The Byrds/Buffalo Springfield family tree

Backslapping time. Well done us. We are fantastic.
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Postby Muskrat » 31 May 2006, 18:56

Matt Wilson wrote: And that does it for me. 1965-1975 is eleven years of Byrds/Buffalo greatness...LMG can take over if he likes or we can leave it at that.


Too bad. Work in a reference to The Beatles, and you'd have a Mojo cover story,
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Postby Charlie O. » 31 May 2006, 19:14

Matt Wilson wrote:1975
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Neil Young's Tonight's the Night
This is where I differ from most Neil fans. Tonight's the Night is considered a classic, either his best album or way up there anyway. I'm not even sure I like it. Recorded in 1973 but not released until 1975 I'd say the best cuts are the title track, the live "C'mon Baby Let's Go Downtown," "Tired Eyes," and maybe "Albuquerque." After that I have to really search for the good stuff. Apparently, it's the ambience of the LP which keeps them comin' back. You can be the judge, I guess...


I'm guessing that it's the ambience that keeps you from recognizing an album chock full of "good stuff"! "World On A String", "Mellow My Mind, ""New Mama", "Lookout Joe", "Roll Another Number", "Speakin' Out", "Borrowed Tune"... every one's a winner (even the one with the borrowed tune).

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Postby andymacandy » 31 May 2006, 19:41

Good stuff, Matt-this is lovely music.
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Postby Moleskin » 02 Jun 2006, 13:27

Could this be transferred to Classic Threads, please?
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Postby LMG » 02 Jun 2006, 14:26

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).

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McGuinn 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 with McGuinn (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.

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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.

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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.

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Cardiff Rose 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.

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Thunderbyrd 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:

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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.
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Postby andymacandy » 02 Jun 2006, 14:58

If nobody minds, Ill try and cover some of the later CSN stuff,seeing as Chris prefers to do the Byrds side of things.Very much a diminishing return, but there are some gems in there.
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CSN;1977
Much cover confusion about this one.I think this is the generally accepted one.
Much water under the bridge since "4 Way Street", and an album that has faded from memory.Nevertheless, it was only kept from No1 by Rumours, and deserves better.It has a very similar sound to the debut, but without the outstanding songwriting.Heavy ( as you would expect) on the harmonies, and not always obvious who wrote which song.Against my expectation, its Nash that steals this one;"Cathedral" and "Just A Song Before I Go" are both outstanding,beautiful works, and without the cloying twee-ness that affected his earlier work.Stills is funky and contributes two standouts -See The Changes" and "Dark Star" in his usual style.His voice is terrific here.Crosby's "Shadow Captain" is the other really great track on an album that doesnt really grab you, but the more you play it, the more insistant it becomes.
After this album, for my money, their sound was increasingly dominated by Nashs horrible sounding keyboards, but we'll get to that later.
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Postby LMG » 02 Jun 2006, 19:32

Thanks, Andy. I have some of those tracks on my Carry On 2CD compilation. 'Cathedral' in particular, is terrific.

I don't have the passion for CSNY that I do for the Byrds or the Grateful Dead, but I do admire them. One of the aspects of the 70's with respect to the artists we are looking at here is that there were several attempts to create laboratory clones of CSN, but these all failed miserably. Again, see below. CSN emerged out of musicians who genuinely loved and admired each other, and loved playing together, however pear-shaped it all went in later years.
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Postby LMG » 05 Jun 2006, 15:24

Poco again

I last reviewed From The Inside, the album the band made after Jim Messina left and which they felt was unsatisfactory. Next, Poco bet the farm on a song they had been playing to mass audience enthusiasm in their live shows, ‘A Good Feeling To Know’. The band took a precious day off touring in 1972 to record this song and release it as a single (which says a lot about how tight their schedule was at the time).

