Posts Tagged ‘The Byrds’

American singer-songwriter and The Byrds founding member Gene Clark’s 1974 solo album “No Other” is to be reissued by 4AD Records in November as a lavish box set which features no fewer than three SACDs, a blu-ray and an 80-page hardcover book!.

Originally released on Asylum Records, a year after the Byrds shortlived reunion, Clark’s psychedelic rock, folk, country and soul record cost a small fortune to make and despite being well received critically, it was a flop. It is said that Clark never really recovered from this blow. Since then, the album has gained greater prominence via a few reissues and has become recognised as a great album of its era. Recorded at the Village Recorder in West Hollywood and produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, “No Other” was originally released in 1974 on Asylum Records, Reaching for the stars, Gene delivered a visionary record of psychedelic rock, folk, country and soul which famously cost a small fortune to make (“It took a lot of time in the studio before we could actually get the songs to the point we wanted them,” Gene said in 1977).  Although warmly received by critics, No Other was a commercial failure and was subsequently deleted shortly after.

However, as The New York Times wrote around the record’s 40th anniversary in 2014, “hindsight has burnished No Other, as it has redeemed other albums that went on to be reconstructed as rock repertory, like Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers and Lou Reed’s Berlin,” with No Other now being increasingly recognised as one of the greatest of its time, if not all time.  Another sign of the album’s enduring charm came that year when feted Baltimore duo Beach House decided to “spread awareness”of Gene’s master work by enlisting friends – most of whom weren’t born when No Other was released – from bands such as Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen to tour the album note-for-note in both the UK and the US.

Five years on from then andNo Otheris finally getting the reappraisal it deserves.  The original tapes have been remastered at Abbey Road, a stunning 5.1 Surround mix of this album created for the first time (done by Neil Wilkes & B.J. Cole at Opus Productions), and both the in the studio and promotional photoshoots have been located.  Furthermore, all the studio takes have been forensically worked on and mixed by the duo of Gene Clark aficionado, author and Long Ryders frontman Sid Griffin and John Wood, More than just bonus material, these tracks offer fans an insight in to how Gene approached recording No Other; no track has been edited or composited in any way, allowing for things to be heard exactly as they went down in the studio and before any overdubbing took place.

4AD have remastered the eight-track album at Abbey Road and are reissuing it on CD and vinyl, There will also be an ‘extremely limited’ deluxe box set which contains the album on silver-coloured vinyl, three SACDs, an exclusive seven-inch single, and a blu-ray disc – which includes HD versions of all tracks, a 5.1 surround mix of the album, the original 1974 vinyl master and an exclusive documentary by Paul Kendall (the director of the 2013 film, The Byrd Who Flew Alone: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Gene Clark) – and a hardbound 80 page book which features essays, extensive liner notes and previously unseen photos.

All the studio takes have been worked on and mixed by the duo of Gene Clark aficionado, author and Long Ryders frontman Sid Griffin and John Wood, the producer famed for his work with the likes of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake & Sandy Denny. No track has been edited or composited in any way so what you hear is exactly what went down in the studio before any overdubbing took place.

All the SACDs are hybrid, meaning you can play the stereo audio on normal CD players. The first (multi-layer) SACD is presented in an exclusive Japanese vinyl replica sleeve and features the eight-track album and the 5.1 surround mix, while two further SACDs offer 18 session tracks and a couple of seven-inch edits. Amongst the sessions is a recording of ‘Train Leaves Here This Morning,’ an Eagles hit in 1972, written by Gene and Eagles founding member Bernie Leadon.

Coming on the eve of Gene’s 75th birthday, this reissue serves as both a celebration for fans and an introduction to soon-to-be fans.  There really is no other like No Other.

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Californian folk-rock band The Byrds enjoyed immediate success in 1965 with their first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. The song was a watershed moment in pop music – combining Dylan’s poetic, creative lyrics with Roger McGuinn’s chiming twelve string electric guitar. The song launched the genre of folk-rock, influencing acts like Tom Petty and R.E.M..

By the time of their fifth album, 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers, The Byrds were in turmoil, released in January 1968, on Columbia Records With three talented singer-guitarists competing for attention in their original lineup, band relationships were competitive and strained. Ace songwriter Gene Clark had already left the band, and David Crosby was fired in October 1967, during the sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The breaking point was the song ‘Triad’, about a ménage à trois, a song that the other members considered too risque at the time. Drummer Michael Clarke also left the band during the recording sessions, and much of the drumming on the album is from studio players Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers was completed by the two remaining Byrds; McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman, using studio musicians to fill out the sound. The Byrds had often recorded songs from outside songwriters, famously Bob Dylan, and this time two songs from the pen of Carole King and Gerry Goffin are covered. Even though he was fired during the sessions, David Crosby’s also influential on the record – as well as contributing three songs, his rhythm guitar and vocals are on half of the songs. He also plays bass on ‘Old John Robertson’.

