The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968)

AllMusic Review: The recording sessions for the Byrds’ fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, were conducted in the midst of internal turmoil that found them reduced to a duo by the time the record was completed. That wasn’t evident from listening to the results, which showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies. With assistance from producer Gary Usher, they took more chances in the studio, enhancing the spacy quality of tracks like “Natural Harmony” and Goffin & King’s “Wasn’t Born to Follow” with electronic phasing. Washes of Moog synthesizer formed the eerie backdrop for “Space Odyssey,” and the songs were craftily and unobtrusively linked with segues and fades. But the Byrds did not bury the essential strengths of their tunes in effects: “Goin’ Back” (also written by Goffin & King) was a magnificent and melodic cover with the expected tasteful 12-string guitar runs that should have been a big hit. “Tribal Gathering” has some of the band’s most effervescent harmonies; “Draft Morning” is a subtle and effective reflection of the horrors of the Vietnam War; and “Old John Robertson” looks forward to the country-rock that would soon dominate their repertoire. — Richie Unterberger

Track Listing:

Side one

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Artificial Energy” Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke 2:18
2. “Goin’ Back” Carole King, Gerry Goffin 3:26
3. “Natural Harmony” Chris Hillman 2:11
4. “Draft Morning” David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn 2:42
5. “Wasn’t Born to Follow” Carole King, Gerry Goffin 2:04
6. “Get to You” Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn (credited on the album to Hillman and McGuinn) 2:39

Side two

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Change Is Now” Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn 3:21
2. “Old John Robertson” Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn 1:49
3. “Tribal Gathering” David Crosby, Chris Hillman 2:03
4. “Dolphin’s Smile” David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn 2:00
5. “Space Odyssey” Roger McGuinn, Robert J. Hippard 3:52


Schill Score: 6/10

Schill Comment:  This album is so/so at best, but the 1997 Re-issue of the album would score even lower, I’d give it about a 2.  The Re-issue features the song “Moog Raga” which in my mind may very well be the worst song in the history of music.  If you can even call it music.


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The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (1968)

AllMusic Review: The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo was not the first important country-rock album (Gram Parsons managed that feat with the International Submarine Band’s debut Safe at Home), and the Byrds were hardly strangers to country music, dipping their toes in the twangy stuff as early as their second album. But no major band had gone so deep into the sound and feeling of classic country (without parody or condescension) as the Byrds did on Sweetheart; at a time when most rock fans viewed country as a musical “L’il Abner” routine, the Byrds dared to declare that C&W could be hip, cool, and heartfelt. Though Gram Parsons had joined the band as a pianist and lead guitarist, his deep love of C&W soon took hold, and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman followed his lead; significantly, the only two original songs on the album were both written by Parsons (the achingly beautiful “Hickory Wind” and “One Hundred Years from Now”), while on the rest of the set classic tunes by Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers, and Woody Guthrie were sandwiched between a pair of twanged-up Bob Dylan compositions. While many cite this as more of a Gram Parsons album than a Byrds set, given the strong country influence of McGuinn’s and Hillman’s later work, it’s obvious Parsons didn’t impose a style upon this band so much as he tapped into a sound that was already there, waiting to be released. If the Byrds didn’t do country-rock first, they did it brilliantly, and few albums in the style are as beautiful and emotionally affecting as this.  —  Mark Deming

Track Listing:


# Title Writer Lead vocals Guest musicians/band contributions beyond usual instruments Time
Side 1
1. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” Bob Dylan McGuinn Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Gram Parsons (organ) 2:33
2. “I Am a Pilgrim” traditional, arranged Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman Hillman John Hartford (fiddle), Roy Husky (double bass), Roger McGuinn (banjo), Chris Hillman (acoustic guitar) 3:39
3. “The Christian Life” Charles Louvin, Ira Louvin McGuinn JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar), Clarence White (electric guitar) 2:30
4. “You Don’t Miss Your Water” William Bell McGuinn Earl P. Ball (piano), JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar) 3:48
5. “You’re Still on My Mind” Luke McDaniel Parsons Earl P. Ball (piano), JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar) 2:25
6. “Pretty Boy Floyd” Woody Guthrie McGuinn Roy Husky (double bass), John Hartford (acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle), Chris Hillman (mandolin) 2:34
Side 2
1. “Hickory Wind” Gram Parsons, Bob Buchanan Parsons John Hartford (fiddle), Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Roger McGuinn (banjo), Gram Parsons (piano) 3:31
2. “One Hundred Years from Now” Gram Parsons McGuinn, Hillman Barry Goldberg (piano), Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Clarence White (electric guitar) 2:40
3. “Blue Canadian Rockies” Cindy Walker Hillman Clarence White (electric guitar), Gram Parsons (piano) 2:02
4. “Life in Prison” Merle Haggard, Jelly Sanders Parsons Earl P. Ball (piano), JayDee Maness (pedal steel guitar) 2:46
5. “Nothing Was Delivered” Bob Dylan McGuinn Lloyd Green (pedal steel guitar), Gram Parsons (piano, organ) 3:24


