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Rock - Released April 24, 1991 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Although the Byrds' Fifth Dimension was wildly uneven, its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs "Wild Mountain Thyme" and "John Riley." For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. "Eight Miles High," with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the '60s. The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged "Mr. Spaceman" are among their best songs; "I See You" has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and "I Come and Stand at Every Door" is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age. At the same time, the R&B instrumental "Captain Soul" was a throwaway, "Hey Joe" not nearly as good as the versions by the Leaves or Jimi Hendrix, and "What's Happening?!?!" the earliest example of David Crosby's disagreeably vapid hippie ethos. These weak spots keep Fifth Dimension from attaining truly classic status. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released December 12, 1990 | Legacy - Columbia

When the four-CD Byrds set was first released in 1990, it was something of a landmark in Columbia Records' history on several counts. For starters, it was the first box set ever released by Columbia Records' pop division (as opposed to its jazz division) devoted to a noncurrent act (that is, they'd already issued boxes on Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, but both of them were active artists), and there had been boxes of sorts on Miles Davis and some other jazz figures, but their place in music history was already a given, whereas the Byrds, to Columbia Records' management and a lot of mainstream critics and even most listeners not attuned to their history, were "nothing" but a defunct rock act. In a sense, this set was a long-overdue declaration of their importance, in addition to being the first good-sounding CD incarnation of their work ever to come from Columbia. For five years or more prior to that, listeners had been forced to endure poorly mastered, inadequate CDs of their work. It took this project, plus the work of a lot of people behind the scenes and an unending stream of complaints from consumers, to get the label to find the right source tapes and then treat them right in digitizing them. In the decade and a half since its release, the Byrds box has receded in obvious importance as the group's entire catalog was subsequently upgraded and many of the rarities and outtakes in this set appended as bonus tracks on those separate CDs of their albums. But it remains the best overview of their history ever assembled, despite a few minor flaws in its content. One suspects, for instance, that had Bob Irwin, who oversaw the later upgrading of the group's albums, been producing this box, there might be a few tracks predating the hit of "Mr. Tambourine Man," from the group's Elektra recordings (as "the Beefeaters"), or their demos as the Jet Set; and maybe the audio portion of their live set from The Big TNT Show or perhaps a track or two from the Monterey Pop Festival; and, conversely, two or three fewer tracks representing the Skip Battin/Gene Parsons lineup of the band. But strangely enough, along with British CBS' double-LP History of the Byrds and the more recent Essential Byrds, this four-disc set is one of only three attempts at doing a comprehensive history of the group, and it's still got all of the competition beat right out of the starting gate, and well worth owning. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 29, 1969 | Sierra Records

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Pop/Rock - Released April 24, 1991 | Columbia - Legacy

The Byrds' second album, Turn! Turn! Turn!, was only a disappointment in comparison with Mr. Tambourine Man. They couldn't maintain such a level of consistent magnificence, and the follow-up was not quite as powerful or impressive. It was still quite good, however, particularly the ringing number one title cut, a classic on par with the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single. Elsewhere, they concentrated more on original material, Gene Clark in particular offering some strong compositions with "Set You Free This Time," "The World Turns All Around Her," and "If You're Gone." A couple more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and "Satisfied Mind" was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the '60s. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 28, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

The recording sessions for the Byrds' fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, were conducted in the midst of internal turmoil that found them reduced to a duo by the time the record was completed. That wasn't evident from listening to the results, which showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies. With assistance from producer Gary Usher, they took more chances in the studio, enhancing the spacy quality of tracks like "Natural Harmony" and Goffin & King's "Wasn't Born to Follow" with electronic phasing. Washes of Moog synthesizer formed the eerie backdrop for "Space Odyssey," and the songs were craftily and unobtrusively linked with segues and fades. But the Byrds did not bury the essential strengths of their tunes in effects: "Goin' Back" (also written by Goffin & King) was a magnificent and melodic cover with the expected tasteful 12-string guitar runs that should have been a big hit. "Tribal Gathering" has some of the band's most effervescent harmonies; "Draft Morning" is a subtle and effective reflection of the horrors of the Vietnam War; and "Old John Robertson" looks forward to the country-rock that would soon dominate their repertoire. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop - Released April 22, 2003 | Columbia - Legacy

