning to attend college at Swarthmore, the song says, but instead hitchhiked to New York to see if she could make it in the music world. She wanted to attend Goucher College near her hometown of Baltimore. But John Phillips needed a rhyme so he used sophomore and Swarthmore.) Upon her arrival in NYC, she met Denny Doherty and fell in love with him. “Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps” adds the next piece to the puzzle: The Mugwumps were a folk quintet formed in 1964 featuring Elliot, Doherty, Sebastian, Yanovsky and Hendricks. (The John here refers to Sebastian, not Phillips. The Mugwumps recorded enough material to be compiled into an album in 1967, which did not feature Sebastian, but the group was short-lived as its members were also “itchy to leave the folk music behind.”

The next verse ties up the loose ends and takes us to the point where everyone is on the verge of fame: “Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful; Michelle, John and Denny getting’ very tuneful; McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin’ fire in L.A., you know where that’s at.” And there you have it: the various figures peel away from folk and move into what was then called folk-rock: Sebastian and Yanovsky teamed with bassist Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler in the Lovin’ Spoonful; the Phillipses, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty became the Mamas and the Papas; McGuinn led the Byrds for several years; and McGuire had a chart-topping hit as a solo artist. In fact, says a previous verse, “McGuinn and McGuire couldn’t get no higher and that’s what they were aimin’ at.” “And everybody’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass,” goes the final line in that verse, inferring that success had arrived.

But there’s some unfinished business, that matter of the time spent at Creeque Alley. The last chorus/verse informs us that it wasn’t overnight success for the Mamas and the Papas by any means. It’s here, at the end of the song, that the scene shifts to the Virgin Islands. The singers, still called the New Journeymen and minus Cass at first (as the song said, they “knew she’d come eventually”) are cash-poor and borrowing on their American Express cards. They’re “broke, busted, disgusted,” but thanks to some help from a fellow named Hugh Duffy, who owned a boarding house in Creeque’s Alley, the four young singers who would soon be known worldwide were able to start thinking about their future: “Duffy’s good vibrations and our imaginations can’t go on indefinitely,” they sing toward the end of “Creeque Alley” So the four returned briefly to New York, then all headed out to Southern California to see if they could catch a break. “And California Dreaming is becoming a reality” is the final line of the song. We all know what that one means.

Image may contain: one or more people and closeup, text that says 'TIME BETWEEN MYLIFE LIFE AS BYRD, BURRITO BROTHER, AND BEYOND CHRIS HILLMAN'

As a co-founder of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Chris Hillman is arguably the primary architect of what’s come to be known as country rock. He went on to record and perform in various configurations, including as a member of Stephen Stills’s Manassas and as a co-founder of The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. In the 1980s he formed The Desert Rose Band, scoring eight Top 10 Billboard country hits. He’s released a number of solo efforts, including 2017’s highly acclaimed Bidin’ My Time—the final album produced by the late Tom Petty. In Time Between, Hillman shares his quintessentially Southern Californian experience, from an idyllic, rural 1950s childhood; to achieving worldwide fame thanks to hits such as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Eight Miles High”; to becoming the first musician to move to Laurel Canyon. Featuring behind-the-scenes insights on his time in The Byrds, his productive but sometimes complicated relationship with Gram Parsons, his role in launching the careers of Buffalo Springfield and Emmylou Harris, and the ups and downs of life in various bands, music is only part of his story. Within the pages of Time Between, Hillman reveals the details of his personal life with candor and vulnerability, writing honestly about the shocking tragedy that struck his family when he was a teenager, his subsequent struggles with anger, and how his spiritual journey led him to a place of deep faith that allowed him to extend forgiveness and experience wholeness. Chris Hillman is much more than a rock star. He is truly a founding father of American music and a man who has faced down the challenges of life to discover what really matters.

The Byrds: Turn! Turn! Turn! —

The signature guitar orchestra led by McGuinn’s jangly twelve-string Rickenbacker dominates the music of the opening title track, “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”. These guitars are complimented by perfectly harmonized vocals, and Clarke’s rolling drum pattern under the chorus sections. While it is filled with so much sustained guitar textures, it stops on a dime several times between each verse/chorus sequence, including a false ending before a coda with extra intensity. The song was originally composed by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s, with many of the lyrics were lifted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes, possibly written by King Solomon in the 10th century BC. With that, the song holds the distinction as the #1 pop hit with the oldest lyrics.

Like the opener, “It Won’t Be Wrong”, is another upbeat track but with more standard love song style lyrics. Co-written by McGuinn and Harvey Gerstand, this track features some interesting style changes which make it unconventional and a bit strange. Clark’s, “Set You Free This Time”, is a country/pop flavored track, especially in its vocal approach. In fact, this is the first song to feature solo lead singer, with harmonies used sparingly and with Clark’s fine harmonica solo as the song fades out.

