Friday, September 30, 2011

Byrds 2: Turn! Turn! Turn!

Back when bands used to put out two albums a year—the luxury! Can you imagine?—it wasn’t common for said bands to screw with the formula too much. That’s how the Byrds’ second album gave the kids what they wanted: 12-string guitars, pristine harmonies and a couple of Dylan covers.
But they were smart guys, so Turn! Turn! Turn! wasn’t a complete retread of their debut. It helped that the title track was a huge hit, borrowed from a Pete Seeger arrangement of some Bible verses. “It Won’t Be Wrong” was left over from their earliest days trying to get a record deal, but “Set You Free This Time” stands out with Gene Clark’s rugged yet right lament on lost love. Listen for his mournful harmonica on the fade. It’s to the band’s credit that they managed to cover a previously unheard Bob Dylan song, the majestic ode to music of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune”. The boys do a nice job finding harmonies for it, and somebody thought it was a good idea to bring Chris Hillman’s bass all the way up in the mix. Another stretch comes with the updated adaptation of the old folk song “He Was A Friend Of Mine”, which directly references the Kennedy assassination.
Another Gene Clark classic starts off side two in “The World Turns All Around Her”, framed by all those interlocking 12-strings. There’s a detour into a cover of another folk chestnut, “Satisfied Mind”, before we go back way left field for “If You’re Gone”. This song is, yes, another masterpiece by Gene Clark, a sad goodbye over unresolved harmonies that add an other-worldly air to the Eastern-sounding guitar. Unfortunately the effect is killed by a rather tepid run through “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, and “Wait And See”, the first David Crosby song credit on a Byrds album, is just okay. In keeping with tradition, they end with a gag: this time it’s a folk-rock rendition of “Oh! Susannah”.
Turn! Turn! Turn! is still a good album, and shows off their progress as a tight band, but it still amounts to some water-treading. What was missing is apparent on the upgraded CD. First, there’s “The Day Walk”, occasionally subtitled “Never Before”, an incredible song surpassed in its untimely sophistication by the wondrous “She Don’t Care About Time”, which had been relegated to a B-side. It should come as no surprise by now that both of these songs were written by Gene Clark, whose quality of work was obviously starting to intimidate the more headstrong full-time guitar players in the band. It’s a matter of taste whether McGuinn’s Bach-flavored solo on the latter song was a good idea or just him trying to steal some limelight. A different arrangement of “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, an unreleased take of Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, a couple of alternate takes and a song that never got vocals, “Stranger In A Strange Land”, round out the bonuses, bringing up the disc’s value greatly.

The Byrds Turn! Turn! Turn! (1965)—3
1996 CD reissue: same as 1965, plus 7 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. Perfect:
    the instrumental intro to Turn! Turn1 Turn!