While the all-killer no-filler single-disc The Byrds' Greatest Hits remains the best distillation of their classic songs, The Essential Byrds is a smartly assembled double dose, including all 14 of the 1965-1967 tracks on Greatest Hits, but expanding its reach into their entire Columbia output, going as far as the early '70s. Inevitably, that means that disc two -- which goes, roughly, from mid-1967 to 1971 -- isn't as good as the first half, and that the last four tracks in particular are by far the least impressive, tagged on mostly so that the release spans the Byrds' entire Columbia catalog. That's a small reservation considering that the two-fer adds many first-rate songs not on Greatest Hits, from non-hit singles like "Lady Friend" and "Goin' Back" to standout album cuts like "Renaissance Fair," "Natural Harmony," "Jesus Is Just Alright," and "Chestnut Mare." There are no surprises here; even the songs that eluded inclusion on albums for many years, like the early B-side "She Don't Care About Time" and "Lady Friend," have been commonly available in the CD era. And it's true that this misses some other fine album tracks that could have stood with pride alongside those selected, like "I Knew I'd Want You," "John Riley," and "Dolphin's Smile." Within the confines of the two-CD format, though, it's a very well-chosen career overview. [The 2011 3.0 edition adds a third disc with six additional tracks: “Spanish Harlem Incident,” “I Knew I’d Want You,” “The World Turns All Around Her,” “I See You,” “Change Is Now,” and “One Hundred Years from Now.”] © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released March 20, 1992 | Columbia - Legacy

One of the greatest debuts in the history of rock, Mr. Tambourine Man was nothing less than a significant step in the evolution of rock & roll itself, demonstrating that intelligent lyrical content could be wedded to compelling electric guitar riffs and a solid backbeat. It was also the album that was most responsible for establishing folk-rock as a popular phenomenon, its most alluring traits being Roger McGuinn's immediately distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker jangle and the band's beautiful harmonies. The material was uniformly strong, whether they were interpreting Bob Dylan (on the title cut and three other songs, including the hit single "All I Really Want to Do"), Pete Seeger ("The Bells of Rhymney"), or Jackie DeShannon ("Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe"). The originals were lyrically less challenging, but equally powerful musically, especially Gene Clark's "I Knew I'd Want You," "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," and "Here Without You"; "It's No Use" showed a tougher, harder-rocking side and a guitar solo with hints of psychedelia. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released March 29, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

Without question, the Byrds were one of the great bands of the '60s and one of the few American bands of their time to continually turn out inventive, compelling albums. As they were recording a series of fine records, they turned out a number of classic singles that unquestionably defined their era. The Byrds' Greatest Hits does an excellent job of chronicling the peak years of their popularity before they went country-rock on 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Apart from the minor hits "It Won't Be Wrong," "Set You Free This Time," and "Have You Seen Her Face," all of the group's hit singles -- from 1965's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to 1967's "My Back Pages" -- are included: "All I Really Want to Do," "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)," "Eight Miles High," "5D (Fifth Dimension)," "Mr. Spaceman," and "So You Want to Be a Rock N' Roll Star." Yes, some great songs were left behind on the albums, but important cuts like "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," "The Bells of Rhymney," and "Chimes of Freedom" are added, making this pretty close to a definitive single-disc summary of the Byrds' prime. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released August 20, 1993 | Columbia - Legacy

The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo was not the first important country-rock album (Gram Parsons managed that feat with the International Submarine Band's debut Safe at Home), and the Byrds were hardly strangers to country music, dipping their toes in the twangy stuff as early as their second album. But no major band had gone so deep into the sound and feeling of classic country (without parody or condescension) as the Byrds did on Sweetheart; at a time when most rock fans viewed country as a musical "L'il Abner" routine, the Byrds dared to declare that C&W could be hip, cool, and heartfelt. Though Gram Parsons had joined the band as a pianist and lead guitarist, his deep love of C&W soon took hold, and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman followed his lead; significantly, the only two original songs on the album were both written by Parsons (the achingly beautiful "Hickory Wind" and "One Hundred Years from Now"), while on the rest of the set classic tunes by Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers, and Woody Guthrie were sandwiched between a pair of twanged-up Bob Dylan compositions. While many cite this as more of a Gram Parsons album than a Byrds set, given the strong country influence of McGuinn's and Hillman's later work, it's obvious Parsons didn't impose a style upon this band so much as he tapped into a sound that was already there, waiting to be released. If the Byrds didn't do country-rock first, they did it brilliantly, and few albums in the style are as beautiful and emotionally affecting as this. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1980 | Columbia - Legacy

