Byrdmaniax has been sidelined ever since its original 1971 release, when it arrived in the wake of the triumphant Untitled. At the time, the group's musical diversity was beginning to suggest uncertainty, but in hindsight-... more »-and with the inclusion here of three contemporaneous bonus tracks--there is much to savor. Highlights include Roger McGuinn's poignant "Kathleen's Song" and the band's striking cover of Jackson Browne's "Jamaica Say You Will." Skip Battin was never better than on "Citizen Kane," a collaboration with maverick Kim Fowley. Original tracks are enhanced by a sensitive alternate version of McGuinn's "Pale Blue" and, particularly, by Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman." Byrdmaniax may not be the pick of the Byrds' canon, but it sits well in Sony's imaginative repackaging of this much-loved band's catalog. --Patrick Humphries« less
Byrdmaniax has been sidelined ever since its original 1971 release, when it arrived in the wake of the triumphant Untitled. At the time, the group's musical diversity was beginning to suggest uncertainty, but in hindsight--and with the inclusion here of three contemporaneous bonus tracks--there is much to savor. Highlights include Roger McGuinn's poignant "Kathleen's Song" and the band's striking cover of Jackson Browne's "Jamaica Say You Will." Skip Battin was never better than on "Citizen Kane," a collaboration with maverick Kim Fowley. Original tracks are enhanced by a sensitive alternate version of McGuinn's "Pale Blue" and, particularly, by Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman." Byrdmaniax may not be the pick of the Byrds' canon, but it sits well in Sony's imaginative repackaging of this much-loved band's catalog. --Patrick Humphries
"By now, we've all heard the legend of Byrdmaniax. The Byrds have restored their critical and commercial standing with Ballad of Easy Rider and (Untitled), they record their next album, then leave the mixing to producer Terry Melcher so they can begin on a 200 city tour. Melcher then goes and ruins the album by pouring on the commercial cheese in the form of strings, woodwinds, a choir of female backup singers, etc. This is all factually accurate. Furthermore, the reports are correct, this is indeed the Byrds' worst LP. However, "the Byrds' worst LP" is like saying you only found $40 laying on the ground when you're used to finding $75. For most bands, this album is pretty-damn-good to outright-great.
It may be unfair to look at it this way, but if it weren't for Terry Melcher's production, Byrdmaniax could have ended up as one of the best later-period Byrds records. I view Byrdmaniax as the Byrds' Smiley Smile. Both were done by bands who got into a mellow space and did an album to reflect that. Both albums were also released to scathing reviews and backlash from fans at the time of their release. Time, however, has restored Smiley Smile's critical standing and public acceptance. This is not the case with Byrdmaniax, and unfairly so.
One of the things that has always stood out to me about Byrdmaniax, bad production aside, is that it actually contains some of the best songs that the individual band members ever contributed to a Byrds record. In my opinion, the only two mis-steps in terms of songwriting are Skip Battin's "Tunnel of Love" (which has charm in and of itself) and Roger McGuinn's "I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician".
McGuinn provided three gems for this record. "Pale Blue" is without question the record's highlight and one of the highlights of his entire songwriting career. The "hominess" of that song is its real strength. "Kathleen's Song" is almost certainly my favorite McGuinn lead vocal on the album and is an absolutely gorgeous song. If you don't dig the Byrdmaniax mix, check out the alternate mix on the 1990 box set without Melcher's syrup. That'll give you your facts all you need. His other gem on this album, "I Trust", has a killer melody and great lyrics.
Gene Parsons and Clarence White turn in their best collaboration on a Byrds LP with "Green Apple Quick Step", an awesome bluegrass number that features some great banjo picking courtesy of White. It's cool to listen behind the banjo and hear McGuinn playing his acoustic guitar, trying to keep up with Clarence White. Gene Parsons provides some great harmonica fills and fiddler Byron Berline was brought in to seal the deal. If you can listen to this without helplessly tapping your foot in time, you're a far better person than I.
Skip Battin' shines with "Citizen Kane", a song about 1930s Hollywood megalomania, complete with a vintage Vaudeville sound that compliments the lyrics perfectly. Battin also delivered in spades with "Absolute Happiness", hands down the best song he ever wrote for a Byrds album, and possibly the best song he ever wrote period.
