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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 27 May 2017
Not totally perfect but the last great Byrds' album and Chestnut Mare makes it a must buy for fans. Excellent bonus material.
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on 3 May 2009
This is some double CD.
The original Untitled tracks 1 - 7 are live and 8 - 16 are studio recordings.
I enjoy all the live work, except Eight Miles High, a great song, but at 16 minutes long, on this occasion it fails to impress.
Chestnut Mare is well known, but look out for Yesterdays Train and Just A Season, the're sublime.
I only recently discovered the hidden Amazing Grace, it does'nt get much better than that.
The second disc Unissued is 14 songs which include alternate versions, studio and live recordings.
The less well known tracks are Kathleen's Song, White Lightning Pt 2 and Willin.
Like so much of The Byrds, this is another essential collection.
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on 8 December 2000
Almost called "Phoenix", this is the album where the Byrds rose from the ashes, and effortlessly soared once again. By 1970, the Byrds were a hard gigging band, popular on the US college circuit. Sensibly the first side of (Untitled) as issued on double vinyl album format, featured eight blistering live tracks, now doubled to sixteen on the re-issued (Untitled)/(Unissued) CD. As a lover of the origional album, I was amazed and delighted to hear the previously unissued material making up the second "bonus" CD. Great versions of "Willin'",and "You ain't goin'nowhere" join with classics like "Chestnut Mare" and "Mr Tambourine Man". The last great Byrds album now sounds better than ever.
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on 8 January 2011
I have the original double vinyl version of Untitled which I probably bought the day after seeing the band plugging the album live at Birmingham Town Hall many years ago. It's one of the few concerts from the seventies which I remember for its electricity. The studio material (from the original recording) is less impressive though Chestnut Mare is very good. I have not heard the new unissued material.

The live songs are absolutely thrilling but I have to disagree with one of the other reviewers who failed to be impressed by the 16 minutes of Eight Miles High. For me it is the best track of all. I heard the Byrds play this version live as an encore. The bass and drumming drive the song onward relentlessly while the lead guitar swirls around over the top. Many among the audience, including me, really had no idea what song it was until about 12 minutes in when the pace slowed, the tune changed momentarily, Roger McGuinn sang a few of the words and then the pace picked up again and the tune resumed to a climatic ending. An incredible live performance captured and replicated well on the album.
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The original two record set attracted the extremes of both high praise and severe criticism on its release. Within the latter there were phrases such as "...probably the most perplexing the Byrds have ever made","a lot of watery music", "stuff that will rank with their best and the born outtakes", "some of it is fantastic, some is very poor or seemingly indifferent", "The songs are unworthy except for..... Chestnut Mare", "harmonies are faint or totally absent" coming from certain very well respected reviewers. The CD release which expanded it to double CD length provided a lot more music and may have helped to lift it to a level such that several current critics rate it as the best late period Byrds album.

The original album comprised a live set over the first slab of vinyl, with "Eight Miles High" taking an entire side, and a studio set on the second disc. One change had happened to the Byrds since "Easy Rider"; Skip Battin had replaced John York on bass. Whether this accounts for the dilution in country content in the studio recordings is pure conjecture. Certainly Battin's attempts at song-writing don't impress this reviewer.

It's very likely that this version of the band was the best ever live - early incarnations didn't always have the greatest reputation for getting up there and doing it. This band had spent a lot of time on the road and it showed. Hence the rationale for devoting an entire disc to live tracks. By and large it works well. "Eight Miles High" is undoubtedly the highlight and probably was the reason for relatively good sales of this album. Most of it is an instrumental jam which stands up well to comparison to epics of this genre such as "Dark Star" from the Dead, those Quicksilver long ones and the Butterfield Band's "East West". After a fade-in, the guitars are rumbling with McGuinn up front first with hints of the theme amongst the improv. - then it's Clarence White showing off his versatility with McGuinn backing - Battin takes over on bass - he does such a good job that the attention doesn't wander for the two minutes plus of his break - then it's Clarence, until, wow, at twelve minutes in and bang on cue, the full band are there on harmony vocals with "Eight Miles Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh, and when we touch down". What a release of tension. The crowd are lapping it up. This version may miss some of the minor seventh chords, or whatever, which gave it a jazzy feel originally but what it may have lost in subtlety it surely makes up in sheer energy. This was the live set closer and they leave the stage to rousing cheers.

