Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Byrds 10: Byrdmaniax

Still going, the Byrds kept the same lineup together to record another album. The striking cover of molten silver faces and wacky title Byrdmaniax don’t really represent the music contained within, but then again, the band hadn’t been predictable since David Crosby was still around.
Studio veteran Larry Knechtel’s strident piano opens “Glory, Glory”, another gospel adaptation; musically it’s joyful, which is the point, but Roger’s vocal doesn’t really stir, which also keeps “Pale Blue” from catching fire. “I Trust” is a little better, but more of the same. Skip Battin takes over for the rest of side one, first on “Tunnel Of Love”, which is decorated by too many horns and female choir, then on the kitschy “Citizen Kane”, featuring a Betty Boop-styled muted trumpet and incessant woodblocks.
While based in the same novelty territory, “I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician” has the right mix of satire and folk to go in the plus column. Skip returns to sing “Absolute Happiness”, which succeeds without a gimmick. “Green Apple Quick Step” is another Clarence White flat-picking showcase, and we could swear there’s an accordion in there; he also sings “My Destiny”, which slows things down again. “Kathleen’s Song” is a pretty McGuinn strum, unfortunately buried under orchestral swells. Clarence gets the last word with “Jamaica Say You Will”, which predates Jackson Browne’s own version by a year, and damn if Clarence doesn’t sound like the song’s author.
Byrdmaniax wasn’t a hit, and the band would soon complain that the orchestrations had happened without their consent. That doesn’t excuse their own performances, but then again they were under a lot of pressure to create product, having lost the clout that might have enabled them to buy some time. The expanded CD that came out in the shadow of (Untitled) didn’t offer much in the way of extras, just a tepid cover of “Just Like A Woman”, a gentle alternate of “Pale Blue” and another forced vocal by Clarence on a Gene Clark song, of all things. Per tradition there’s an instrumental hidden track, this time an alternate of “Green Apple Quick Step” as a better tribute to Clarence.

The Byrds Byrdmaniax (1971)—2
2000 CD reissue: same as 1971, plus 3 extra tracks

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