1967 was the year of psychedelia, but albums like Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and The Band’s 1968 debut swung the pendulum back to an earthy, homespun feel. The Notorious Byrd Brothers splits the difference – psychedelia mingles with country touches like pedal steel. There’s also the band’s usual folk-rock, and other styles are explored – ‘Old John Robertson’ starts as jaunty country, but detours into a baroque string quartet. Closer ‘Space Odyssey’ is the most disparate. a Moog coloured sci-fi experiment.

It’s these experiments in texture that make The Notorious Byrd Brothers  among The Byrds’ best album. There’s enough of the Byrds’ usual folk-rock to make Notorious a representative album but every track has a different sonic palette, lovingly thought out and distinct.

1960s themes of love and unity are prominent in songs like ‘Natural Harmony’, but there are also hints of darkness in the drug song ‘Artificial Energy’ and the anti-Vietnam war ‘Draft Morning’.

The Byrds’ first six albums are all strong, and 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday is a strong contender as the band’s best album. In the aftermath of their sixth album, 1968’s Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Hillman quit the band leaving McGuinn as the only original Byrd. Later Byrds albums are more like McGuinn solo records, excepting the 1973 reunion of the original lineup on The Byrds.

The album’s opening track, “Artificial Energy”, features a prominent horn section and as such, can be seen as a stylistic relative of “Lady Friend” and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, two earlier Byrds’ songs that made use of brass.  The song deals with the dark side of amphetamine use and it was Chris Hillman who initially suggested that the band should “write a song about speed”. The title was suggested by drummer Michael Clarke, and his input in the creation of the song was sufficient to afford him a rare writing credit Although the song’s lyrics initially seem to be extolling the virtues of amphetamines, the tale turns darker in the final verse when it becomes apparent that the drug taker has been imprisoned for murdering a homosexual man, as evidenced by the song’s final couplet: “I’m coming down off amphetamine/And I’m in jail ’cause I killed a queen. Although the press had accused the Byrds of writing songs about drugs in the past, specifically with “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, when the band finally did record a song unequivocally dealing with drugs it was largely ignored by journalists.

“Artificial Energy” is followed on the album by the poignant and nostalgic Goffin–King song “Goin’ Back”.With its chiming 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and polished harmony singing, band biographer Johnny Rogan has described the song as providing a sharp contrast to the negativity and violence of the opening track The song’s lyrics describe an attempt on the part of the singer to reject the cynicism that comes with being an adult in favor of the innocence of childhood.Thematically, the song recalled the title of the Byrds‘ previous album, Younger Than Yesterday, and the understated pedal steel guitar playing of Red Rhodes gives the track a subtle country flavor.

“Goin’ Back” Each of the previous Byrds albums features a iconic lead single; ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, ‘Turn Turn Turn’, ‘Eight Miles High’,and ‘So You Want To Be A Rock and Roll Star’are arguably their four best known songs. The nostalgia of ‘Goin’ Back’, written by King and Goffin, has flown under the radar a little, but it’s a lovely song, wistful and nostalgic.

Another song on the album that deals with the need to escape the confines of society is David Crosby’s “Dolphin’s Smile”.The song was an early example of Crosby’s penchant for using nautical imagery in his songs, a thematic trait he would utilize in future compositions, including “Wooden Ships” and “The Lee Shore”.The theme of unfettered idyllic bliss is further explored in the Hillman-penned “Natural Harmony”.Like “Goin’ Back”, “Natural Harmony” conveys a sense of longing for the innocence of youth, albeit filtered through the awareness-raising properties of psychedelic drugs. It has been suggested by some commentators that the song exhibits the strong influence of Crosby’s writing style, with its laid-back, jazzy feel and dreamy, high tenor vocal part.A second Goffin–King composition, “Wasn’t Born to Follow”, also displays country and western influences, albeit filtered through the band’s psychedelic and garage rock tendencies. The song’s country leanings are underscored by the criss-crossing musical dialogue between the electric guitar and pedal steel.The rural ambiance is further heightened by the striking imagery of the lyrics which outline the need for escape and independence: a subject perfectly in keeping with the hippie ethos of the day.

The McGuinn and Hillman composition “Change Is Now”, with its lyrics advising the listener to live life to the full, represents a celebration of the philosophy of carpe diem (popularly translated as “seize the day”).Within this context, the song’s lyrics explored a number of other themes, including epiphenomenalism, communalism and human ecology.The quasi-philosophical nature of the song prompted McGuinn to flippantly describe it in a 1969 interview as “another one of those guru-spiritual-mystic songs that no-one understood. An early instrumental recording of the song, listed under its original working title of “Universal Mind Decoder”, was included as a bonus track on the 1997 reissue of The Notorious Byrd Brothers“Change Is Now” is notable for being the only song on the album to feature both Crosby and future Byrd Clarence White together on the same track.