‘A Good Feeling To Know’ stiffed, completely failing to make the top 100 charts. Although someone did a good PR job in the UK, because every book over here refers to the song as ‘a substantial hit for the band in the US’. Reeling from the blow, Poco recorded enough material for a full album, giving it the same title and perhaps hoping FM radio would do them justice.

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A Good Feeling To Know, 1972. Just another pleasant Poco album really, and (once again) a bit too upbeat for my taste. Richie Furay’s reaction to the relative failure of the single and album was to leave the band, arguing that he could do no better. I’ve never heard what the fuss was about – this is hardly a lost classic (unlike the next album). You might like the title track, but it doesn’t sound like a great lost single to me either. Oh well.

Furay told fellow band members he was leaving, but was staying long enough to make a final album.

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Crazy Eyes, 1973. This is a beauty of an album, dedicated to Gram Parsons and strongly showing his influence – the title track is about him, and there is a cover of Parsons’s ‘Brass Buttons’. The other songwriters returned to their roots and resurrected material from their own earlier bands, whether by policy or necessity. It works very well, and the album hangs together as a showcase of country rock with strong hints that the members of Poco felt it had let them down, or life had, or something.

I was stunned to learn in researching these reviews that the album was effectively a message to Gram Parsons rather than a reflection on his death, which occurred a few weeks after its release. I had always assumed it was an early contribution to the Parsons death cult, whereas it is actually a plea to him to sort himself out. Too late.

The album is packed with gems, and for the first time Poco recorded much more material than they needed, so could pick and choose. Some of the outtakes turned up on a retrospective The Forgotten Trail (see below), and in fact the Crazy Eyes sessions make up the bulk of the second disc of that compilation.

The ten minute title track is a stunning, moody epic stunning, and features either Furay or Paul Cotton singing like Steven Stills exhorting Parsons to get his act together while at the same time telling his life story. Chris Hillman guests along with an orchestra. Essential. The album is available as a double set with Deliverin’, which is a good idea, but it is a shame that all the outtakes and the original album are not available in one place. I have to mention ‘Nothin’s Still The Same’, a Furay outtake that is the best regretful breakup song the band ever recorded. Is it really about a romance? Well, it had been with the band since 1970, in keeping with the vintage nature of the songs recorded at the sessions.

Poco decided to soldier on and took the brave (or foolhardy) step of leaving the outtakes in the can and recording an entire new album. I have not heard Poco Seven or the follow up Cantamos, but the five selections on the compilation reveal lightweight sub-Eagles pop.

Poco moved onto a new label, ABC, and in 1980 finally got the success that had eluded them across the previous two decades. Their fifth album for ABC, thirteenth overall, Legend, came just after Timothy Schmitt left to join the Eagles (replacing Randy Meisner, a repeat of the lineup changes in Poco eleven years earlier). Legend was a surprise hit. I haven’t heard it, nor have I heard the 1989 Legacy album featuring a one-off reunion of the band’s first ever lineup of Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, George Grantham, and Rusty Young.

There is still a Poco - they tour the US regularly and release new material on an independent label. Good for them – but I’ll bet they suffer the same problem that a lot of vintage bands do – no one comes to hear the new stuff.

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The unplugged album Bareback At Big Sky, 2005, offers acoustic versions of the new stuff and the hit stuff from the 80’s, but little that I want to hear and nothing from the albums reviewed here (Doh!). The last encore goes back to Buffalo Springfield for Neil Young’s ‘On The Way Home’. If I were in a grumpier mood I might discuss how the band’s Eagleslite treatment of the song speaks volumes about Poco’s journey from the band’s origins in Buffalo Springfield, but I’ll leave it.

