moleskin wrote:Could this be transferred to Classic Threads, please?
Can we not leave it here until I'm finished, so it can keep going here for a bit? If you transfer this to Classic Threads, I will just put my reviews on my own thread in YY and you can do what you like with it, once I am finished. Just seems a bit premature.
Anway, I'll carry on. I will diverge slightly from Matt's format, for I won't be doing reviews by year, since I bought none of these albums at the time. I will be doing them chronologically (roughly) but in related parcels. Also, I am more long-winded. Sorry.
I am mainly a Byrds fan as far as solo albums go, and I won't be doing all the Neil Young albums as that is a separate project, really. Just the ones with some sort of Buffalo Springfield connection, loosely termed.
There are some albums I have not heard, and I will provide information on these and anyone who wishes can offer a review or views.
Roger Mcguinn to 1977
After the 1973 reunion disaster, McGuinn decided it was time to take the plunge and go solo, something he admits he wishes he had done earlier (as opposed to flog the moribund Byrds for a final few albums).
1973. This is a patchwork of styles that echo the many guises of the Byrds. With contributions from Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Bob Dylan (on harmonica), it is not surprising that this is some of the best Byrds music heard since the late 60's. But that's rather damning with faint praise, and I can't help but wish the album was better than it is.
There's nothing wrong
(see later albums), but neither is there a single outstanding track. McGuinn plays a bit of Rickenbacker, a bit of banjo, a bit of synthesiser, there is a jazzish track with Byrds harmonies ('My New Woman'), and a couple of traditional songs and the cod country of 'Bag Full of Money'. For years I thought 'Lost My Drivin Wheel' was by Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse, and that the credit was a misprint. In fact, the song is by David Whiffen, a folk singer, and it has been covered by the Cowboy Junkies and the Jayhawks. It's really quite good.
McGuinn really is a puzzling artist, making decisions which seem to sabotage his career at key points (well, most
points, really). Look at the cover of this album, for example. How ugly is that
? Those who braved that eyesore found a much more consistent sound than the debut, which is a bonus. Sort of. After touring with Gene Clark in 1973, McGuinn put together a new band with guitarist Donnie Dacus, who was later to form a band with Steve Stills. Dacus has a reputation for being a bit overbearing - on this album, he contributes two songs. The project was overseen by CSNY producer Bill Halverson.
The title track is a rather limp cover of a very bitter song about a failed romance from country singer Charlie Rich. 'Same Old Sound' is about fans's expectations of hearing that 12-string sound from our man, and 'Gate of Horn' is a tribute to the Chicago folk club where McGuinn saw the light. There's more cod-country, and the album features a much bigger production sound than any other McGuinn album: strings and backing female vocalists.
Roger McGuinn and Band
1975. Career implosion time. Lordie is this one a stinker. The obvious fact is that McGuinn was failing to write songs, so he let his new bandmembers write five of them. It is rare for a noted songwriter to hand over songwriting duties to unknown musicians, and this album explains why in shocking clarity.
McGuinn also drags up a Dylan cover ('Knockin' On Heaven's Door' - oh great!) and two recentish songs from his own career, 'Lover of the Bayou' from The Byrds's (Untitled)
and 'Born To Rock And Roll' from the 1973 reunion album. Why? He writes two songs, one of them 'Lisa' is a rewrite of the calypso number 'M'linda' from his solo debut, and one could argue that was one calypso number too many the first time. Avoid - I wish I had, and I got it for a pound. The remaster adds two 1977 live bonus tracks recorded by the band McGuinn formed after
the next two bands, for some strange reason.
1975. The only way was up, and thank God McGuinn's career took the only possible direction. After joining Dylan's Rolling Thunder tour reluctantly (he was a shy live performer who was convinced he would die on stage), McGuinn joined forces with fellow Thunderer Mick Ronson, who produced the album. It is a real success (sadly, not commercially), thank goodness. I don't rate it as highly as some fans do, but there is a lot to enjoy here.
'Take Me Away' is energetic rock about the Rolling Thunder tour, while several of the songs are wistful reflections on 60's idealism - 'Friend' and 'Partners In Crime'. On the downside, there are a couple of pirate songs, 'Pretty Polly', and 'Jolly Roger', and I like few pirate songs. And Dylan's contribution, 'Up To Me' is not as good as the one eventually released by Dylan on Biograph
, but for a long time this was the only way to hear it.
McGuinn changes Dylan's line 'that harmonica around my neck, I blew it for you free' to 'that Rickenbacker round my neck, it grooved for you for free'. His last album he was filling with songs from the hired help, this time he's rewriting Dylan? Joni Mitchell's 'Dreamland' is great, and one of two bonus tracks reveals they did a demo of Bowie's 'Soul Love'. A very good album.
Sadly, plans to tour and record again as a McGuinn-Ronson band fell through, so McGuinn formed and toured with a new band called Thunderbyrd. Then he sacked them after aborting recording sessions, and made a new album with musicians from the (ahem) Leo Sayer band and Rick Vito, later of Fleetwood Mac.
1977. I only got the album a few weeks ago, but it is better than I had expected. Not as good as Cardiff Rose
, but good, solid LA rock without the overproduction of the second album. The covers are from Dylan ('Golden Loom'), George Jones, Bobby Goldberg, Tom Petty, and (erm) Pete Frampton. McGuinn heard Petty's 'American Girl' on the radio and was convinced it was a song he had forgotten recording! He does a convincing version here.
The four McGuinn originals are all worth hearing. So far I have not said anything about McGuinn's partnership with Jacques Levy, a songwriter with whom he had been working since the latter days of the Byrds. Levy obviously either contributes or brings out the pair's mystical/mythological orientation, since on his own McGuinn tends to go for lighter themes. 'Russian Hill', the album closer, is impenetrable, about the poet Ferlinghetti, and dreams, and a failed relationship.
There is a compilation from this five album spell:
Born To Rock and Roll
1991. With the resurrection of McGuinn's solo career in 1990, Columbia/Legacy thought they would get in on the act with this 20 song selection from the five albums from 1973-77. It's good enough, but it is let down by the understandable decision to focus on McGuinn's originals, rather than the material from other writers. This means two of the best songs available, Dylan's 'Golden Loom' and Whiffen's 'Lost My Drivin Wheel' are absent. There are four covers on the compilation, but the above reviews indicate just how many non-McGuinn songs there are on the albums.
It is a hefty sampler from albums that tended to be a bit short in length, so worth it for the curious. Alternately, invest in the remastered Cardiff Rose
, move on to McGuinn
, consider Thunderbyrd
, and leave the other two alone.
Amazingly, the next solo album from McGuinn was in 1990
, and he thus missed a generation of rock fans. The next stage was a reunion with Hillman and Clark, of which more later in this thread.