"Originally issued as a two-record set, "Untitled" features both live and studio material. McGuinn once said that the original Byrds were the best in the studio, but that the Clarence White Byrds were the best live lineup. "Untitled" proves him right on both points. The live material is excellent. "Lover of the Bayou" opens the set, followed by Dylan's "Positively 4th Street", both of which spotlight Clarence White's stunning guitar work. The instrumental "Nashville West" is followed by a rather good rendition of "So you Want to be a Rock and Roll Star", but the versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Mr. Spaceman" are a bit less spectacular. The all-out effort on "Eight Miles High" shows that this band could jam with the best of them. Despite all the much-deserved criticism of Skip Battin as a songwriter and singer, one must concede that he is an excellent (albeit loud) bass player. The studio material ranges from great to awful. "Chestnut Mare" and "Just a Season" are beautifully done, and Clarence White turns in a typically soulful performance on "Truck Stop Girl", while Gene Parsons is in fine voice on "Yesterday's Train." Much of the rest is forgettable. The low point on the album is Skip Battin's "Well Come Back Home". The apparent intent was to deliver a "heavy" political message, but the lyrics are nonsensical, the track lasts far too long (Battin tacked a lengthy Buddhist chant onto the end of the song), and his voice simply grates upon the ear. Still, the good moments more than compensate for the bad ones, and the album stands as a monument to one of America's great bands."
A great album from the later period Byrds
Mark Cloud | Murrieta, CA USA | 06/03/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A fine album that is sadly underrated by most people (including McGuinn himself). With "Untitled" McGuinn and company proved they could put out a record that easily ranks with their best work; the song writing is terrific and the studio performances are subtle and well thought out. The live cuts are light years beyond any done by the original line up.Skip Battin, whose contributions on later albums ranged from great to grating, really shines on this one. Well Come Back Home (despite the warbling at the end) is a fine addition to the Byrds catalog; it's a bit of a departure for The Byrds, but then wasn't eclecticism what they were all about in the first place? Clarence White's work is reason enough to buy this album...one of the great guitarists of our time and not a bad singer at all. And, of course, there is Chestnut Mare. Why wouldn't you get this record?"
The Byrds paint a final masterpiece
Mark Cloud | 12/14/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"On this recording, the lads halt a downhill slide that I feel started with "Sweetheart of the Rodeo." Although that effort is considered a masterpiece, and justifiably so, it is more of a Gram Parsons masterpiece with the Byrds as a backup band. With the departure of Crosby, Clark, Hillman, and Gram Parsons, this left McGuinn as the sole songwriter in the band. Two albums of mostly covers, (Dr. Byrds & Easy Rider) led one to believe that McGuinn was no longer a creative force, and the Byrds were through as a band with anything to offer. But then "Untitled" hit the stands. This features arguably the two finest songs McGuinn has ever written, "Chestnut Mare" and "Just a Season" as well as jewels from Gene Parsons, "Yesterday's Train" Skip Battin, "Well Come Back Home" and a wonderful interpretation of an old Leadbelly song "Take a Whiff" by Clarence White. One advantage that this incarnation of the Byrds had over all the previous ones was that these guys were great musicians (listen to the live jam of "Eight Miles High") and for this effort they struck a perfect balance between McGuinn's folk leanings and the c&w tendancies of White/Parsons. This recording is essential for any one who claims to enjoy folk rock or country rock. So cast those REM & Alanis CDs into the nearest proper receptacle and listen to the real deal!"
Historic live Byrd calls
running_man | Chesterfield Twp., MI | 10/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I came across a listing for The Byrds 'Untitled' while perusing a Roger McGuinn discography, which I had been inspired to access after seeing McGuinn on the recent Bob Dylan PBS retrospective. I had forgotten all about this release, which I once owned on vinyl in the early 1970's. I frequently played the first disc of this double-LP, which featured live recordings of studio tracks laid down by the original Byrds line-up, featuring Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. By 1969 only Roger McGuinn was left, but that was still enough to make this a legitimate Byrds album, such was the immense influence asserted by McGuinn over the original sound of The Byrds. These live tracks (presumably recorded in 1969 or 1970) feature the most durable Byrds line-up, which included Gene Parsons on drums, Skip Battin on bass, and Clarence White on guitar. While the recording suffers from a poor mix at times, there are only a handful of live recordings of many of these songs, making the 'Untitled' live disc of historic importance.
Side one of the original vinyl opened with a new track from the band, 'Lover of the Bayou'. You would have to suspect that McGuinn had been inspired by the sound and lyrical content of Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'Born On the Bayou', as 'Lover of the Bayou' possesses the same gritty, loping demeanor and, of course, Cajun imagery. Consider "I cooked the bat in the gumbo pan, I drank the blood from a rusty pan, turned me into the Honga man" as a taste of the unique cuisine and superstitions of the delta country McGuinn serves up. Side one also includes two fine covers of Bob Dylan compositions, a faithful version of 'Positively 4th Street' and a revamped (primarily through the presence of White's guitar leads) version of 'Mr. Tambourine Man'. Live versions of 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and two other songs from 'Untilted' ('Nashville West', a two-minute instrumental, and 'So You Want To Be a Rock 'N Roll Star') can be had on earlier live official releases by The Byrds ('Live At the Fillmore West' and 'Monterey Pop'), but the recordings of 'Mr. Spaceman' and 'Eight Miles High' are unique to 'Untitled'. 'Eight Miles High', at sixteen minutes plus, took up all of side two on the original vinyl, and it's a gem. There is a great deal of firry jamming on this, one of the finest psychedelic rock compositions of all time. It includes a several minute classic duet from the rhythm section of Battin and Parsons, and loads of fine lead improvisation from McGuinn and White.
The studio disc is less impressive. McGuinn's compositions, including 'Chestnut Mare' and 'Just a Season' are musically extraordinary, but lyrically mediocre. There is an abundance of diversity among the nine tracks offered, ranging from country-rock ('Truck Stop Girl') reminiscient of Buffalo Springfield, to psychedelic environmentalism ('Hungry Planet'), to drug-addled blues (a rendition of Leadbelly's 'Take a Whiff On Me'), to anti-war sentimentalism ('Well Come Back Home'), to romantic ballad ('All the Things'). Clearly, however, The Byrds best years had already been covered, and their decline as a musical force had begun.
The packaging for this disc couldn't be more sparse. Track listings appear on the J-card, inside the front insert, and on the disc itself, but nowhere are we offered running times. An altered version of the cover photo of the band is offered, and that's it! Perhaps McGuinn and company knew the music spoke for itself (after all, they didn't even bother to title it... or did they?), and these historic live Byrd tracks certainly deliver those goods. This is an essential disc for any lover of American roots-rock."