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The Forgotten Trail (1969-74), 1990. This compilation includes hefty chunks of the albums mentioned here, plus b-sides, remixes, live versions, and outtakes, and an extensive history of the band with interviews. Ideal for the curious, and enough exclusive material to make it a keeper if you go on to buy the originals. Check out the first two albums and the Deliverin'/Crazy Eyes pairing, all four original albums available in two 'twofer' packages.
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Postby Jock » 05 Jun 2006, 15:53

I've just got round to reading this thread. A mouthwatering collection of albums. I'll be searching out the ones I don't have.
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Postby Kenji » 05 Jun 2006, 16:22

Everyone is right - this thread is fantastic. There's a lot of this tree I don't know about and I'll look for in the future. I don't think anyone said this one by Gene Clark recorded soon before he died:

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"Silhoutted In Light" - Gene Clark & Carla Olson (In Concert)

I can't write a good review, so from AMG (sorry):

"Recorded barely more than a year before Gene Clark's death, this live performance captures him in concert with Carla Olson, their voices harmonizing beautifully and their guitars — joined by Duane Jarvis on guitar and mandolin and David Provost on bass — meshing as one. The selection of songs ranges across Clark's whole history, from the early '60s right through to his work with Olson (who is also represented by two originals), but, additionally, encompasses the music of John Fogerty, John Prine, and Tom Paxton. Clark had clearly seen better days as a performer, but even at this point in his life and career, in tandem with Olson he found a sound that worked every bit as well as those he'd forged with the Byrds, Dillard & Clark, or any of the other combos he'd worked in. That's one reason why even in the company of some of his very best material from the past, the highlight of this CD is arguably his and Olson's rendition of her "Number One Is to Survive." "

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Postby LMG » 05 Jun 2006, 16:39

Thanks Kenji. I'm going to do the remainder of Gene Clark's albums on this thread in two stages, either side of the McGuinn, Clark, Hillman debacle.

I am certainly enjoying carrying on Matt's good work.

Maybe I should say what is coming up and what I need help with, if possible:

Coming:

Neil Young: Decade, Stills-Young Band
The Souther, Hillman, Furay Band (2 albums)
Chris Hillman and Gene Clark solo albums up to:
McGuinn Clark, and Hillman (three albums in various permutations)

Then we move on to the 1980's:

Gene Clark up to his death and compilations (five albums)
Chris Hillman solo and the Desert Rose Band (eight albums, I think)

Then The Byrds box, McGuinn returns, those naughty touring 'Burritoes', those naughty touring 'Byrds', the 90's...

Need help with:

Steve Stills solo career
Crosby Stills, Nash (and Young)

But check with andymacandy on CSN(Y) first., as he has offered to tell us about the diminishing treasures to be found in their career.
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Postby Muskrat » 05 Jun 2006, 18:04

Just the minor -- but significant -- note that Crazy Eyes also includes Poco's rendition of J.J. Cale's "Magnolia." It's one of those songs I've never heard a poor version of, and Poco's is right up there near the top.

While playing isn't necessarily Poco's strongest suit, I (evidently unlike many others) really like the long freakout that ends the second album.
Oh -- and if you can find it, Crazy Loving is a pretty good guide to the MCA years.
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Postby andymacandy » 06 Jun 2006, 10:12

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Daylight Again;1982
First up, what a dreadful cover.............
Despite my caveats about them gently sliding into mediocrity,they hadnt sunk too low yet.Crosby was, by all accounts, a mess by this stage,replaced on some tracks by Art Garfunkel, and in fact this started out as a Stills/Nash collaboration.But the C adds cache, and he was propped up long enough to contribute the haunting "Delta".Maybe this is the track that defines the man best-despite his addiction,and his trouble, he could always summon up just enough to make you believe in him.On the other hand, his rendition of "Might As Well Have A Good Time" probably more accurately sums him up.Nice piece though.
Nash adds the acceptable "Song for Susan" (never hard to see where he gets his inspiration from,huh?) and the delightfully wistful "Wasted on the Way" (yes, Mr Crosby, I think he means you............. :lol: )
Stills plonks in a couple of standard guitar rockers, and the nice reprise of "Daylight Again/Find The Cost of Freedom" that would break your heart, but it is his "Southern Cross" that stands head and shoulders above everything else on the album.Magnificent, hair blowing freedom,maybe the one track that any of them made post 1974 that stands up next to the golden age material.
I said earlier that the quality was fading, but I confess when listening to this, that it is a fine album.Its not as quirkily distinctive as their classic material-they are sliding towards bland,and also away from the group creativity, but not just yet.Worth having.
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Postby LMG » 06 Jun 2006, 12:51