“Draft Morning” was one of the three songs that Crosby had contributed before he was forced from the band. McGuinn and Hillman had forgotten some of Crosby’s lyrics, so made up their own to fill in the blanks, much to Crosby’s displeasure. Despite the confused circumstances, ‘Draft Morning’ is beautiful – Hillman’s bass is loud in the mix, providing much of the melodic interest, while McGuinn’s exploratory solo temporarily upsets the serene atmosphere.

“Draft Morning” is a song about the horrors of the Vietnam War, as well as a protest against the conscription of men into the military during the conflict. The song was initially written by Crosby, but he was fired from the Byrds shortly after he had introduced it to the rest of the band. However, work had already begun on the song’s instrumental backing track by the time of Crosby’s departure. Controversially, McGuinn and Hillman decided to continue working on the song, despite its author no longer being a member of the band Having only heard the song’s lyrics in their original incarnation a few times, McGuinn and Hillman couldn’t remember all of the words when they came to record the vocals and so decided to rewrite the song with their own lyrical additions, giving themselves a co-writing credit in the process. This angered Crosby considerably, since he felt, with some justification, that McGuinn and Hillman had stolen his song. Despite its troubled evolution, “Draft Morning” is often considered one of Crosby’s best songs from his tenure with the Byrds. Lyrically, it follows a newly recruited soldier from the morning of his induction into the military through to his experiences of combat and as such, illustrates the predicament faced by many young American men during the 1960s. The song also makes extensive use of battlefield sound effects, provided for the band by the Los Angeles comedy troupe the Firesign Theatre.

Another of Crosby’s songwriting contributions to the album, “Tribal Gathering”, was, for many years, assumed to have been inspired by the Human Be-In: A Gathering Of Tribes, a counter-culture happening held in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on January 12, 1967. However, in recent years, Crosby has revealed that the song was actually inspired by another hippie gathering held at Elysian Park near Los Angeles on March 26, 1967. Played in a jazzy, 5/4 time signature, the song’s vocal arrangement was greatly influenced by the music of the Four Freshmen, a vocal group that Crosby had admired as a youngster.

Another song on the album that uses a 5/4 time signature, albeit with occasional shifts into 3/4 time, is the McGuinn and Clark composition “Get to You”.The song recounts a plane trip to London, England, just prior to the advent of autumn, but the identity of the enigmatic “you” mentioned in the song’s title is not specified in the lyrics and thus, can be interpreted as either a waiting lover or as the city of London itself. Although Clark helped to co-write the song, he had left the Byrds by the time it was recorded and therefore does not appear on the track.

“Get To You” Gene Clark was bought band into The Byrds to replace Crosby. He only lasted three weeks, but was around for long enough to write ‘Get To You’ with McGuinn. ‘Get To You’ has a tension between McGuinn’s folk roots and psychedelia, and the time signature shifts between 5/4 and 3/4.

“Old John Robertson”, which had already been issued some six months earlier as the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single, was another country-tinged song that looked forward to the band’s future country rock experimentation. The song was inspired by a retired film director who lived in the small town near San Diego where Hillman grew up. John S. Robertson was something of an eccentric figure around the town, regularly wearing a Stetson hat and sporting a white handlebar moustache, which gave him the appearance of a character out of the old American West. In the song, Hillman tells the children of the town and their cruel laughter at this colorful figure, as well as the combination of awe and fear that he elicited in the townsfolk. During the recording of the song, Crosby switched instruments with Hillman to play bass instead of his usual rhythm guitar. The track also makes liberal use of the studio effects known as phasing and flanging, particularly during the song’s orchestral middle section and subsequent verse. The version of “Old John Robertson” found on the B-side of the “Lady Friend” single is a substantially different mix from the version that appears on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album.

The final track on the album, “Space Odyssey”, is a musical retelling of Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel”, which was also the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.The song makes extensive use of the Moog modular synthesizer and features a droning, dirge-like melody reminiscent of a sea shanty. Since “Space Odyssey” predates the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, McGuinn and his co-writer, Robert J. Hippard, composed lyrics that referred to a pyramid being found on the Moon, as was the case in “The Sentinel”. However, the pyramid was replaced by a rectangular monolith in both the film and the accompanying novelization.

At the time of release The Notorious Byrd Brothers wasn’t a big hit album – it barely cracked the top 50 in the US,

In 1973, Jon Landau wrote in Rolling Stone: “Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers stand with Mr. Tambourine Man as their greatest albums and I used to have a hell of a time choosing between them.”

On the website Rate Your Music, The Notorious Byrds Brothers is tied with Younger Than Yesterday on 3.87/5 as The Byrds’ best album.

On the website Acclaimed Music, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is ranked as the #294 best album of all time. It’s ranked as The Byrds’ fourth best album, behind 1968’s country record Sweetheart of the Rodeo at #192, Younger Than Yesterday, and Mr. Tambourine Man.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers is included in the original edition of 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, along with four other Byrds’ albums. The book also quotes Chris Hillman, who says “I’ve talked to more people over the years who’ve said that’s their favourite Byrds album”.

thanks to Aphoristic Album Reviews for the words

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Echo In The Canyon celebrates the explosion of popular music that came out of LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-60s as folk went electric and The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the California Sound.  It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to LA to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Featuring Jakob Dylan, the film explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene.  Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today.  Echo in the Canyon contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones.

