Posted in Album Reviews

The Byrds – The Byrds Greatest Hits (1999)

Greatest Hits

One of the legendary bands of the 60s, The Byrds sound played a major role in ushering in folk rock to the Top 40.  The main line-up centered around guitarists Jim (Roger) Mcguinn, David Crosby, and Gene Clark; they were also joined by bassist, Chris Hillman, and drummer Michael Clarke. The band scored several hits including covers, most notably of Bob Dylan of which four appear on The Byrds Greatest Hits collection.  Originally released in 1967, the album was then updated with the addition of three songs in 1999 but keeps its focus on the first two years of the band. 

The Greatest Hits starts with Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and features one of the most famous guitar beginnings in rock history. The Byrd’s version of “Chimes of Freedom” has the band locked in with their excellent harmonies while “My Back Pages” was their last top 40 hit and a highlight here. Pete Seeger was another favoured source for material including “The Bells of Rymney” that adds a pop shine to a Welsh mining disaster.  More famously, is the band’s cover of Seeger’s “Turn Turn Turn” that also features another landmark guitar solo to start the track and wonderful harmonies.  The lyrics are mostly taken from the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes deal with peace and love, “A Time for peace, I swear it’s not too late”.

The band got into some radio trouble with their original songs.  The spaghetti western guitar on the darker and more complex “Eight Miles High” who’s lyrics are most certainly drug influenced. Another track banned by some radio stations is the title track of their third album, “5D (Fifth Dimension)”. Podcast Sound Opinions steals a snippet of “So You Want to be A rock and Roll Star”, another classic guitar sound.  The lyrics take aim at their more manufactured contemporaries.

Gene Clark turns in a fine original in “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” while at the end of the disc, a final highlight appears with the Chris Hillman penned “Have You Seen Her Face”. The track leaves behind the folk influences and instead sounds more like the British Invasion. While the guitar sound is one of the band’s hallmarks, the drumming of Michael Clarke on several tracks really add a lot of life to the songs. The Byrds Greatest Hits doesn’t always burn bright, but the influence of the band on acts such as R.E.M, Big Star and Teenage Fanclub is immeasurable and still reverberates through rock and roll today. 

8/10

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