Thanks Andy. Here are a couple of Neil Young releases with Buffalo Springfield connections:

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The Stills/Young Band, Long May You Run, 1976. Either not very good or a crushing disappointment, depending on your view. There were high hopes for this album, Stills proclaiming from the stage that ‘the spirit of the Springfield is back’, Crosby and Nash recording backing vocals, Stills admitting that his recent records had been 'cruddy', but that he was determined to win back every single fan. Live performances with Neil joining Stills's band were going well. These included songs from throughout their career, and along with the CSNY and solo selections were ‘Mr Soul’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ from Buffalo Springfield.

During a frenetic period working together, when Neil would fly back as soon as a show finished to mix the album, he decided to erase the Crosby/Nash contributions, infuriating his fomer partners and putting pay to any chance of a CSNY reunion. When the album appeared, it failed to live up to the advance billing, a common story in the 70's for the artists under discussion (see below for other failed and disappointing partnerships and amalgamations).

The only really standout track is the title, and it is included on Decade. Neil’s ‘Fountainbleu’ is worth a listen, and there are some goodish Stills guitar pieces, but most of this is lame and lethargic. I’d love someone reading this to make a better case for the album, but it remains one of those things you feel you have to seek out for a listen, and then wonder why you bothered. A remixed and remastered repackage with the Crosby/Nash vocals restored and a bonus live disc from the Stills/Young tour would be worth having, but that’s never going to happen, is it?.

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Decade. 1977 This triple album compiled by Neil featured unreleased songs and sumptuous packaging covered in the man’s handwritten scrawl, which was a charming if idiosyncratic touch. Today you can get this for around a fiver, and it might even seem a bit lightweight, but its impact at the time of release was extensive. No artist had been given such an extensive historical treatment in a single package up to that point. Of course, nowadays everyone from Mungo Jerry to the Lurkers have multi-disc historical retrospectives, but in those days reissues tended to the cheap and nasty and disposable:

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Decade was a triumph, and nearly all of the first side was devoted to Buffalo Springfield. This in itself ran counter to the general feeling among US rock fans at the time that apart from the Beatles, 60’s recordings were outdated and technically wanting. The scope of the album made a case for the consistent appeal of Neil Young’s career that occasional album buyers might have missed.

You could argue that this album was a major influence on the ideal of how music should be repackaged today, eg extensively, with the artist’s input, and involving a trip to the vaults. But Neil was one of the first. Sadly, the sequel, Decade 2 or Decades seems as far away now as it ever has been.
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Postby Charlie O. » 06 Jun 2006, 16:51

LMG wrote:The only really standout track [on Long May You Run] is the title, and it is included on Decade. Neil’s ‘Fountainbleu’ is worth a listen, and there are some goodish Stills guitar pieces, but most of this is lame and lethargic. I’d love someone reading this to make a better case for the album...


That task is beyond me - but I do love Neil's "Let It Shine". Maybe even more than the title track. Sure, it's a throwaway, but it's darned droll, and anyway Neil is one of the masters of the throwaway.

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Postby LMG » 06 Jun 2006, 19:20

Here's one I forgot:

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Crazy Horse, 1971. Striclty speaking, this doesn't really belong here, the players all having no direct connection to Byrds/Springfield, but they were Neil Young's backing band and guest fiddler Gib Gilbeau later turned up in the ersatz Burritos. But this is a fine album in this style, more than a bit more hard rocking than most of the other stuff here.