Release Date: May 24, 2019 Director: Andrew Slater

Echo in the Canyon 
by director Andrew Slater

I did not set out to make a film about the Laurel Canyon music scene. In fact, I didn’t set out to make a “film” at all. I was looking to record some music.

Growing up in New York in the 1960s, AM radio transported me to places I wanted to be. Of course The Beatles defined mod London, and Bob Dylan defined New York. But the songs by The Byrds, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas and Buffalo Springfield painted an idyllic picture of life in bohemian Los Angeles. As a young adult I was drawn to move to Los Angeles by these groups and the lifestyles they expressed in song.

Throughout my career in the music business, this earlier music of my adopted hometown was an obvious part of the bedrock of my generation’s cultural place in the universe. But I was also aware of how it remained part of the foundation of the musical palette for generations of musicians that followed.

Whether through nostalgia or some other force I cannot quite account for, as we neared the 50th anniversary of the advent of this revolutionary period in rock and roll, I was struck with the need to explore the music of this era through the eyes, ears and souls of musicians who were born into a culture where this music was always a part of the world as they knew it.

I enlisted the help of Jakob Dylan, along with a few artists of his generation, to join me, and we journeyed to places where the music was made and to the people who made it. Jakob had known many of these people his whole life, and they began telling him the stories behind the songs. And the stories we heard echoed all the things I thought I knew but never was able to articulate in a way that clearly captured what was happening at this fantastic creative moment in time.

We recorded the music that is now the Echo in the Canyon album, and luckily I must have always known this project would be more than just a record, as I began filming our experiences early on, whenever and wherever it was possible. It was not long before it became clear through our conversations with the original artists that this needed to be more than album. The stories and insights, told by my heroes, “primary sources” from this magical period of time, were too compelling to be buried in “research.” That is how this movie, which has now taken on a life of its own, came to be made.

What was happening here in the mid-‘60s, before the onset of psychedelia and the era of the singer-songwriter was obvious to me—but no one had ever told the story of this legendary place from the standpoint of how deeply and richly the artists impacted and collaborated with one another, and how the waves of influence traveled across the ocean to England and back, with The Beatles claiming The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” as a precursor to much of the musical landscape of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Personally, I embarked on the Echo in the Canyon project because these songs defined what I couldn’t say about the places that I had yearned to see. And these bands changed the way I thought about music—electrifying folk and trading ideas amongst each other that not only inspired The Beatles but inspired generations of artists to this day. And I wanted to film and record it to be experienced in a state-of-the-art movie theater, to try to recapture the magic I felt so many years ago. Thank you Landmark for helping me bring this dream to life.

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Gene Clark Sings For You

Though he’s been and continues to be the subject of numerous reissues and releases, Gene Clark still remains somewhat of an enigma.  The founding member of The Byrds (1944-1991) only released six solo studio albums within his too-short lifetime, bolstering a discography also containing group and collaborative efforts.  But he left behind what seems like scores of unreleased tracks, much of which has been mined in the years since his death.  In 2013, the Omnivore label issued his demos for the A&M album White Light, and now the label has tackled the holy grail of Clark’s demos – a 1967 acetate entitled Gene Clark Sings for You.  An expanded edition of the original acetate has been joined on CD by A Trip Through the Garden from The Rose Garden, a group which enjoyed Clark’s support and patronage.

The eight recordings on the original Gene Clark Sings for You were recorded near the end of 1967 at West Hollywood’s Larrabee Studios and the venerable Gold Star StudiosClark, accompanying himself on guitar, was joined by simple instrumentation including calliope, Chamberlin strings (a keyboard device similar to the mellotron) and electric piano.  Alex del Zoppo of Sweetwater played the piano, though the other musicians’ identities remain a mystery.  One track boasts strings, leading to speculation that it may have come from an earlier session led by Leon Russell as arranger-conductor.  All of the songs reveal a young, talented singer-songwriter at the crossroads, with plenty of talent and ambition but perhaps lacking a clear vision as to how to best deploy those gifts.  The result is a set of original songs in the best sense of the word, even if they may not have been commercial enough to attract an interested label.  It’s also worth noting that Clark never released any of these songs, a testament to his prolific nature as a songwriter.

The Dylan influence so evident in The Byrds’ recordings is also clear on “Past Tense,” though Clark’s own evocative poetic sensibility comes into its own with “Past My Door.”  Eschewing the expected, Clark also employed a tempo shift midway through.  Violins – perhaps arranged by Leon Russell – appear on “That’s Alright by Me,” adding a note of elegance to the folk-rock track.

