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This review is from: Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (Audio CD)
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.
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Initial post: 2 Feb 2014 10:52:18 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Feb 2014 10:53:06 GMT
Better late than never, but a super review.Im a big GP fan and always always when playing this superb album reprogram(no pun intended) the GP songs into the original planned selection.Ive owned the Legacy disc from day of release but my pride and joy is my copy of the original vinyl release which I got signed a few years back by Roger.A classic important album in the crossover genre.
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