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Live At Royal Albert Hall 1971

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Album Review

Although the original lineup of the Byrds gets the most critical attention, and to the greatest extent it probably should, the fact remains that the late-era version of this band, the one that featured founding member Roger McGuinn and Clarence White on guitars, Skip Battin on bass, and Gene Parsons on drums, was the most stable one the group ever had, and by far the best live unit. Between 1969 and 1972 this incarnation of the Byrds recorded five albums and toured relentlessly and their shows, thanks in no small part to the guitar interplay between McGuinn and the truly astounding White, were wonderfully balanced affairs that featured all of the Byrds' stylistic phases — from folk-rock to country to bluegrass and space music and beyond — rolled into a thoroughly professional package. This set, taken from a May 13, 1971 concert at Royal Albert Hall, captures that sound and this version of the Byrds at a peak, and it is perhaps the finest live recording of this particular unit to surface yet. Anchored by a monstrous, nearly 20-minute version of "Eight Miles High" Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971 finds White and McGuinn channeling John Coltrane, ragas, free jazz, and all points in between into a complete tour of the then known musical universe. Although McGuinn is solid as a guitar player throughout this set, it is White who really amazes. He sounds like absolutely no one else before or since on guitar, and his playing is so fast, fluid, and ever shifting that one can't help but listen in astonishment. Everything here has a constant spark of energy that all too often was missing for the Byrds in the studio. The blistering pace of the instrumental "Nashville West" here has so much energy that it seems like it ought to lift out of the speakers and blast on through to the stars. Not everything in this set flies quite that high, though, and the earlier Byrds hits like "My Back Pages" and "Mr. Tambourine Man" sound a bit old and creaky, but they're never less than professionally rendered, and this show does a very good job of spotlighting the finest live configuration this historic band ever had.

Biography

Formed: 1964 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Although they only attained the huge success of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys for a short time in the mid-'60s, time has judged the Byrds to be nearly as influential as those groups in the long run. They were not solely responsible for devising folk-rock, but they were certainly more responsible than any other single act (Dylan included) for melding the innovations and energy of the British Invasion with the best lyrical and musical elements of contemporary folk music. The jangling,...
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