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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
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Pop - Released December 12, 1990 | Legacy - Columbia

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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
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Rock - Released April 16, 2013 | Columbia - Legacy

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

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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
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Pop/Rock - Released August 19, 1992 | Columbia - Legacy

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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
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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
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Pop/Rock - Released March 25, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop/Rock - Released March 25, 1997 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released May 9, 2014 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop/Rock - Released March 20, 1992 | Columbia - Legacy

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Folk/Americana - Released May 24, 2018 | Cult Legends

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Pop/Rock - Released February 28, 1989 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released August 20, 1993 | Columbia - Legacy

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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
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Pop/Rock - Released January 19, 1988 | Columbia

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Pop/Rock - Released February 22, 2000 | Columbia - Legacy

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Pop - Released December 27, 2011 | Columbia - Legacy

This 14-track set of live recordings by the latter-day Roger McGuinn/Clarence White incarnation of the Byrds is culled from 1970's double-LP Untitled (the first LP was a live recording from a 1970 concert at Queens College while the second LP was a studio recording), 2000's Live at the Fillmore West (recorded in February of 1969), and 2008's Live at Royal Albert Hall (recorded in 1971). This version of the Byrds may not be the best known, but given the wonderful guitar interplay between McGuinn and White, it was certainly the best live unit the band ever toured. Given the different sources for this playlist, it actually hangs together with the arc of a single concert, ending with an epic 15-plus-minute version of "Eight Miles High." ~ Steve Leggett