Schill Score:  5.5/10


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The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday (1967)

Younger Than Yesterday is the fourth album by the American rock band the Byrds and was released on February 6, 1967 on Columbia Records (see 1967 in music). It saw the band continuing to integrate elements of psychedelia and jazz into their music, a process they had begun on their previous album, Fifth Dimension. In addition, the album captured the band and record producer Gary Usher experimenting with new musical textures, including brass instruments, reverse tape effects and an electronic oscillator.

The album also marked the emergence of the band’s bass player Chris Hillman as a talented songwriter and vocalist. Prior to Younger Than Yesterday, Hillman had only received one shared writing credit with the Byrds, but this album saw him credited as the sole composer of four songs and a co-writer of “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”. Byrds expert Tim Connors has remarked that two of Hillman’s compositions on Younger Than Yesterday exhibited country and western influences and thus can be seen as early indicators of the country rock experimentation that would feature—to a greater or lesser degree—on all of the Byrds’ subsequent albums.

Upon release, the album peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and reached number 37 on the UK Albums Chart. It was preceded by the “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” single in January 1967, which reached the Top 30 of the Billboard Hot 100. Two additional singles taken from the album, “My Back Pages” and “Have You Seen Her Face”, were also moderately successful on the Billboard singles chart. However, none of the singles taken from the album charted in the United Kingdom.

Track Listing:

Side one
“So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman) – 2:05
“Have You Seen Her Face” (Chris Hillman) – 2:25
“C.T.A.—102” (Jim McGuinn, Robert J. Hippard) – 2:28
“Renaissance Fair” (David Crosby, Jim McGuinn) – 1:51
“Time Between” (Chris Hillman) – 1:53
“Everybody’s Been Burned” (David Crosby) – 3:05

Side two
“Thoughts and Words” (Chris Hillman) – 2:56
“Mind Gardens” (David Crosby) – 3:28
“My Back Pages” (Bob Dylan) – 3:08
“The Girl with No Name” (Chris Hillman) – 1:50
“Why” (Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 2:45

AllMusic Review: Younger Than Yesterday was somewhat overlooked at the time of its release during an intensely competitive era that found the Byrds on a commercial downslide. Time, however, has shown it to be the most durable of the Byrds’ albums, with the exception of Mr. Tambourine Man. David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and especially Chris Hillman come into their own as songwriters on an eclectic but focused set blending folk-rock, psychedelia, and early country-rock. The sardonic “So You Want to Be a Rock & Roll Star” was a terrific single; “My Back Pages,” also a small hit, was the last of their classic Dylan covers; “Thoughts and Words,” the flower-power anthem “Renaissance Fair,” “Have You Seen Her Face,” and the bluegrass-tinged “Time Between” are all among their best songs. The jazzy “Everybody’s Been Burned” may be Crosby’s best composition, although his “Mind Gardens” is one of his most excessive. — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 1/10

Schill Comment: There are Very few albums ever made that I absolutely hate, and this is one of them. This, to me, is one of the worst albums ever made, across every genre. It’s repetitive noise and garbage. I have no problem with experimental, I often enjoy it. But not this. The fact that the people at Columbia records listened to this piece of garbage and still released it, to me, is one of the biggest musical mysteries of all time.

