The Byrds (continued) Soon after recording The Notorious Byrd Brothers, McGuinn, on Chris Hillman’s advice recruited Gram Parsons to the band. They had a few live tryouts nd it seemed to work, but Gram slowly began to take over the band. Their direction went completely country, or more precisely what would become country-rock and eventually be Known as America. Several groups were moving this way at the same time, most notably The Band, and Artists like Johnny Cash (see C) had never left the stage and were still having huge hits which sometimes crossed over to the Pop charts. The eventual late ’68 album was called Sweetheart of the Rodeo. And it really divided Byrds fans, many felt (just like with Dylan) that this was some sort of betrayal. In fact the band never recovered their former popularity despite some fine albums and a few minor hits. The album is pretty full-on country, but without the yee-ha; it still has those lovely chiming guitars and gorgeous harmonies. Best songs ‘You ‘int Going Nowhere’ (another Dylan classic) the splendid ‘Hickory Wind’ and ‘Nothing Was Delivered’. But a fine album. Even though Gram Parsons had almost taken over the group he up and left after just this one record, later taking Chris Hillman with him, leaving McGuinn as the sole remaining Original Byrd. One has to wonder if all these departures were more to do with him than with ‘musical differences’. Still he did not give up, but recruited 3 new Byrds and went back to the studio. The new album, Doctor Byrd and Mr. Hyde was a bit heavier, a bit looser, more bluesy but still with country inflections. Best songs ‘This Wheel’s on Fire’ (another Dylan song), the country tinged ‘Drug Store Truck Driving Man’ and ‘Nashville West’ – but not really their best record. Better was 1970’s (Untitled) – a double featuring both live and unreleased songs. I only recently got this on CD, and really it is excellent, especially the live songs. I s aw them live at the rainbow in early ’72 and this reminds me so much of a great concert. Best of the new songs – ‘Old Blue’, ‘Yesterdays Train’ and ‘Well Come Back’. But this album failed to chart, as did the next Byrdmaniax; though I have always liked this one. Great songs – ‘Citizen Kane’ ‘Absolute Happiness’ and Jamaica say you will’ – a happier sound, but still the Byrds great vocals and ringing guitar. This could almost be my favourite of theirs.
Then came (still waiting to be listened to) Farther Along’. Continued arguments and one by one band members left. Then it was decided to reform the 5 original Byrds for a new record on new label – Assylum, The record came out in 1973. I bought it and really loved it – though again it flopped. In some ways this
is their most realised record – though as usual the band members, McGuinn in particular, were quite dissatisfied with it, and the planned tour and follow-up record were abandoned. After this indeed McGuinn finally closed the book on the Byrds. The band members went on to solo careers, which with the exception of David rosby, fizzled out.
Still, they were some group, and listening again they sound so modern, much more like todays music than even the Beatles.