Since the extensive remastering project of the Byrds' entire Columbia catalogue that begun to appear in the shops in 1996, Sweetheart Of The Radio is the only Byrds CD to have been subsequently revised and expanded into this 2CD Legacy Edition. This says something of the importance and stature that this album has gradually acquired over the four decades since its release, to the point that it could be argued to be their most important release. Ironically, when released in 1968 it was widely reviled and nearly brought about the destruction of what was left of the band. Half of them had left during the recordings of the previous album, Notorious Byrd Brothers, leaving only Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman from the original line-up.
Even the magnificent single You Ain't Going Nowhere (with a safer B-side, Artificial Energy, drawn from Notorious Byrd Brothers) faltered at no. 74 in the US charts and did hardly any better in the UK, just nudging the Top Fifty; this despite being one of their famous interpretations of a new Dylan song, culled, like the album closer Nothing Was Delivered, from the unreleased Basement Tapes. Its follow up, Pretty Boy Floyd/I Am A Pilgrim, sunk without trace.
The new members were drummer Kevin Kelley and singer-guitarist Gram Parsons, fresh from the International Submarine Band, and it was his love of country music, widely regarded at the time to be the exclusive provenance of Southern rednecks, that had led to the startling new direction of the band - a fusion of rock music, country, bluegrass, Southern soul (filtered through William Bell and Otis Redding) and folk - at a time when country rock had not previously existed.
Furthermore, the new band had relocated from Los Angeles to Nashville and added a collection of top session men including honky tonk pianist Earl Ball and steel guitarist Jaydee Maness (Lloyd Green plays steel on One Hundred Years From Now, one of six tracks recorded later in Los Angeles), and they were unusually given license to play freely throughout, adding whatever they wished as the band played live in the studio. The country audience thought the band was a parody, and jeered at them on a Grand Ole Opry radio appearance to promote the new album, whilst previous Byrds fans could not connect with the new material, and the album stiffed.
Gram Parsons was still under contract to the Lee Hazlewood-owned label with whom he had recorded with the International Submarine Band and this led to all but three of his vocals being removed or buried, and replaced by those of Roger McGuinn (with Chris Hillman's help on One Hundred Years From Now). As he points out in the liner notes, he was embarrassed by the lyric on The Christian Life, and his version sounds sardonic and insincere, which can't have helped at the time, but by the time the album was released Gram Parsons had left the band anyway, so at least the new vocals gave a more accurate representation of the band that was to tour the record. Three Gram Parsons masters that were replaced are included as bonus tracks on disc one of the Legacy Edition (rehearsal takes were included on the 1997 special collector's edition), making it possible to program the record the way it had been originally intended. Four outtake masters are also included, including Pretty Polly, Lazy Days, later to be revived by Gram Parsons in the Flying Burrito Brothers, and the previously unreleased All I Have Are Memories featuring a vocal by Kevin Kelley (an instrumental version was included in the 1997 edition).
The bonus disc includes fourteen previously unreleased working demos, outtakes and rehearsal versions (there are four others on the 1997 disc that are not found here) including a radically different arrangement of Pretty Polly, and these make an insightful addition into the workings of making the album, and all the rehearsals, though flawed, have unique elements within them that are fascinating to hear. Although all the rehearsal takes are numbered, what other take was used as the final master is not disclosed, nor how many of each song were made, though apparently sixty attempts were made at You're Still On My Mind in Los Angeles before Take One was used on the record.
The clincher over the single disc version, apart from the improved, phenomenal sound quality throughout, is the inclusion on the second disc of six tracks by proto-country rock band the International Submarine Band, showing how much Gram Parsons brought to the Byrds. Three tracks from the album Safe At Home include an embryonic version of Luxury Liner. This was released as a single in 1967 with Blue Eyes on the flip, and was later famously taken up by Emmylou Harris and Albert Lee; whilst the other three, making their CD debut, comprise both sides of their second single, and, showing where it all began, Truck Drivin' Man, the B-side of their first single in 1966. Whereas I would recommend this over the single disc version, collectors will doubtless need both, whilst the single disc will suffice perfectly for those less given to scrutiny.
on 11 October 2003
At a masterpiece
the amazing album(with its companion bonus disc)
brings all the flow of the original album to you in detail
the glourius sound quality!
You hear it right from the first track, as lloyd greens pedal steel guitar get that perfect overwhelming guitar sound while the acoustic guitar, shimmering.. clearly like never before
As for the harmonys.. how they should be.. really strikinly.. to the word all clear.. and all together well its neatly surrounding it all neatly
drums and cymbals smack neatly and the banjo and mandolin on the cd sounds surprisingly crispy and really adds to the greatness of the disc.. and no one can deny the fiddle playing.. giving it a jumping.. but yet warm sound.
that being said.. just about the soundquality of the disc
It is one amazing album on its own.. especially now when chris hillmans tasty mandolin stands clearer and greater than ever.
(the mandonlin, as fasinating Instrument that we would not hear much of on a byrd album after this until the reuinion album 1973)
the certain flow this album has never lacks in feeling.. and really, all the song on it are done sucessfully
and for those who doubt it beacuse of what might find "boring drumming" (which is not at boring really, but done with extreme touch) just listen to the high hitting and smashing feel on track such as the dylan track "nothing was delivered" and the gram parsons penned "one hundred years from now"
Life in prison is swingin, hickory wind, being grams from the heart full of feeling number. is such a beutiful track with neat harmony arrangements a gentle drum smack and the overwhelming sound of all the pedal fushioned "strech swing" from the steel guitars" and the acoustic guitars just bring a thick flowing sound.. and so does the bass that follows so neatly.
you dont miss your water is an equally stunning ballad with so much flow in it.. but I guess this albums is often regarded as a dull album beacuse the track often are slow in tempo.
the swing of the christian life and the blue canadian rockies are very charming, chris hillman says he had not yet. learned singin but I think hes got a great voice.
the bonus tracks on the first disc, include the same tracks as on the prevoius reissue but with greater sound, and a neat suprise!!
Kevin Kelly, the drummer, and composer of the earlier only-known as an instrumental number " All I have are memorys" its a neat effort and hes got such a cool charming voice and add new flow to and allready swingin effort, a rare treat that should have been on the album If I got to say my opinion.
all the alternative versions avalible on the secound disc with the boys.. working on arrangements, vocal and geting it to sound very tight.. there as the cover of the cd says 8 new discovered takes with gram parson vocals two, new workings on the backing track of "all I have are memorys" demos of lazy days pretty polly and.. one of the funniest a demo version of blue candiana rockies with.. mcguinn singin a bit, while asking. what am I going to play during the In the blue canadian rockies ladaa daa daaa daa da da part.
I Think this reharshal takes are very intresting, and I would like to point out that, my final view on them
this is a collection, often looked upon as a "for byrdmaniacs only" collection
I beg to differ, I mean with this Included that shows clearly how they worked with the album.. and the sound quality at peak.. This is a perfect moment for people to open their ears for the byrds, and for this.. often missunderstood masterpiece
it truley is
The ultimate experience!
and not only that
songs by grams pre byrds group International submarine band as included too, They might sound a bit out of place, but they are great tracks nevertheless