Daily Archives: May 26, 2009

125. The Byrds – “The Essential Byrds”

After causing a minor controversy with my dismissal of one sacred cow of the 1960s, I was a little concerned I might have to tread carefully with this review.

the-essential-byrds album coverBut the reality of this collection of 44 “essential” tunes (over a double CD) is that it only surprises in a good way. I purchased this on a whim a few years back after spending far too long pretending I knew a lot about these US progenitors of folk-rock (and after picking up an Uncut CD that had a fine compilation of bands influenced by said act).

The revelation of the CDs is how much of their work I did indeed know, and how broad their range was over a relatively short period of time. From the debut single Tambourine Man, to the sardonic So You Want to be a Rock & Roll Star and the trippy Eight Miles High, this is one of those bands who were there through a big chunk of the cool stuff going in in the late 60s.

Musically the stuff is pretty fresh, especially the guitar work. Like all good folkies they also know how to nail a cover. Their interpretations of the Bobs (Seeger and Dylan) are much more palatable versions than the originals in many ways.

There is the expected indulgences on here too. Their hippy prog rock efforts are cringe-worthy, most notably Dolphin’s Smile. The most folky country stuff is more fun (like Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man).

All in all this is a better greatest hits compilation that most and I’m glad I can speak with a little authority about these lads nowadays.

File under: First class flight