Clark conjured San Francisco on many of these demos including “On Her Own,” about a beguiling girl he found there, and the mournful “Down on the Pier” (featuring atmospheric, ironic calliope).  The similarly doleful “Yesterday, Am I Right” (previously recorded for Hugh Masekela’s Chisa label but unissued) features Clark’s drawl at its most vulnerable.  Clark’s well-documented country leanings come to the fore on one track alone: the twangy, laconic “7:30 Mode,” on which he adds harmonica and is accompanied by an unknown guitarist.

This first-time commercial release of Gene Clark Sings for You is bolstered with an additional six tracks intended for The Rose Garden – a five-song acetate and one more demo.  The troubadour first encountered the band at the Ash Grove, joining them onstage for a set of Byrds tunes.  The awestruck band were thrilled to work with, and receive songs from, their hero.  The acoustic tracks on the acetate (which has never been heard outside of band circles) include the Dylan-ish “On Tenth Street,” the upbeat love song “Understand Me Too,” and the moving “A Long Time,” which The Rose Garden opted to cover on the band’s sole album.  Two full-band performances were also presented to The Rose Garden: the blues-rocking “Big City Girl” (complete with wailing harmonica) and “Doctor, Doctor,” the most produced and Byrds-esque track on the acetate with double-tracked vocals and harmonies.  “Till Today,” also recorded by The Rose Garden, is included here in a Clark demo.

The Rose Garden is the subject of A Trip Through the Garden, the first-ever anthology dedicated to the band.  And what an anthology it is, appending 16 tracks (14 previously unreleased) to the group’s lone 1968 album.  The band is, of course, best remembered today for the opening track of that LP, “Next Plane to London.”  The top 20 hit still gets airplay today, and earned The Rose Garden the “one-hit wonder” tag.  But as with most artists given that moniker, there was more to the group than just that one tune.
The Los Angeles-area band (John Noreen, Jim Groshong, Bruce Bowdin, and Bill Fleming) was enamored with The Byrds, which made it all the more fortuitous when Clark dropped into their set the Ash Grove.  (They went by The Blokes at that time.)  With the addition of singer Diana De Rose, The Blokes gained a gal and rechristened themselves The Rose Garden (a play on their newest addition’s surname.)  A showcase at hot spot Gazzarri’s on the Sunset Strip landed the still-underage band a deal with Buffalo Springfield managers Charles Greene and Brian Stone.  They got The Rose Garden signed with the Springfield’s label, Atco, and set about producing their first album.

The Rose Garden - A Trip Through The Garden

The Rose Garden is an amiable folk-rock effort with heavy pop leanings and a solid dose of Byrds-esque chime (courtesy of Noreen’s Rickenbacker) and sparkling harmonies.  Notably, while emphasizing vocals over instrumentation in Greene and Stone’s production, the band played on the record as a self-contained unit, without any intervention from the Wrecking Crew or other studio aces.  The liner notes reveal that the album’s repertoire was selected from songs picked by Greene and Stone as well as the band members.  (Only one track is credited to the band: “Flower Town,” a flower-power adaptation of the folk ballad “Portland Town.”)

In addition to Kenny O’Dell’s obviously catchy “Next Plane to London,” featuring Diana’s enjoyably burnished vocals, The Rose Garden offered a trio of songs by future Redbone founder Pat Vegas: the slow “I’m Only Second” (which somewhat recalls “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”), the bright Byrds-meets-Mamas-and-the-Papas confection “February Sunshine,” and the jangly “Coins of Fun” with strong duet vocals from Diana and Jim.  (The latter isn’t as trippy as its title would indicate, though.)  The group’s lustrous harmonies were also in evidence on the folk adaptation “Rider.”  An attractive cover of the Bob Dylan ballad “She Belongs to Me” led by Groshong joined Clark’s “Till Today” (slightly evoking The Fortunes’ “You’ve Got Your Troubles” in the band arrangement) and “Long Time,” which gained a Motown-style bassline.  Bob Johnston and Wes Farrell penned the exquisite, soft ballad “Look What You’ve Done.”

Omnivore’s expanded edition now has a running time of nearly 80 minutes, with an impressive array of bonus tracks.  Kenny O’Dell’s gorgeous “If My World Falls Through” was backed with the uptempo “Here’s Today,” co-written by John Noreen for a follow-up, non-LP single.  The B-side is a surprisingly commercial track that could have held its own as a A-side.  These are heard in both mono and stereo versions.  They’re joined by tracks for a proposed second album that was never completed, including a take of Neil Young’s “Down to the Wire” performed by Young, Stephen Stills, and Mac (Dr. John) Rebennack.  The crunchy backing track was presented to the band by Greene and Stone due to their Buffalo Springfield connection.  The illustrious triumvirate of Bob Crewe, Al Kooper, and Irwin Levine supplied “The World Is a Great Big Playground,” which is charming but falls short of the team’s other accomplishments.