The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo was not the first important country-rock album (Gram Parsons managed that feat with the International Submarine Band's debut Safe at Home), and the Byrds were hardly strangers to country music, dipping their toes in the twangy stuff as early as their second album. But no major band had gone so deep into the sound and feeling of classic country (without parody or condescension) as the Byrds did on Sweetheart; at a time when most rock fans viewed country as a musical "L'il Abner" routine, the Byrds dared to declare that C&W could be hip, cool, and heartfelt. Though Gram Parsons had joined the band as a pianist and lead guitarist, his deep love of C&W soon took hold, and Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman followed his lead; significantly, the only two original songs on the album were both written by Parsons (the achingly beautiful "Hickory Wind" and "One Hundred Years from Now"), while on the rest of the set classic tunes by Merle Haggard, the Louvin Brothers, and Woody Guthrie were sandwiched between a pair of twanged-up Bob Dylan compositions. While many cite this as more of a Gram Parsons album than a Byrds set, given the strong country influence of McGuinn's and Hillman's later work, it's obvious Parsons didn't impose a style upon this band so much as he tapped into a sound that was already there, waiting to be released. If the Byrds didn't do country-rock first, they did it brilliantly, and few albums in the style are as beautiful and emotionally affecting as this. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 16, 1970 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released May 21, 1996 | Columbia - Legacy

Younger Than Yesterday was somewhat overlooked at the time of its release during an intensely competitive era that found the Byrds on a commercial downslide. Time, however, has shown it to be the most durable of the Byrds' albums, with the exception of Mr. Tambourine Man. David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and especially Chris Hillman come into their own as songwriters on an eclectic but focused set blending folk-rock, psychedelia, and early country-rock. The sardonic "So You Want to Be a Rock & Roll Star" was a terrific single; "My Back Pages," also a small hit, was the last of their classic Dylan covers; "Thoughts and Words," the flower-power anthem "Renaissance Fair," "Have You Seen Her Face," and the bluegrass-tinged "Time Between" are all among their best songs. The jazzy "Everybody's Been Burned" may be Crosby's best composition, although his "Mind Gardens" is one of his most excessive. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released March 25, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

If Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde found Roger McGuinn having to re-create the Byrds after massive personnel turnovers (and not having an easy time of it), Ballad of Easy Rider was the album where the new lineup really hit its stride. Gracefully moving back and forth between serene folk-rock (the title cut, still one of McGuinn's most beautiful melodies), sure-footed rock & roll ("Jesus Is Just All Right"), heartfelt country-rock ("Oil In My Lamp" and "Tulsa County"), and even a dash of R&B (the unexpectedly funky "Fido," which even features a percussion solo), Ballad of Easy Rider sounds confident and committed where Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde often seemed tentative. The band sounds tight, self-assured, and fully in touch with the music's emotional palette, and Clarence White's guitar work is truly a pleasure to hear (if Roger McGuinn's fabled 12-string work seems to take a back seat to White's superb string bends, it is doubtful that any but the most fanatical fans would think to object). While not generally regarded as one of the group's major works, in retrospect this release stands alongside Untitled as the finest work of the Byrds' final period. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released June 28, 1969 | Sierra Records

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Rock - Released April 8, 2019 | Play Music

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Pop - Released May 17, 2005 | Rhino

In 1972, Roger McGuinn's final version of the Byrds unceremoniously broke up, but the following year the group briefly reunited -- surprisingly enough, with the classic original lineup of McGuinn, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman. However, if most of the participants meant for this to be anything more than a one-shot get-together, you couldn't tell from listening to the resulting album; Byrds never sounds much like a Byrds album, absent McGuinn's chiming 12-string guitar and the group's striking harmonies (the Byrds' twin aural calling cards). Much of the original material, especially David Crosby's, sounds like cast-offs from their other projects. And what sort of a Byrds album features two Neil Young covers and not a single Bob Dylan tune? In all fairness, Byrds has its moments: Gene Clark's "Full Circle" and "Changing Heart" are great songs from the group's least-appreciated member, and McGuinn's "Born to Rock 'n' Roll" is a top-notch rock anthem. But for the most part, Byrds sounds like a competent but unexciting country-rock band going through their paces, rather than the work of one of the best and most innovative American bands of the 1960s. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released January 14, 1992 | Legacy - Columbia

For those who don't want to invest the time or money in the full four-disc The Byrds, 20 Essential Tracks is a decent sampler of the Byrds' better tracks throughout the years. If the collection has any faults, it's that only 12 of the 20 tracks come from the quintessential 1965-1968 period, and selections from the country-rock classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo have been omitted entirely. Instead, unnecessary tracks such as "I Wanna Grow Up to Be a Politician" and a few more obscure songs like the Beach Boys-esque "Lady Friend" are included. The low point of the collection is the inclusion of box-set-only tracks like "Paths of Victory," "Love That Never Dies," and a maudlin "From a Distance" -- while interesting, these cuts are definitely not essential. Still, as greatest-hits compilations go, this one does a fairly good job of showing quite a few different sides of the entire Byrds body of work. © Matt Fink /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released March 25, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

