"Originally released the same month as the Beatles' Abbey Road, both albums amounted to swan sangs for the respective bands. The Byrds would release spotty albums with occasionally excellent material, but Ballad of Easy Rider would be their last album of uniformly top notch songs.The album opens with the stunning "Ballad of Easy Rider" and in two short minutes McGuinn captures the youth culture's optimistic search for freedom: "The river flows, it flows to the sea/wherever that river goes, that's where I want to be." The album was very much a band effort. Of the four originals on the album, McGuinn contributed only the title track. John York wrote "Fido," (featuring the only drum solo on a Byrds' album). Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) and Clarence White are given songwriting credit for "Oil in My Lamp," one of the few lead vocals for White who is better known for his guitar work. The other original is the gentle "Gunga Din" by Gene Parsons, who also provides the vocal.The country take on "Tulsa County" features some terrific guitar playing by White. "Jack Tarr the Sailor" is the type of sea chantey McGuinn would return to on his solo album Cardiff Rose. Their rendition of "Jesus is Just Alright" was released as a single and though it was little different than the version put out four years later by the Doobie Brothers, the Byrds version spent only one week at No. 97 before falling off the charts. It would also be the last time a Byrds single would dent Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.As they had done throughout their career, the Byrds once again went to the Bob Dylan songbook. This time recording a moving version of "It's All over Now, Baby Blue." But the band's most stirring cover is their majestic take on Woody Guthrie's "Deporte (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," a sympathetic look at the plight of Mexican immigrants. The bonus tracks are abundant--seven in all. Of the two tracks otherwise only available on The Byrds Boxed Set, "Way Beyond the Sun" is a traditional folk tune and "Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood" is a Jackson Browne song. "Fiddler A Dram" is an experimental song using the then-new Moog synthesizer, which is a curious but non-essential track. "Build It Up" is an instrumental allowing Clarence White to show off his guitar prowess. The other three tracks are alternate takes of the original album's songs, including the long version of "Ballad of Easy Rider." [Only in the sixties would a 2-minute and 26-second song be able to stake a claim as the "long" version!)The album peaked at No. 36--their highest charting album since Greatest Hits went to No. 6 in 1967. Sales no doubt were helped along by the popularity of the movie "Easy Rider," which featured the album's title song in the soundtrack.All told, this was the last great Byrds album and it belongs in any serious Byrds fan's collection. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED"
The Best Latter-Day Byrds Album and, Possibly, Best Ever.
Matt | 11/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Columbia Records released "The Ballad of Easy Rider" in 1969, they advertised that "the movie gave you the facts, the 'Ballad' interprets them." How dead-on they were: while "Easy Rider" depicted a democratic America, "The Ballad of Easy Rider" IS everyman's America captured in music. Full of warm, harmonious vocals which rival (and surpass I'd say) the mellifluous sounds of CSN, simple themes, brilliant muscianship, and pure and genuine production thanks to Terry Melcher (a far cry from the orchestrated twang of "Byrdmaniax"), this album is the very best that the Byrds ever made. The aforementioned harmonies of McGuinn, White, Parsons, York, and even Melcher- I think- blow the original line up out of the water...just check out "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue." Creatively, likewise, each track differs from the previous yet the album coherently flows and, by the end, simply cries "Help me, I'm lonely!" Five stars for an absolutely brilliant album, one that changed my life."
A Fine Transitional Album
Compton Roberts | Hamilton, Ontario, CANADA | 07/31/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"1969's "Ballad of Easy Rider" was the commercial shot in the arm that The Byrds so desperately needed, reaching #36 on the charts when their previous albums had been languishing (unfairly, I might add) near the bottom. Its connection to the film "Easy Rider" is unfortunately in name only. You will not find classic, trippy 1960s rock in the style heard on that film's soundtrack. In fact, this album is a laid-back, sweetly-sung, gently-played experience, anticipating much of the country-flavoured LA rock music of the 1970s (Poco, The Eagles, Firefall, etc.). The album opens with a lushly-orchestrated version of "The Ballad of Easy Rider", a true Byrds classic, and frustratingly, the only Roger McGuinn original on this album! From here its momentum is slowed by a mediocre John York tune "Fido" and an unremarkable, though hard-rocking version of the traditional gospel "Oil in My Lamp". The album gets back into more familiar Byrds territory with "Tulsa County" (which would have fit nicely on "Sweetheart of the Rodeo") and a sea shanty called "Jack Tarr the Sailor" that Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span fans should enjoy. The second half of this CD blasts open with a transcendent cover of the gospel tune "Jesus Is Just Alright", inaugurating a brand new sound for The Byrds which would be developed further in concert and on their next, superior effort "Untitled". A moving cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", an infectious single-that-should-have-been by drummer Gene Parsons "Gunga Din", and "Deportee", a deeply-felt elegy for migrant workers written by Woody Gutherie, end the original album on a strong note. The bonus material is fairly engaging and certainly fits the original album's mood well: "Way Behind the Sun" has to-die-for smooth, country/blues picking from master Clarence White; "Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood" is a catchy, inconsequential Jackson Browne donation to the group; "Fiddler A Dram" is one of those weird McGuinn folk song/Moog synthesizer amalgams; and "Build It Up" is an Allman Brothers-styled instrumental by Clarence White. Sony has done an exceptional job with the remastering here, though it is probably the best recorded album in the Byrds' canon. While this is not top-flight Byrds music, I dare say you will play this CD more often than more highly-regarded Byrds albums. Why? Because of its cohesion of mood and consistency of performance. Warmly recommended to Byrds fanatics, but with reservations for casual listeners or beginning Byrds fans."
A true american masterpiece
Stewart Stewson | denmark,ks. | 03/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"what can i say about this disc. When i got the Sony remaster 3 years ago i haven't taken it out of my cd player. "Ballad Of Easy Rider" is classic Roger McGuinn. "Fido" about a wandering dog excellent tune with a Byrd drum solo. "Oil in my Lamp", "Tulsa County" and "There must be Someone" our classic country byrds. "Jesus is just alright" still shows the boys can rock. "Gunga Din" is a great Gene Parsons song. The Woody Guthrie clssic "Deportee (Plane Wreck At Los Gatos) is just plan awesome. The bonus tracks are excellent to. "Way beyond the sun", the Jackson Browne tune "Mae Jean Goes To Hollywood" is done with great professionalism by The Byrds. "Fiddler A Dram(Moog Experiment) a great song with banjo and Moog. "Build It Up" closes the disc with a great Clarence White guitar solo. If you like The Byrds and you don't have this one get it, it will put a smile on your face."
A classic of American country/folk/rock
email@example.com | pacific grove, ca. | 04/25/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Think for a minute of your favorite albums, and try to remember how you felt when you first heard them. Some you loved immediately, and had to play them overand over because you just couldn't get enough. You went around telling your friends how great they were, and wanted them to like 'em as much as you did (they didn't). Others you liked well enough, but not enough to ignite that immediate passion. But over the months and years you came to appreciate them more and more, until you realized that you played and enjoyed them a lot more now than the ones that set you on fire years ago. Why? because they are timeless. The music and words on them are truth, and a truth that you grow to appreciate as you grow older because you have experienced what you only had thought about when you were younger. The Ballad of Easy Rider is one of the finest collections of songs the Byrds ever put together. The themes of movement, world-weariness, and hope reverberate throughout the album, making it a wonderful companion piece to Sweetheart of the Rodeo. What makes this recording especially noteworthy is the fact that it was made with a Byrds lineup that was vastly different from the Sweetheart crew. This makes you wonder about how much Roger McGuinn influenced others. Grab this cd and listen to it for the rest of your life."