Danny Whitten, Jack Nitzsche, and Nils Lofgren will all bow out of the Crazy Horse story on later albums for reasons of career and death, so later albums are not much worth investigating in my experience. But this is a must have - anyone heard the new Rhino edition, which I assume is from these sessions?
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Postby LMG » 07 Jun 2006, 11:57

The 70’s Adventures of Chris Hillman, Gene Clark, and Richie Furay

I was going to write about how these guys betrayed their talent and their origins and went for the big bucks in the 70s, forming crappy and useless bands that sounded more like law firms than anything to do with rock and roll: Souther, Hillman, Furay. McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman. Disgusting.

But while reviewing the Poco albums I realised that on the whole, the guys involved deserve better than the harsh judgement history has accorded them. Learning that Poco had recorded thirteen albums by the time they had a gold record in 1980, I thought ‘why did they record so many albums?’.

The answer was that Poco had to. In interviews they admit that at times they went into the studio straight off a tour, too tired to record happily and scrabbling around for songs. When they weren’t recording, they were touring. Constantly touring, while the acts they were opening for seemed to get younger and younger, the acts opening for them moving on to more successes.

The Eagles didn’t have to live like that, nor did Loggins and Messina (who had a million selling cover from their first album via Ann Murray and a big hit single themselves with their second album). Richie Furay had seen former bandmates make it to the bigtime: Neil Young, Steven Stills, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner. He admits he was looking for his slice of that pie, and thinking about it, who can blame him? Life in Poco was no picnic, I’ll bet, and a hit single or album made all the difference in the world to the working musician.

So when David Geffen told Furay he was putting together a band to be the next Crosby Stills, and Nash, and that he could be the core of it, is there any surprise he took the bait? Chris Hillman had a different angle, having wavering solo ambitions but being considered the classic right-hand man, to Roger McGuinn, Gram Parsons, Steven Stills – and next with Furay?

Geffen added songwriter J D Souther to the mix and sent the band to the studio with Al Perkins on steel guitar from the Burritos and Mannassas, and Eric Clapton’s former drummer Jim Gordon.

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The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, 1973. God, so this is it, then? The Big Push? No songwriting collaborations, no covers, just each individual member putting his songs in the pot and crossing his fingers for that elusive hit. Furay’s songs are a letdown after the excellent stuff he wrote for his last Poco album Crazy Eyes, which featured a tribute to Gram Parsons that is about 800 times better than the one Hillman offers here, ‘Heavenly Fire’.

J D Souther is the only one who gets the point, writing some interesting songs – ‘Pretty Goodbyes’ and closing song ‘Deep, Dark, and Dreamless’. Soon deleted and out of print for most of history, before a 2002 CD issue by specialists Wounded Bird.

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Trouble In Paradise, 1975. There is a good case for this being the very worst album in my collection, and I am a big fan of Uriah Heep, you know. Unspeakably bad, no worse than that, The Metal Machine Music of country rock.

Furay only offers two songs, both (?) reflecting his conversion to Christianity, and Hillman uses the lyrics to a Burritos song he wrote with Gram Parsons, gives them a new tune, and claims it for his own. J D Souther writes a few songs that don’t reek, but for some reason Tom Dowd, one of my favourite producers (who had only recently produced 461 Ocean Boulevard for Eric Clapton, which I love) thought they would sound best presented in a laid-back style that would have the Eagles asking if things could perhaps be a bit less bland.

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Slippin’ Away, 1976. For some reason, Hillman decided to repay Geffen’s influence on his recent career not by taking him to the desert and torturing him to death tied over an anthill, but by recording his first solo albums for Geffen’s Asylum Records. I hated this album when I first got it, but retrieving it from the cellar reveals it is not really a stinker at all, just not my type of thing. There are 8-14 people playing on each of these songs according to the credits, and it sounds it. Big, big production from the Albert Brothers (see below, soon).

