Byrds Untitled: The Byrds Get Comfortable with Country Rock
email@example.com | Oklahoma City, OK | 07/03/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are two parts to this unusual album (in record form it was a double LP.) The first seven tracks were recorded live in February of 1970 at Queen's College, NY. The general feel of the concert is one of muddied, rauncy, rockin' typical of late 1960's to early 1970's concerts. It is almost enough to bring the album down to four stars.The second part of the album contains a varitey of lasy, country-hippie ballads, folk stylings, and truckstop blues tunes. Unlike "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," which was the Byrds first full fledged excursion into country music, Untitled's studio recordings offer more variety. The album succeeds because of this and the quantity of work.This album is not for the bubble-gum Byrds fan but rather for the Byrds fan who has grown tired of the predictable teenybopper boy meets girl songs popularized in the early and mid-1960's. The original Byrds lineup had totally changed with the exception of Roger McGuinn. The "new" Byrds Bluegrass/ Country influence had matured and maybe had begun to ferment a little. The Byrds were continuing an experment begun with "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." Due to its variety the Byrd's (Untitled) exists in a class with the Beatles (White Album) and is therefore not for everyone. Live Recordings1) Lover of the Bayou Lover of the Bayou blasts out Cajun Voodo phrases and gives off a feel of pure Louisinia swamp Mo-Jo Ranchy Rockin'. "drank blood from a rusty can." This is the best song by far of the live tracks. 2) Positively 4th Street McGuinn speeds up a classic Dylan tune. The "new Byrds" barely pull this one off. 3) Nashville West Nashville West was first introduced on "Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde." This catchy Clarence White/Gene Parsons instrumental composition would become a trademark of the country rock Byrds and actually influenced other Byrds spinoff groups. Here the song suffers from the challenges of a live performance but is still enjoyable.4) So You! Want To Be a Rock 'N Roll Star From the opening cord, this song blasts out the classic song that would also be covered live by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Again the song is not perfect but the energy of the live recording compensates for reduced technical accuracy. One can feel the power of the original song in this updated 1970 styling.5) Mr. Tambourine Man and 6) Mr. Spaceman Mr. Tambourine and Mr. Spaceman with Feedback and interspersed lead guitar? These songs fail due to their age and styling mismatch. The overwhelming booming bass drounds out the texture of the somewhat monotonous lead guitar. The result is a collage of half hearted attempts to finish the songs as quickly as possible. 7) Eight Miles High We may never know just how long this song was. It fades in from silence. In record form it lasted for an entire album side. It is good backgound music for your retro-party. If you have the time, we've got the "lead."Studio Recordings 8) Chestnut Mare This classic McGuinn composition tells a tounge in cheek story about a wild horse and its rider. The acoustic and electric guitar blend complements the inventive lyrics. ...is that really a horse he is talking about? Or is there something between the lines? You see I have a friend of a friend...9) Truck Stop Girl If there ever were a song that fit the image of a truckstop cafe/ bar this is it. Its dribbling mumbled lyrics paint a picture of a lonely truck driver who is in love with a beautiful "truck stop girl." The melodic ordinary panio playing cords, the strummed acoustic guitar, slow drums, and lasy tambourine give the feel and taste of greasy chicken fried steak and beer rather than gourmet luncheon at the country club.10) All the Things McGuinn sings this lazy song speaking of "things wasted along the way." It has that tired feel that one gets sitting under a shade tree after working hard all morning followed by a seven course country dinner. 11) Yesterday's Train The s! liding steel guitar whines of storied relationships and passing time. A look back at life experiences.12) Hungry Planet If you listen close you can understand what McGuinn is singing. This is a slow ecological song about what man has done to his planet. The tasty moderate fingerpicking contrasts with the slow drums and vaporous vocals. The song works, painting a picture, however one has to "look" closer to "hear" what it is all about.13) Just a Season The lyrics of this song are written in a similar light to "My Back Pages" from the "Younger than Yesterday" album. Another past tense song. Again the background instrumental played with a "String Bender" guitar create a beautiful fingerpicking backdrop.14) Take a Wiff on Me A pleading cocaine pusher is literally begging a member of the Byrds to "Take a Wiff" in this upfront tune. Although the lyrics are somewhat undesirable, it is at least entertaining. The song succeeds due to some excellent mandolin playing and fingerpicking. A hippie cowboy goof to say the least.15) You All Look Alike More nice mandolin picking with some whinney fiddle. McGuinn is again at the vocal and does an excellent job of telling the story of a shootist who has met his match, his girlfriend, or has he? "...all in fun I'm dyin on the floor." He looses the gunfight and is "lying there and dying there" as the town folk watch him bleed to death, or is he?16) Well Come Back Home This is another play on words. Is he welcoming someone back home or is he pleading with someone to well, come back home? This two part album ends with this two part acoustic rhythm/ electric lead song. A belting drum helps to develop a hypnotic feel which builds throughout the song. At the end the lead singer breaks into a gibberish chant before fading."