“Lay Down Your Weary Tune”, is the first of two Bob Dylan covers on the album and is set up like a spiritual with the chorus/hook featuring heavy harmonies. Musically, this song has much the same jangly vibe and strong drums as previous tracks, but with an added heavy bass presence by Hillman. The first side concludes with an original rendition of the traditional folk tune, “He Was a Friend of Mine”, a finger-picked acoustic song with stripped down arrangement and a slight, distant organ by Melcher under the later verses.

“The World Turns All Around Her”, is a fine, pop-oriented composition by Clark which may only suffer from lack of strong rhythm presence in production mix. “Satisfied Mind”, follows as a country-esque cover of a folk song by Red Hayes and Jack Rhodes. Along with the fine sparse instrumentation and harmonica lead, this track is highlighted by profound and philosophical lyrics;

Money won’t buy back your youth when you’re old, a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold / The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind…”

Clark’s, “If You’re Gone”, is different than any other track on the album. Vocal-centric with a slow-rock backing, the song has distinct and interesting, almost haunting, chanting low-register vocals. While not quite as potent as their cover of, “Mr Tambourine Man”, the Byrds’ cover of, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” ,still dekuvers somewhat of an interesting arrangement of the Dylan classic.

Further, the group members were pleasantly surprised when Beatles George Harrison and Paul McCartney showed up during the recording of this track. “Wait and See”, is the only song to feature Crosby as a co-writer, along with McGuinn, while the group chose to do a souped up version of the popular campfire song, “Oh! Susannah”, to close the album.

Turn! Turn! Turn! peaked in the Top 20 of album charts in both the US and UK.

The Byrds

  • Jim McGuinn – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals
  • Gene Clark – rhythm guitar, harmonica, tambourine, vocals
  • David Crosby – rhythm guitar, vocals
  • Chris Hillman – electric bass (backing vocal on “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”)
  • Michael Clarke – drums (tambourine on “He Was a Friend of Mine”)

Additional personnel

  • Terry Melcher – organ on “He Was a Friend of Mine”

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Roger McGuinn discovers a long-forgotten soundboard of the Byrds’ last true live line-up sitting in his garage, sharing the flashback to a time when the band was on its way down while virtuoso guitarist Clarence White was on his way up.

The Byrds weren’t just one of the greatest and most influential bands of all time, they were several of them. There was, of course, the original folk-rock version of the Byrds, which started the psychedelic version of the Byrds, which in turn begat the country-rock version of the Byrds, which in turn begat a hodgepodge of all those iterations before the group burned out once and for all. But each version of the Byrds likewise showcased what could generously be categorized a constant shifting line-up, with Roger McGuinn as the sole constant up through the band’s somewhat unsung end in 1973.

Yet McGuinn’s not the star of the line-up captured on “Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1971”, the masters of which the singer recently found sitting in his archives.

Rather, the focal point is former bluegrass prodigy turned rocker Clarence White, whose short-lived career ended around the same time The Byrds did, when he was struck and killed by a drunk driver while loading gear. White got his start in the Kentucky Colonels, crossing paths with The Byrds several times before McGuinn eventually invited him to join in 1968 as a permanent member. His virtuoso solos and interplay with McGuinn are what kept the band interesting, especially in its later years and particularly for a band never renown for its live prowess.

Albert Hall 1971 isn’t The Byrds‘ only live album– portions of 1970’s (Untitled) were recorded live, and 2000 saw the release of Live at the Fillmore – February 1969. By this point the band’s flame was growing dimmer, its focus diffuse, and you can hear the roots of the nascent jam-band movement as the songs’ melodies give way to relatively aimless noodling. Just listen to how Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” is given a rushed and busy reading en route to a rendition of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What You Want Me to Do” which recalls what the Grateful Dead (also frequently drawn to Reed) was up to on its parallel folk-rock route.

A few of the Byrds’ better known songs are well represented, but renditions of “So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Mr. Spacemen” are loose and hardly definitive. The setlist is also distractingly schizophrenic, veering from the likes of “Lover of the Bayou” to Dylan’s laid-back “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” with little in the way of segue. Singing lead on a handful of songs, such as Jackson Browne’s “Jamaica, Say You Will”, White offers a vocal counterpart to McGuinn, but the harmonies from the band’s heyday are largely nowhere to be found. The a cappella “Amazing Grace” that closes the set is a far cry from the McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman frontline that helped make the band famous.