Bland, and very like the Eagles. If you like the Eagles and think Chris Hillman should sound like them, then this is for you. Stephen Stills gave Chris a song called ‘Witching Hour’ that is actually quite good, and Gram Parsons helped out by appearing from beyond the grave and suggesting that the Burritos song he wrote with Chris, ‘Down In The Churchyard’, really needs to be rerecorded in a softrock reggae style. Apparently.

I could learn to enjoy this album. If I were immortal and every other musical recording were taken away from me by force. Back to the cellar with you, and thence on your journey to the bay of e.

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Clear Sailin’ 1977. After the two Asylum records, Hillman was never again in his career to record an album whose title offered only an apostrophe in place of a missing ‘g’ (hence Running by the Desert Rose Band, review to follow).

Only available on vinyl prior to Wounded Bird’s 2002 reissue, you could achieve a similar effect to listening to the Clear Sailin’ LP by leaving a large bowl of prawns in the sun for a week before welcoming them back into your home. The cover of ‘Ain’t That Peculiar’ gets played a lot – in Hell, in the rooms reserved for Margaret Thatcher and George W Bush, one hopes. Just dreadful.

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Gene Clark – Two Sides To Every Story, 1977. This is great. I didn’t like it too much when I first got it, but it has grown on me in a way I hope No Other might one day (yes, I am a heretic). The good points are that it is a unified whole, rather than the song samplers McGuinn and Hillman were churning out. And it has bite, and sarcasm, and dark aspects, and real passion.

The bad point is that much of this album is slow. The pace is so languid you feel you deserve a weekend away before returning to hear side two. The guy in ‘Give My Love To Marie’ tells you he’s a miner dying of ‘the old black lung’, but he’s still around telling you what to say to his wife after his death six minutes later. I don’t recall the Ramones albums I was listening to in 1977 asking that of me.

Seriously, if you like Gene Clark at all, this is a winning album – only a cover of Sam Ling’s ‘Marylou’ counts as a duff tack, the rest are superb, like having Gene Clark in the room telling you about his life and the things he has seen. Um… with a huge coterie of session musicians and a strings arranger, of course. ‘Kansas City Southern’ was remade from the second Dillard and Clark album, and the many musicians involved included Jim Fielder of the Mothers of Invention and Buffalo Springfield. Emmylou Harris sang on two tracks..

After this, Gene Clark got together with ex-bandmates Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman to form McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman – of which more later.

Richie Furay went on to record a series of Christian albums and became a pastor in a church in Colorado, so one would suppose he would tell you he finally found a better form of success and recognition in the arms of the Lord. But he took time out to record a reunion with Poco in 1989.
We owe so much
To the enemy
If not for them
Where would we be?

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LMG
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Postby LMG » 08 Jun 2006, 09:13

McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman

First of all, a caveat: I haven’t heard a note of the four albums in this post. So I am not offering a critical review, just an historical account. A series of disappointing purchases (all reviewed on this thread) tightened the purse strings on my Byrds family budget for a while. Annoyingly, this meant I missed out on a rare copy of City (below) for a few quid in an HMV sale.

Oh well – if anyone wants to offer their experience hearing any of the following, that would be most welcome. This is the only major gap in my collection.

The road to collaboration for the three ex-Byrds was not straightforward. All three were touring the US, having recently released a new album in 1977 (Thunderbyrd, Two Sides To Every Story, Clear Sailin’), and an enterprising promoter thought it would be a good idea to send all three on the road together for a UK tour.

At least some of the punters thought (reasonably enough) that they were going to see some sort of Byrds reunion onstage, but only the London audience experienced that, and then for the final encores. Otherwise, each of the three performed a set of their own material. Hillman did a few Burritos numbers, but only McGuinn goes back to the Byrds catalogue before the encores, and then only 'Mr Spaceman' was recorded with either of the other two.

