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

2 responses to “125. The Byrds – “The Essential Byrds”

  1. Unrelenting Tedium

    I seem to be alone on the planet in prefering the late era Byrds to the dull as dishwater original incarnation. Many, including me, like Sweetheart of the Rodeo because of Gram Parsons but what came after with Clarence White on guitar has some of their best work. Farther Along, Dr Byrd and Mr Hyde, Untitled/Unissued and the absolutely spanking Live At The Filmour East show one of the great guitarists at his peak before tragically being killed just after Farther Along was released. Unfirtunately each album has some outright thow away clangers…but then so did every beatles record. The late era byrds soared, pun intended, so far above that shite with king hippy fuckwit David Crosby. Even Gene Clark was better once he left.

  2. Given a choice I too would go for the country stylings of the Sweetheart and Dr Byrd stuff. The band had certainly moved a long way from their beginnings by then.

    You should play me the Live CD some time UT – would love to hear it…

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