Chris Hillman, Gram Parsons, and Kevin Kelley all left the Byrds in wake of the release of Sweetheart of the Rodeo, leaving Roger McGuinn to assemble a new band from scratch. Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde, the first album with McGuinn as unquestioned leader (and sole founding member), was an interesting but uneven set that saw him attempting to bring together the psych-tinged rock of the group's early period with the pure country that Parsons had brought to Sweetheart. The new lineup on this album was as strong as any the band would ever have, with guitarist Clarence White sounding revelatory whenever he opens up, and Gene Parsons and John York comprising a strong and sympathetic rhythm section. But while everyone on board was a great musician, they don't always sound like a band just yet, and the strain to come up with new material seems to have let them down; McGuinn contributes a few strong originals (especially "King Apathy III" and "Drug Store Truck Drivin' Man," the latter written with Parsons before his departure from the group), but the two songs he penned for the movie Candy are just short of disastrous, and the closing medley of "My Back Pages" and "Baby What You Want Me to Do" sounds like padding. Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde proved there was still life left in the Byrds, but also suggested that they hadn't gotten back to full speed yet. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 11, 2002 | Columbia - Legacy

The Byrds' unsurpassed ability, at least most of the time, to arrange and interpret Bob Dylan songs was but one facet of their greatness. Still, it was an important facet, and this 20-track collection of Dylan covers gathers most of the evidence in one place (though it doesn't have versions of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "The Times They Are A-Changin'" from The Preflyte Sessions). There are 20 tracks, but that doesn't quite mean 20 Dylan songs; a number of these are represented by both a studio version and an alternate take or live performance, though fortunately the multiple readings are spaced far enough from each other to avoid undue redundancy. As far as the contents go, about half of a dozen of these cuts are undisputedly among the best Dylan covers ever, including "Mr. Tambourine Man," "All I Really Want to Do," "Chimes of Freedom," "My Back Pages," and "Spanish Harlem Incident." Most of the others are well done and satisfying at the least, though some aren't so hot, like "Lay Lady Lay" and "Just Like a Woman." It's strange that it's sequenced so that rather than leading off with their "Mr. Tambourine Man," the most important and famous recording in all of folk-rock, that cut appears sixth, but that's a small reservation. Nothing here is previously unreleased, though about half a dozen were not issued until long after they were recorded, on rarity compilations, the group's box set, and expanded CD editions of their original LPs. Those rarities, for the curious who might not have kept up with all those reissues, include an early studio version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'," live versions of "Chimes of Freedom" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" from the late '60s and early '70s, the 1971 studio outtake "Just Like a Woman," the 1965 studio outtake "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," an alternate take of "Lay Lady Lay," and a 1990 recording of "Paths of Victory" by a reunited version of the Byrds. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released May 27, 2008 | Sundazed Music, Inc.

Although the original lineup of the Byrds gets the most critical attention, and to the greatest extent it probably should, the fact remains that the late-era version of this band, the one that featured founding member Roger McGuinn and Clarence White on guitars, Skip Battin on bass, and Gene Parsons on drums, was the most stable one the group ever had, and by far the best live unit. Between 1969 and 1972 this incarnation of the Byrds recorded five albums and toured relentlessly and their shows, thanks in no small part to the guitar interplay between McGuinn and the truly astounding White, were wonderfully balanced affairs that featured all of the Byrds' stylistic phases -- from folk-rock to country to bluegrass and space music and beyond -- rolled into a thoroughly professional package. This set, taken from a May 13, 1971 concert at Royal Albert Hall, captures that sound and this version of the Byrds at a peak, and it is perhaps the finest live recording of this particular unit to surface yet. Anchored by a monstrous, nearly 20-minute version of "Eight Miles High" Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971 finds White and McGuinn channeling John Coltrane, ragas, free jazz, and all points in between into a complete tour of the then known musical universe. Although McGuinn is solid as a guitar player throughout this set, it is White who really amazes. He sounds like absolutely no one else before or since on guitar, and his playing is so fast, fluid, and ever shifting that one can't help but listen in astonishment. Everything here has a constant spark of energy that all too often was missing for the Byrds in the studio. The blistering pace of the instrumental "Nashville West" here has so much energy that it seems like it ought to lift out of the speakers and blast on through to the stars. Not everything in this set flies quite that high, though, and the earlier Byrds hits like "My Back Pages" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" sound a bit old and creaky, but they're never less than professionally rendered, and this show does a very good job of spotlighting the finest live configuration this historic band ever had. © Steve Leggett /TiVo