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McGuinn, Clark, and Hillman, 3 Byrds Land In London, 1998. The London show was recorded by the BBC, and became a double CD set. To repeat, I have not heard it.

Afterwards, David Crosby got involved in a US tour, which led to speculation of a full Byrds reunion, but he had to leave due to touring commitments with CSN. There was a tour of Australia for the three with drummer George Grantham from Poco. This was billed by the promoters as ‘The founders of the Byrds’. Clark and McGuinn decided to record together, and when it became clear Chris Hillman’s album sales were hovering around the lower reaches of the top 200, he was released from his Asylum contract and was able to join in.

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McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, 1979. The album’s front cover included an essay on how important the musicians were (now is that ever a good sign?). They did not use the Byrds name because of a gentlemen’s agreement not to do so unless all five original members were together. Despite the earlier reconciliation, Crosby had been turned away after flying in to participate on the sessions, which were supervised by the Albert Brothers. These had contributed substantially to key albums from the Allman Brothers, CSN, Hillman, and Derek and the Dominoes’s Layla.

The decision was made not to update the Byrds sound but to ignore it altogether – no 12-string guitar, no vocal harmonies – backing vocals were provided by session singers, and some of the songs leaned towards a ‘contemporary’ disco style, using session musicians who had contributed to recent Bee Gees recordings. I cannot comment on the results, not having heard the album. A recent CD reissue includes some demos as bonus tracks.

Gene Clark developed 'vocal problems' during the subsequent tour and then it became apparent he was no longer commited to the project. The next album came out with a different credit:

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Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman with Gene Clark, City, 1980. Apparently Hillman rebelled against the Albert Brothers’s production style, so harmonies and McGuinn’s 12-string was incorporated into the recordings. Again, I have not heard this, and I a kicking myself for not picking it up for a few quid ten years ago.

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McGuinn-Hillman, 1982. Abandoning the Albert Brothers, McGuinn and Hillman recorded as a duo with Jerry Wexler producing. The album was an acknowledged disaster - the decision was made to go for an updated ‘New Wave’ sound, incorporating covers of several songs from the debut album by Graham Parker (!). I have not heard it.

If you are interested in hearing these recordings, there were two Edsel/Demon CD compilations of the studio tracks in the early 90's, Return Flight (1 and 2) and as far as I know they contain all the material from the three studio albums.

Again, any views welcome.
We owe so much
To the enemy
If not for them
Where would we be?

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Postby Charlie O. » 08 Jun 2006, 09:27

LMG wrote:Gene Clark developed 'vocal problems' during the subsequent tour and then it became apparent he was no longer commited to the project.


Sadly, what he was committed to was heroin. That's the real reason he was dropped from the "project."

If it makes you feel any better, LMG, I have heard all of these albums (once apiece, at least), and you haven't missed much.


Will anyone be reviewing the Firefall albums? :)

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Postby LMG » 08 Jun 2006, 10:07

Charlie O. wrote:
LMG wrote:Gene Clark developed 'vocal problems' during the subsequent tour and then it became apparent he was no longer commited to the project.


Sadly, what he was committed to was heroin. That's the real reason he was dropped from the "project."

If it makes you feel any better, LMG, I have heard all of these albums (once apiece, at least), and you haven't missed much.


Will anyone be reviewing the Firefall albums? :)


I gathered that. We don't mention such things on a 'family' thread. I was reading today about the rather droll (if tragic) sight of Dave Crosby at the induction of the Byrds to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Very much the recovering addict, he offered his support and advice to Gene Clark and Michael Clarke, in dealing with their own addictions. Michael Clarke's response was to deny angrily that he had a problem.

Speaking of Michael Clarke, any comments on the Firefall albums would be welcome - I will mention the debut later in passing, as it is meant to be worth a spin.
Last edited by LMG on 08 Jun 2006, 11:03, edited 1 time in total.
We owe so much
To the enemy
If not for them
Where would we be?