The rest of the live set is accomplished. There's still a thrill as the opening Bach inspired guitar intro to "Tambourine Man" rings in the air but the known Byrds numbers suffer somewhat in comparison to the studio versions; Clarence White does have a tendency to add a country flavour to everything he touches which does introduce, not necessarily welcome, variation from one's fond memories. But there's part of me says that Dylan has been wont to perform his classics very differently from their studio versions, and another part that feels that the stateliness and elegance of the Byrds' originals would be very hard to match anyway. There's a new Dylan cover amongst the live set, his put-down song, "Positively Fourth Street". McGuinn matches his sneer pretty well and White's guitar suits the song. Not a bad set overall but, with the exception of "Eight Miles High", one's inclined to comment, "You had to be there". Unfortunately this maxim holds for a lot of live releases though there are notable exceptions.

So, on to the studio tracks, nine in total, a rather miserly slice of vinyl. Several of the songs were written by McGuinn in association with theatre director Jaques Levy originally for an aborted musical based on Ibsen's Peer Gynt. First up is "Chestnut Mare" which is one of those songs. And it's not bad, maybe not a Byrds classic but certainly evocative of earlier (and better?) times. And that's about it. Well, yes there are eight other numbers but none of them really register on first listen. After a few times, numbers such as "Just a Season", "All the Things" and "Yesterday's train" do reveal some pleasures but they're slight. The out takes for the previous album (as revealed by the CD's bonus tracks) are better than this lot.

The generous helping of music on the "Unissued" disc does compensate to a degree for the above. Once again it's divided into studio and live tracks with the studio ones coming first. Whilst not startlingly different the studio tracks do seem a mite more lively than the released tracks. The alternate version of "All the Things" is much fuller instrumentally and, to these ears, much better for it. The alternate of "Yesterday's Train" also seems better though I haven't analysed why. The version here of "Lover of the Bayou" is better than the live one though I'm not so sure about all that echo on Roger's voice. There's a new number, "Kathleen's Song" with our man on very vulnerable vocals, which is at least as good as anything but "Chestnut Mare" on the issued album. This got held over for "Byrdmaniax".

Of the live tracks, three are of existing Byrds' country numbers, "You ain`t goin` nowhere", "Old Blue" and "Jesus is just alright"; two of these were originally from this flavour of the band, or almost this flavour. Hardly surprisingly all three translate well to live versions; the boys relax into them. They're a tad rough on "Jesus..." but I guess that happens at times. Highlight of the live material for me is a cover of Dylan's "It's alright Ma, I'm only bleeding". Dylan virtually spits blood on the original. Roger can't quite go that far but with the aid of a mean harmonica and the full ensemble riffing strongly on the punch line, they create a very effective interpretation. Versions of "Ballad of Easy Rider" and "This wheel's on fire" also deliver well and are very listenable alternatives to the studio versions. Finally there's a bonus, bonus track in a short acappella harmony version of "Amazing Grace". This does make you realise that you've been missing something from the beginning; much of the time the expected harmonies are either not there or are buried well back in the mix.

Which takes me back to the criticism I recorded in my opening para. I think these guys got it spot on. Most of the studio material is almost embarrassingly poor and doesn't even seem to be delivered with much conviction. Conversely on the road they obviously deliver a great show. Some of the live material on the second disc improves on that on the first. Maybe an album consisting only of the live material might have been a better release.

I'm well aware that this review is way out of kilter when compared with others. I guess there's no accounting for taste. I'd be very happy to respond to comments.
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VINE VOICEon 18 June 2007
I had long assumed that The Byrds had used up all their ammo once Clark, Crosby and then Hillman had left. This 1970 set proves otherwise. Jim McGuinn built a great new band around him, with Clarence White's fabulous, incendiary playing on the live half of the original album a highlight. Gene Parsons and Skip Battin, meanwhile, provide a restless and inspired rhythm section, which is as important to keeping the 16-minute version of 'Eight Miles High' on fire as the guitar interplay. In addition, McGuinn had several great songs left over from an aborted musical he'd collaborated on. The best of these are the live 'Lover On The Bayou' which opens the album and the studio cut, 'Chestnut Mare' which features more wonderful work from White.

