Simply titled The Byrds, albeit with individually titled discs, the set begins with (naturally) “Mr. Tambourine Man” and moves all the way through Farther Along. Because the existing CD reissues of the albums were a little spotty, the sound was greatly enhanced, with many of the early songs presented in wide stereo and with extended endings, some of which had been revealed on the independent Never Before compilation from a few years before. That set also boasted some previously unreleased tracks, and many of them (such as “The Day Walk”, “She Has A Way”, and “Psychodrama City”) were included in the box in context.
As with most sets of its type, the earlier material vastly outweighs the later material, with the first five albums covered on the first two discs. A live radio take of “Roll Over Beethoven” sung by David Crosby isn’t much to write home about, but the real enticement was the inclusion of several Sweetheart Of The Rodeo tracks with Gram Parsons’ original vocals, as opposed to the common album tracks redubbed by McGuinn. The remainder of the discs speeds through the Clarence White era, still giving him some overdue recognition, and still sounding very different from the original incarnation of the band.
To bring it all back home, so to speak, the final 20 or so minutes of the set are given over to new recordings featuring the three senior members. Live recordings of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Tambourine Man” with Bob Dylan (from a Roy Orbison tribute, of all things) are a sloppy setup for four studio tracks: a new recording of “He Was A Friend Of Mine”; the obscure Dylan cover “Paths Of Victory”; “From A Distance”, concurrently covered by Bette Midler in a Grammy-winning performance; and “Love That Never Dies", which was basically a teaser for McGuinn’s upcoming Back To Rio album. (Heralded as a comeback at the time, it hasn’t worn well, save two songs contributed by Byrds disciples: Elvis Costello’s “You Bowed Down” and Tom Petty’s “King Of The Hill”.)
Much of the rare stuff was already covered on that first box, and is repeated on There Is A Season. As it pushed the first box into deletion, it’s the only comprehensive set available for physical purchase. There is more emphasis on Gene, but some of the swaps in the way of album tracks are questionable.