The Essential Byrds
Performer: The Byrds
Distributor: Sony Music Distribution (
Notes: The Byrds include: Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Gram Parsons, Clarence White (vocals, guitar); Chris Hillman (vocals, bass); Gene Clark (vocals); Michael Clarke, Gene Parsons (drums). Producers include: Terry Melcher, Allen Stanton, Gary Usher, Bob Johnston, Jim Dickson. Compilation producer: Bob Irwin. Recorded between 1965 & 1971. Includes liner notes by Alan Bisbort. Adapter: Pat Seeger. Recording information: 01/20/1965-07/25/1971. Photographers: Guy Webster; Don Hunstein. Unknown Contributor Roles: Chris Hillman; Clarence White; Kevin Kelley ; David Crosby; Gene Clark; Gram Parsons; John York; Michael Clarke ; Roger McGuinn; Skip Battin. Arranger: C.C. White. 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
Uncut (p.126) - 5 stars out of 5 - "[T]he 44 tracks cover just about every important nook and cranny of The Byrds' illustrious career..."
Adding ringing electric guitars to Bob Dylan songs, the Byrds helped invent folk-rock, as well as becoming early proponents of psychedelia and popularizing country-rock with the help of alt-country saint Gram Parsons. Led by Roger McGuinn and his distinctive Rickenbacker guitar sound, the mid-1960s lineup--also featuring David Crosby, Gene Clark, and Chris Hillman--achieved fame with their unique take on Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Personnel changes resulted in a core band of only McGuinn and Hillman, but the short-lived addition of Parsons allowed for the creation of the landmark SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO album. Ultimately, McGuinn assumed full control of the Byrds legacy, and their harmonies and jangly guitars have influenced countless younger bands.
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