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The Byrds – Fifth Dimension (1966)

Fifth Dimension is the third album by the American folk rock band the Byrds and was released in July 1966 on Columbia Records. Most of the album was recorded following the February 1966 departure of the band’s principal songwriter Gene Clark.[In an attempt to compensate for Clark’s absence, guitarists Jim McGuinn and David Crosby stepped into the breach and increased their songwriting output. In spite of this, the loss of Clark resulted in an album with a total of four cover versions and an instrumental, which critics have described as “wildly uneven” and “awkward and scattered”. However, the album is notable for being 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.

The album peaked at number 24 on the Billboard Top LPs chart and reached number 27 on the UK Albums Chart. Two preceding singles, “Eight Miles High” and “5D (Fifth Dimension)”, were included on the album, with the former just missing the Top 10 of the Billboard singles chart. Additionally, a third single taken from the album, “Mr. Spaceman”, managed to reach the U.S. Top 40. Upon release, Fifth Dimension was widely regarded as the band’s most experimental album to date and is today considered by critics to be influential in originating the musical genre of psychedelic rock

Track Listing:

Side one

“5D (Fifth Dimension)” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:33
“Wild Mountain Thyme” (traditional, arranged Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:30
“Mr. Spaceman” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:09
“I See You” (Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 2:38
“What’s Happening?!?!” (David Crosby) – 2:35
“I Come and Stand at Every Door” (Nâzım Hikmet) – 3:03

Side two

“Eight Miles High” (Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn, David Crosby) – 3:34
“Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)” (Billy Roberts) – 2:17
“Captain Soul” (Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:53
“John Riley” (traditional, arranged Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, David Crosby) – 2:57
“2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)” (Jim McGuinn) – 2:12

Review: Although the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension was wildly uneven, its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “John Riley.” For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. “Eight Miles High,” with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the ’60s. The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged “Mr. Spaceman” are among their best songs; “I See You” has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and “I Come and Stand at Every Door” is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age. At the same time, the R&B instrumental “Captain Soul” was a throwaway, “Hey Joe” not nearly as good as the versions by the Leaves or Jimi Hendrix, and “What’s Happening?!?!” the earliest example of David Crosby’s disagreeably vapid hippie ethos. These weak spots keep Fifth Dimension from attaining truly classic status. —Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 8.25/10

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The Byrds – Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

Mr. Tambourine Man is the debut studio album by American rock band the Byrds, released on June 21, 1965 by Columbia Records. The album, along with the single of the same name, established the band as an internationally successful act and was influential in originating the musical style known as folk rock. The term was, in fact, first coined by the American music press to describe the band’s sound in mid-1965, around the same time as the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single reached the top of the Billboard chart. The single and album also represented the first effective American challenge to the dominance of the Beatles and the British Invasion during the mid-1960s.

The album peaked at number six on the Billboard Top LPs chart and reached number seven in the United Kingdom. The Bob Dylan penned “Mr. Tambourine Man” single was released ahead of the album in April 1965, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the UK Singles Chart. The second single “All I Really Want to Do”, also a Dylan cover, was moderately successful in the US but fared better in the UK, where it reached the top ten.

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Mr. Tambourine Man” Bob Dylan 2:29
2. “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” Gene Clark 2:32
3. “Spanish Harlem Incident” Dylan 1:57
4. “You Won’t Have to Cry” Clark, Jim McGuinn[b] 2:08
5. “Here Without You” Clark 2:36
6. “The Bells of Rhymney” Idris Davies, Pete Seeger 3:30

Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “All I Really Want to Do” Dylan 2:04
2. “I Knew I’d Want You” Clark 2:14
3. “It’s No Use” Clark, McGuinn 2:23
4. “Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe” Jackie DeShannon 2:54
5. “Chimes of Freedom” Dylan 3:51
6. “We’ll Meet Again” Ross Parker, Hughie Charles 2:07
Total length: 31:35

Review: One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn’s immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band’s beautiful harmonies. The material was uniformly strong, whether they were interpreting Bob Dylan (on the title cut and three other songs, including the hit single “All I Really Want to Do”), Pete Seeger (“The Bells of Rhymney”), or Jackie DeShannon (“Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe”). The originals were lyrically less challenging, but equally powerful musically, especially Gene Clark’s “I Knew I’d Want You,” “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” and “Here Without You”; “It’s No Use” showed a tougher, harder-rocking side and a guitar solo with hints of psychedelia. — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 9.5/10

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