The song quality isn't consistent but the playing is. What makes this album such fantastic value, however, is the addition of the bonus disc, 'Unissued'. This is also a mix of live and studio recordings, four of which are alternative versions of tracks on the first disc. There are fine versions of Dylan's 'You Ain't Goin' Nowhere' and 'This Wheel's On Fire', while 'Kathleen's Song' and 'White's Lightning' are also particularly impressive.

However uneven this collection is, it lacks nothing in enthusiasm and dexterity, and represents great value.
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on 21 January 2017
This album contains the WORST song that has ever been committed to celluloid. It is an affront to everything that is good and holy. The song is called "Chestnut Mare" and it is absolutely HORRID. It isn't even SUNG.. it is narrated and it is the story of a bloke with bestiality on his mind wanting to catch an elusive horse. If it was an elusive butterfly I could maybe tolerate it but, as it stands, it blows big chunks. Anyway, who cares about Bob Lind's butterfly collection. The rest of the album is pretty good although not the Byrds' best work. Elvis, in his '68 "comeback special" (stupid ol' Elvis) couldn't even read their name correctly off the cue sheet when he was lying through his capped, hillbilly teeth about the "new groups" he liked. The dumb hick said "I like The Beatles and The BEARDS and what have you." What an absolute DOPE. I hate Elvis because I couldn't get a room in Memphis a week after he croaked on the toilet because everything was booked out by Elvis fans and there was a Shriner's convention in town as well. So this cd deserves no more than ONE star. Stupid horse..!!
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on 1 May 2009
Great album...in case anyone hasnt noticed theres a "hidden" track at the end of disc one...a beautiful accapella version of Amazing Grace....just in case you miss it

Jim
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on 1 December 2013
I loved the live album when I first heard it 15 years after it's release. Lost the vinyl version at some point and only really listened to the "live side". I bought this in hope that memory wasn't faulty and the live tracks are as I recall. The "unissued" supplementary CD contains more live material (many are Dylan songs) and again are mostly all worth hearing. The studio tracks are "variable" ( I never really liked Chestnut Mare and this album is not Sweetheart of the Rodeo quality). With one exception (Lover of the Bayou with a harmonica twist : well worth a listen) it is not a surprise why the additional studio tracks were unissued. The reading of the brilliant Lowell George's Willin' just makes you want to go and listen to the original source.
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on 8 December 2006
This was always a very good album indeed, and the remastered re-issue with the extra CD at a bargain price makes it a truly great one. I still don't understand how Clarence White could play like that! Just wonderful, so perhaps you ought to just buy it. 'Eight Miles High' and 'Chestnut Mare' should still take your head off.

But there's more here than the original satisfying live and studio LP recording; what you are buying is 'Untitled' AND 'Unissued'. I assume that most people will be familiar with 'Untitled', which comprises one classic live LP and one classic or very-near-classic studio LP. If you are thinking of replacing well-worn vinyl, you can safely do so with this 2CD set.

The 2nd CD comprises alternate versions ('All the Things' with McGuinn's 12-string to the fore, a stripped-down 'Yesterday's Train'), a studio 'Lover of the Bayou' with hot harmonica and slide guitar, and more Clarence White 'in excelsis'; another 8 live tracks, and the guitar playing is riveting. So now the whole 2CD set makes a very good companion to the currently bargain priced 'Live at Fillmore 1969' CD. Finally there is a 'hidden' track - a chorus of 'Amazing Grace'.

Even so, as beautiful as that unexpected bonus is, it's clear that this band, McGuinn's Byrds, was not anywhere near as strong on harmonies/vocals as the original line-up. But instrumentally they were far, far superior and the Parsons/White axis of the band had such enormous chops and firepower that McGuinn had to raise his game considerably; he wanted country and he got it - to this day, country-rock doesn't get any better than this. Sure, it might get as good...but this was 1970. We will never hear or see its like again. Absolutely classic, highly recommended and usually a very good price.
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