This one here is a good ol’ two-fer. I’ve owned a few of these types o’ packages over the years on CD, but this is the first I’ve had on the ol’ vinyl. Picked this up for £4.49, too – back in October last year during one of my regular visits to the trove of treasures called the Record Fayre. Although I’m still on the look out for these separately, I thought this was a nice catch. Two very different but very splendid records from two very different line-ups of the 1968 Byrds, which just so happen to sound tremendous when listened to back-to-back (in whichever order you choose).
Notorious Byrd Brothers is a pretty spectacular album. No kidding. Despite the fact that the sessions were tense and resulted in the eventual departure of the notorious David Crosby, it’s an incredibly inspired record. Filled with pop and country tunes coloured with the familiar Byrd harmonies, jingle jangley awesomeness and they go and throw in some spacey-oddness (moog!!!) for good measure. That spacey-oddness is never overbearing though, so don’t let that put you off if you’ve never sat down with this one.
Artificial Energy is a wonderful opener and it’s lit up with some of that oddness. Draft Morning is a splendid slice of story telling, and Get To You had all the hallmarks of classic Byrds (Gene Clark written all over it and it’s since been confirmed that he’d co-written it). The album ends with the space folk oddness of Space Odyssey – the alternative theme tune for Lost in Space (the Irwin Allen TV show from the 60s, not the re-imagined movie with Joey from Friends).
It didn’t sell, though. Say what? Yeah, the fans of 67 had turned their back on the Byrds! What were they thinking!? I mean, they had the delights of Natural Harmony, Old John Robertson and Tribal Gathering!Interestingly, the next step was to delve a little deeper into Americana – Sweetheart of the Rodeo. For this ride McGuinn and Hillman hooked up with a young and hip country chap named Gram Parsons.
It’s common knowledge that Parsons became a major influence on the writing, arranging and recording of the album – essentially resulting in him steering the band to Nashville to record what is, essentially, a country album. He also encouraged the involvement of some incredible session musicians who could deliver a specific feel and sound.
It starts and ends with two Bob Dylan tracks. You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (a track Dylan hadn’t even released at the time), I Am a Pilgrim and the Louvin Brothers’ The Christian Life really set the tone. A really remarkable introduction to the record. Despite the majority of his vocals having been replaced (there’s a whole book worth of chatter about why … and they’ve since been restored on the Legacy Edition of the album), Sweetheart of the Rodeo will always be defined by Parsons’ involvement and his wonderful Hickory Wind and 100 Years From Now (which really would have fitted nicely on the previous record).
Unsurprisingly, the album bombed. The Byrds were no longer flying. Parsons left soon after the recording was done, forming the Flying Burrito Brothers with Hillman following.
So, any one out there have any two-fers in the collection? If so, are the albums a good combo …