Of the album's three covers, "Glory, Glory" and the traditional tune "My Destiny" are both very nicely done, but they don't hold a candle to the reading of Jackson Browne's "Jamaica Say You Will" which closes the album. Clarence White delivers a vocal performance that will leave you feeling dirty, used and wanting more. The raw emotion in his delivery makes it a classic moment in the Byrds' cannon. The man's guitar playing always spoke for itself, but he was also a far better singer than a lot of people give him credit for.
In closing, I urge everyone to go back and listen to Byrdmaniax again, but when you do, check any pre-conceived notions at the door. Enjoy what it has to offer the listener. It's a mellow, reflective album that contains many delicate and beautiful songs. It's not perfect, but few albums are. And as David Fricke correctly pointed out in the liner notes on the CD reissue in 2000, "Byrdmaniax isn't just for Byrd maniacs"."
Little To Get Excited Over
Shell-Zee | Long Island, NY | 04/17/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw the third incarnation of The Byrds at C. W. Post College in the fall of 1970. The Untitled album was hot and climbing the charts and they played a set largely consisting of material from Untitled, Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, Sweetheart of The Rodeo and Ballard of Easy Rider. What an evening!!!....Clearence White sure could pick some sweet music and McGuinn's voice was in fine form. I remember them playing an encore of It's All Over Now Baby Blue and a new song written by Jackson Browne called "Jamaica Say You Will".
A few months later Byrdmaniax hit the record stores and I was first in line at EJ-Korvettes record dept, with said album in hand. I rushed home, placed the giant vinyl disc on my turn-table and waited in anticipation for The Byrds to blow me away with their signature tweleve-string, jingle-jangle fantasmaglogia sound......Oh what a disappointment!!!! Yes "Jamaica Say You Will" is a beautiful song, "Glory Glory" is OK and "Kathleen's Song" is a very pretty ballard and the obligatory Dylan song "Just Like A Woman" (a bonus track that was not included on the original release) has been covered better by Richie Havens and Joe Cocker to name just a few. In short Byrdmaniax was and will always remain second rate....No make that third rate Byrds. I'm sorry, I thought it would grow on me. I thought the years would be kind and I could say I had been quick to judge my favorite American band. I thought I would warm up to "Citizen Kane", "My Destiny" or "Tunnel Of Love"...No such luck. I still love "Jamaica Say You Will", unfortunately there's little else here I can get excited about the way Sweetheart, Notorious, Yesterday & Today or Untitled always do for me. It pains me to say, Byrdmaniax is essentially a throw-away from a very special band."
1971 Album Which Can't Match Their Greatest Work.
J. Thompson | Essex UK | 03/08/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From their 1965 debut Mr Tambourine Man The Byrds set the highest possible standards, therefore Byrdmaniax has been a considerable disappointment to all their fans.
Some of the songs are middling efforts, such as Pale Blue, I Trust, Tunnel Of Love, Absolute Happiness and My Destiny.
The worst are Citizen Kane and I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician, the least said about them the better.
Glory, Glory is a better effort, Green Apple Quick Step is a spirited instrumental and Just Like A Woman is a worthwhile Bob Dylan intrepretation.
Clarence White's vocal on Think I'm Gonna Feel Better is nothing like as good as Gene Clark's rendition in the mid 1960s.
The cream of the whole disc is another Clarence White vocal, Jamaica Say You Will, Jackson Browne wrote and also covered it and both are superb.
Maybe this is for Byrds Completists only. "
The Byrds Worst Album
Statman | Little Rock, AR USA | 03/13/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Almost universally acknowledged as the Byrds worst album, Byrmaniax suffers from a weak title, an awful album cover, terrible overproduction, and mediocre material. However, Roger McGuinn's "I Trust" is an excellent expression of his personal vision, and "I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician" is witty and enjoyable. McGuinn's "Pale Blue" and "Kathleen's Song" are pleasant enough, and the Parsons/White "Green Apple Quick Step" is excellent, original bluegrass. The rest of the original album is pretty dull. Apparently, some of the over-production problems were corrected when the album was remastered for CD, and the three new bonus songs are all exceptional. Still the Byrds' worst album, but this CD version is worthwhile."