Of interest to Gene Clark fans will be two additional appearances of “Till Today”: a rehearsal with Clark himself, and an acetate alternate.  Five live songs captured onstage at West Hills, California’s Chaminade High School round out the set: “Next Plane to London” and an array of covers not recorded in the studio by The Rose Garden including The Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and Clark-penned “She Don’t Care About Time,” Sonny and Cher’s “It’s the Little Things,” and Bo Diddley’s “You Don’t Love Me,” also by way of Sonny and Cher.  The sound is better on these tracks than might be expected, and they offer a taste of what the band’s strong live sound.

John Einarson, author of Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life and Legacy of The Byrds’ Gene Clark, has penned the erudite liner notes for both releases, with the story of The Rose Garden proving particularly fascinating.  Gene Clark Sings for You and A Trip Through the Garden are essential snapshots of the unparalleled creativity of the L.A. music scene in the late 1960s.

Both titles are available now:

Gene ClarkSings for You

The Rose GardenA Trip Through the Garden: The Rose Garden Collection

Goin’ Back” (a.k.a. “Going Back“) is a song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in 1966.  It describes the loss of innocence that comes with adulthood along with an attempt, on the part of the singer, to recapture that youthful innocence. The song has been recorded by many artists, including Dusty Springfield, The Byrds, Elkie Brooks, Deacon Blue, Marianne Faithfull, Bill Drummond (of The KLF), Nils Lofgren, Freddie Mercury (on a Larry Lurex single), The Move, The New Seekers, The Pretenders, Diana Ross, Richard Thompson, Phil Collins, and Bon Jovi as well as the versionfrom writer Carole King herself

Carole King hit it big with Tapestry in 1971, but her first solo effort, 1970’s “Writer”, didn’t make much of an impact. After years of writing songs for other people, and in the wake of her divorce from Gerry Goffin, King was ready to stake out her independence, which included reclaiming some of those songs as her own. “Goin’ Back” falls into that category: It had already been recorded by Dusty Springfield and The Byrds, but King, much like she would do the next year with “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” dominates on her own version, a spirited ode to drawing from the past in order to step into the future: “Thinking young and growing older is no sin / And I can play the game of life to win.” Barely-there backing vocals from fellow troubadour James Taylor augment the song’s dreaminess, a show of support for King as she gains her “little bit of courage.” That surge carried King through to the No. 1 success of Tapestry, which would lead to a rediscovery of Writer that boosted it onto the charts a year later.

The Byrds recording of “Goin Back”  taken from the album Notorious Byrd Brothers, released as a single on October 20th, 1967 but failed to chart in the United Kingdom.  Musically, the track shares similarities with other songs on the album such as “Get To You” and “Natural Harmony”, through the use of baroque arrangements and instrumentation. The track also resembles a subtle country feel. 

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The band’s decision to record “Goin’ Back” led to tensions within the group, principally due to rhythm guitarist David Crosby’s lack of enthusiasm towards the song. Crosby considered “Goin’ Back” to be lightweight fluff, style of songwriting.  He was therefore dismayed to find that his own song “Triad” was in direct competition with “Goin’ Back” for a place on The Notorious Byrd Brothers album. Ultimately, Crosby was fired from the band and “Goin’ Back” was included on the album and released as a single. 

'Mr. Tambourine Man'

“Wow, man, you can even dance to that!” said Bob Dylan when he heard the Byrds‘ heavily harmonized, electric twelve-string treatments of his material. The Byrds‘ tender-but-tough debut defined folk rock with Pete Seeger and Dylan covers, Los Angeles studio savvy and punchy, ringing guitars. Its influence on generations of “jangly” rock and roll makes it one of the Sixties most visionary albums and while the Dylan songs got most of the ink, their originals (“I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”) were just as great.

Released in 1965, this highly influential folk-rock album was The Byrd’s first LP, and it remains my personal favourite next to the Notorious Byrd Brothers . Though, of course, not every song on it was actually released as a single, every one of them is a hit. This debut album features Jim (Roger) McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke. The line-up of the Byrds changed regularly but some of these musicians also achieved success with other groups, too numerous to mention here. The style is generally described as folk-rock, but there is more to it than that.
The title track of this album was their first and biggest hit, going all the way to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Byrds heavily covered tracks which were written by Bob Dylan throughout their recording career (in which they were able to bring their own special brand of harmony to one of the greatest song writing talents of all time), and four of them appear on here, including ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, which both the British and American public took to the top of the charts, and the follow-up single: ‘All I Really Want to Do’, which peaked at no.4. It’s success was made all the more respectable when you consider that it was having to compete against another version by an up and coming girl singer known as Cher.

For me though, the album’s real highlight is an original: ‘I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better’, written by the band’s founding member Gene Clark, and one of The Byrd’s greatest songs.

Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

On this day August. 30th in 1968: The Byrds released their 6th studio album, ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’, on Columbia Records; it was the sixth album to be released by the band The Byrds , recorded with the addition of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, it was influential as the first major country rock album by an established act and represented a stylistic move away from the psychedelic rock of the band’s previous album ,The Notorious Byrd Brotherssteered by the passion of the little-known Parsons, who had only joined The Byrds in February 1968, by the time the album was released in August, Parsons had left the band

It was massively influential as the first major country-rock album by an established act; the group had occasionally experimented with country music on their four previous albums, but ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’ represented their fullest immersion into the genre; the album elicited a great deal of resistance & hostility from the ultra-conservative Nashville country music establishment, who viewed The Byrds as a group of long-haired hippies attempting to subvert country music – making “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”, arguably, the first true ‘alt country’ record…

You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere
2:41 I Am A Pilgrim
6:27 The Christian Life
9:01 You Don’t Miss Your Water
12:56 You’re Still On My Mind
15:26 Pretty Boy Floyd
18:06 Hickory Wind
21:44 One Hundred Years From Now
24:46 Blue Canadian Rockies
26:54 Life In Prison
29:45 Nothing Was Delivered

On the original album, Gram Parsons is featured singing lead vocals on the songs “Hickory Wind”, “You’re Still on My Mind”, and “Life in Prison”. Due to legal threat from Lee Hazlewood (who contended that the singer was still under contract to his LHI record label), Gram’s vocals on the three songs “The Christian Life”, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, and “One Hundred Years from Now” were replaced by Roger McGuinn. Parsons’ original vocals were finally released on The Byrds box set in 1990 (as well as Sacred Hearts & Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology in 2001).

Let’s not forget Chris Hillmans contributions, when we think of the Byrds, the Burrito Brothers..Parsons and Hillman were a formidable writing team, and contributed to the sounds of American music just as much as any thing Lieber and Stoler contributed. And when we’re grovin on Gram’s stuff , let’s also remember, Sneaky Pete Klienow the incredible steel pedal player who gave the burritos that, what I would call hippie trippie country sound.

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The fifth album from the grandfathers of American jangle guitar doesn’t have the notoriety or hits of Mr. Tambourine Man or Turn! Turn! Turn! Still, it may be the light heavyweight champion of their catalog, pound for pound the strongest punch of the bunch. That’s an especially impressive claim if you know the band’s chaos of the day. Notorious, indeed: Founding guitarist David Crosby was fired over their recording of Carole King’s “Goin’ Back” (ironically, this album’s only single), and Michael Clarke and Gene Clark eventually ping-ponged their way out the door too. Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman managed to expertly fill in the gaps with session musicians and production wizardry, outfitting their folk rock with trappings of the baroque and psychedelia—found and generated noises, poppy saxophone, the occasional sludgy riff, even early adoption of the Moog synthesizer.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers saw the band and producer Gary Usher making extensive use of a number of studio effects and production techniques, including Phasing, flanging and the introduction the sound of the pedal steel guitar into their music for the first time on the album, making it  alsoone of the first album releases on which the Moog appears.

The Notorious Byrd Brothers rings out like a glorious chiming bell and remains one of the band’s most loved albums. Its consistency is amazing, with one song after another bending one’s mind and inducing a smile. “Artificial Energy” kicks things off in fine style. Co-written by McGuinn, Hillman and Clarke, it’s a perfect album opener. The last song recorded for the album, it bursts forth with punchy horns and driving drums. Yes, it’s about speed, and it’s safe to say the lyrics probably wouldn’t fly today: “I’m coming down off amphetamine, and I’m in jail cause I killed a queen.”

The band’s take on Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Goin’ Back” is perhaps the definitive version of the song. Elsewhere, “Natural Harmony” and “Draft Morning” bask in pure beauty. (Chris Hillman’s role as composer really began to expand on Notorious, as he co-wrote eight of this LP’s 11 tracks.) Another Goffin/King song, “Wasn’t Born To Follow” offered here in all of its countrified glory – would later feature in the movie Easy Rider.

“Get to You” and “Old John Robertson” are both country-tinged numbers that glow of the era they sprang from, while “Change Is Now” is one of the band’s most beautiful songs without question, and its jingle-jangle guitars resonate for the ages.

“Tribal Gathering” has David Crosby written all over it. He and Hillman worked up this two-minute gem in homage to the “Gathering of the Tribes” festival held earlier that year in San Francisco. “Dolphin’s Smile” conjures up its own psychedelic aquatic adventure over just two minutes, before the album ends on an eerie note with “Space Odyssey.” A otherworldly drone set to a sea shanty waltz, the track is driven by a swirling wash of keyboards and guitars.

David Crosby was fired by McGuinn and Hillman in October 1967, as a result of friction arising from, among other things, Crosby’s displeasure at the band’s wish to record the song “Goin’ Back”. David Crosby felt that recording the song was a step backwards artistically, especially when the band contained three active songwriters. Another factor that contributed to Crosby’s dismissal was his controversial song “Triad”, a risqué composition about a menage a trois , The song was in direct competition with “Goin’ Back” for a place on the album.  Crosby eventually gave the tune to the Jefferson Airplane , who included a version of the song on “Crown Of Creation” Although the Byrds did record “Triad”, the song’s daring subject matter compelled McGuinn and Hillman to prevent it from being released at the time.

