Thursday, 19 July 2018
The Byrds - There Is A Season Box Set
I am not a hard-core Byrds fan, therefore I do not feel the disappointment of many of those fans who wished to have more previously unreleased material on here. What I wanted was a career-spanning box set that covered the history of of this seminal band through their jangly pop, Dylan-Covering days, via psychedelia, to folk-rock and country-rock. That is what I have got in this excellent remaster box set.
All the great Dylan covers are here - “Mr Tambourine Man“ (in many ways the definitive version of the song), “All I Really Want To Do”, the wonderful “Chimes Of Freedom”, “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, “My Back Pages”, “Lay Lady Lay”, “Positively 4th Street” and "It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”. Although it may have seemed a bit odd that a band would send so much time covering another artist’s songs, you simply cannot argue that their versions of Dylan’s material often out-do the great man’s versions. That jangly guitar sound and those harmonious vocals just seemed to fit the songs perfectly. Just check out their effervescent version of “The Times…”.
There are, of course, other highlights. My personal favourite is the evocative and melodious “Turn! Turn! Turn!”. Tracks like this just sum up much that was just so vibrant and life-affirming about music in the mid to late sixties. The Beatles-ish “I’ll Feel A Whole lot Better” is excellent too. The psychedelic instrumental “Stranger In A Strange Land” is atmospheric and reproduced here in superb stereo. Then there is the haunting, swirling, mysterious “Eight Miles High” with its iconic guitar riff and the other spacey stuff from the late sixties - the Dylanesque, but not Dylan, of “5D (Fifth Dimension)” and upbeat, harmonious “Mr Spaceman”.
“So You Want To Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star” is just a superb, brooding rock song from the early seventies and the folk rock that merged into country rock material has some gems too - the melodious but fast-paced "I See You", with more of that "Eight Miles High" guitar, “He Was A Friend Of Mine”, the hippy/trippy “Renaissance Fair” and “Have You Seen Her Face”. The folky joy of the traditional "Wild Mountain Thyme”. The psychedelic rock of "Was't Born To Follow". The mesmeric percussion on "Dolphin's Smile". All good stuff.
There is probably no escaping the fact that, as the box progresses, however, the sheer vibrant, vital exhilaration of those sixties songs dilutes somewhat. I do like the laid-back pleasures of the folk/country period, but you can’t beat the sheer energy of the mid sixties material.