But then there’s the guitar. McGuinn and White tear it up on cuts like “Jesus Is Just Alright” and “Lover of the Bayou”. “There are so many songs we’d all like to hear, and there are so many songs we’d like to do for you, but there’s only a little bit of time,” apologizes McGuinn before someone requests “Nashville West“. “You want to play that one, Clarence?” he asks, before letting White off his leash. Even acoustic, the pair shines. The traditional “Black Mountain Rag/Soldier’s Joy” includes two of the disc’s best minutes, easing into a 12-string free “Mr. Tambourine Man”, Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd”, and Leadbelly’s “Take a Whiff (On Me)”, tracks that showcase McGuinn and White sans clunky rhythm section.

Indeed, the two later lead a radically reworked “Eight Miles High” past the 18-minute mark, but that also includes a lengthy interlude featuring the plodding bassist Skip Battin and drummer Gene Parsons who, frankly, drag down the John Coltrane-inspired epic (the liners note the section was mostly inserted to give McGuinn and White a cigarette break). It’s partly their fault that Live at the Royal Albert Hall 1971 never quite reaches the heights McGuinn and White aim for, but it’s also clear, instrumental aptitude or not, that The Byrds had moved beyond the logical end of its creative road. Listening to this set, it’s easy to imagine the band deciding to tour forever, like the Dead did, existing for fleeting moments of ephemeral glory while memories of its better days faded away. But that was not to be, and in retrospect, with fine but hardly earth-shattering documents such as this one as proxy witness, pulling the plug was probably for the best.

Setlist:
Lover Of The Bayou (3:35)
You Ain’t Going Nowhere (2:44)
Truck Stop Girl (3:25)
My Back Pages (2:20)
Baby, What You Want Me To Do (3:40)
Jamaica, Say You Will (3:30)
Black Mountain Rag/Soldier’s Joy (2:04)
Mr Tambourine Man (3:33)
Pretty Boy Floyd (2:40)
Take A Whiff (On Me) (2:45)
Chestnut Mare (5:16)
Jesus Is Just Alright (3:16)
Eight Miles High (18:35)
So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star (3:07)
Mr Spaceman (3:01)
I Trust (5:28)
Nashville West (2:39)
Roll Over Beethoven (3:02)
Amazing Grace (2:36)

Gene Clark’s classic album “White Light” coming soon on CD/SACD from Intervention Records!

Gene Clark’s (The Byrds) classic solo album White Light is coming soon , Mastered Direct-to-DSD by Kevin Gray of CoHEARent Audio from Real Analog Tapes this hybrid CD/SACD plays on medium players and features super jewel box packaging. All Music calls this 1971 masterpiece “…one of the greatest singer/songwriter albums ever made.” When you hear our reissue of White Light, we are sure you will agree.

Gene Clark’s 1971 classic “White Light” is a bittersweet and knowing statement from a singer/songwriter at the peak at his creative powers. Having fronted The Byrds, Clark on his own here is stripped down in guitarist Jesse Ed Davis‘ stark production. The lyrics, singing and guitar playing are so powerful that less production here is immeasurably more musically.

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The Byrds – 1965 – Founded in 1964 by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark, the original Byrds also included Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Crosby. The band, featuring McGuinn’s sublime, jangly, 12-string Rickenbacker and beautiful three-part harmonies was one of the most influential Rock bands of the era, and arguably with the Doors and Crosby, Stills and Nash, the three greatest American Rock groups of the 1960s. The original band recorded three albums: “Mr Tambourine Man,” (1965), Turn! Turn! Turn! (1966), and “Fifth Dimension,” (1966).

These albums contained some of Gene Clark’s finest compositions” “Set You Free This Time,” “Here Without You,” “She Don’t Care About Time,” and “Feel A Whole Lot Better.” He departed the band in 1966 followed by Crosby in 1967.

After an appearance with Stephen Stills at the Monterey Pop Festival, Crosby helped form the Rock super group Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1968. 

The early Byrds albums are best known for their cover versions – their take on Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ launched their career, while their second album was named for Pete Seeger’s biblical ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’ While Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman would write strong material for The Byrds later, the one Byrd who was an accomplished writer from the beginning was Gene Clark.

Due to group infighting in the band, Clark was limited to only three songs on their second album,Turn! Turn! Turn!This meant that the excellent ‘She Don’t About Time’ was relegated to b-side status, backing the title track. It’s one of my favourite Clark songs for The Byrds. For me the song’s most startling feature is McGuinn’s lift of Bach’s ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ for the guitar solo, and how seamlessly it fits in. The song inspired George Harrison to write The Beatles’ ‘If I Needed Someone’.

As a Byrds fan, it took me a while to get to Clark’s solo career, but it’s often excellent please check out the records like No Other and White Light both are very strong.

As a bonus feature, here’s another strong Byrds song that never made it onto a studio album. David Crosby’s non-album single ‘Lady Friend’ was released in 1967. It’s an interesting spin on The Byrds’ usual sound, with the harmonies and McGuinn guitar the group were known for, but also a brass arrangement. It failed on the charts, and was never included on a studio album.