The results feel particularly transfused into the body of R.E.M.’s Document, and suggest multiple points in the soundtracks of Wes Anderson’s filmography.

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The Byrds released their third LP “Fifth Dimension” the highly influential, albeit transitional, album released on July 18th, 1966. Most of the album was recorded following the February 1966 departure of the band’s principal songwriter Gene Clark so the majority of the songwriting went to guitarists Jim McGuinn and David Crosby. Even with the two writing, they recorded four cover versions and an instrumental. It was however the first by The Byrds not to include any songs written by Bob Dylan, whose material had previously been a mainstay of the band’s repertoire.

Fifth Dimension was widely regarded as the band’s most experimental album to date and is today considered influential in originating the musical genre of psychedelic rock with tracks like Eight Miles High and Mr Spaceman. It was also the first time the bands logo appeared with the psychedelic artwork.

Arguably the most famous song on the album was “Eight Miles High”, an early excursion into psychedelic rock. Musically, the song was a fusion of John Coltrane influenced guitar playing courtesy of lead guitarist then Jim McGuinn and the raga based musical structure and vocals, inspired by the the Indian music of Ravi Shanker. Written mostly by Gene Clark in November 1965, while The Byrds were on tour in the U.S., the song was pivotal in transmuting folk rock into the new musical forms of psychedelia and raga rock. Regardless of its innovative qualities, however, many radio stations in the U.S. banned the record citing the title to be a reference to recreational drug use ,The song’s lyrics actually pertained to the approximate cruising altitude of commercial airliners and the group’s first visit to London during their 1965 English tour

Happy 51st Birthday to The Byrds LP “Fifth Dimension”!!

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They started out as a folk-rock band equally influenced by the Beatles and Bob Dylan. But it didn’t take long for other artists outside of the usual pop confines to creep into their music. The Byrds’ first two albums  “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn Turn Turn” , both released in 1965 included expertly played folk-rock songs, an instrumental distinction thanks to Roger McGuinn’s 12-string guitar sound and lots of Dylan covers. But by 1966’s “Fifth Dimension” , they were ready to move on.

The album’s centerpiece was “Eight Miles High,” inspired by Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar and free-jazz legend John Coltrane, and included a guitar solo that was as close to avant-garde improvisation as mainstream music got in 1966. It tested the waters for the Byrds’ next record, “Younger Than Yesterday”, which was released in February 1967.

Fifth Dimension had been the group’s first real psychedelic piece, but “Younger Than Yesterday” is the more accomplished album, a record of wild experimentation that was worlds away from the jingle-jangle rings of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” From the backward tapes and raga influences to the horns and, in a sign of things to come, down-home country rhythms that grace a couple of the songs, the album found the band working with new producer Gary Usher for the first time at its creative peak. The mind-tripping “C.T.A.-102,” a song about extraterrestrial life that uses an electronic oscillator to make its point, pretty much sums things up.

All but one of Younger Than Yesterday‘s 11 songs were written by a band member this time (the lone exception was another Dylan cover, “My Back Pages” this time). Gene Clark, the group’s most prolific songwriter, left the band before Fifth Dimension‘s release, though he did contribute to “Eight Miles High” and a few songs leading up to that LP’s sessions.

The album also marked the emergence of the band’s bass player Chris Hillman as a talented songwriter and vocalist, He turned out to be the standout writer on the Byrds’ fourth album, composing four songs on his own and one with McGuinn, the album-opening single “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (which included a trumpet solo by South African musician Hugh Masekela, another sign of the band’s burgeoning influences outside of their roots). David Crosby who was kicked out of the band the next year, also wrote four songs.

The Byrds’ move toward country which would become closer with their next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers , until their full-on embrace of the genre with the classic “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo”, all began here. Hillman, who’d go on to the Flying Burrito Brothers with Gram Parsons, following his one-album gig with the Byrds, was a major architect of their sound moving forward.

His contributions to Younger Than Yesterday which was recorded in less than two weeks at the end of 1966 helped shape the album and the band’s future. He had a hand in the album’s two best songs — “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and “Have You Seen Her Face” and provided the foundation for what came next. But the Byrds were still a group, even if they were falling apart, and Crosby’s jazzier, more challenging entries can’t be discounted. It was his growing interest in more worldly music that took the Byrds into more unconventional territory here.

The three singles pulled from Younger Than Yesterday didn’t get higher than No. 29; “My Back Pages” would be their last trip to the Top 40.  Although it was largely overlooked by the public at the time of its release, the album’s critical standing has improved over the years and today Younger Than Yesterday is considered to be one of The Byrds‘ best albums. The title of Younger Than Yesterday is derived from the lyrics of “My Back Pages”, a song written by Bob Dylan, which was covered on the album.

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