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Live At the Fillmore - February 1969

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Album Review

Recorded by Columbia engineers in February 1969, this is an early show by the first Byrds lineup to feature only one original member: founding member Roger McGuinn and Clarence White on guitars, John York on bass, and Gene Parsons on drums. Despite the recent departures of Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons for the Flying Burrito Brothers, the sound and repertoire are still very much in the Byrds' country-rock phase, many of the 16 tracks coming from the Sweetheart of the Rodeo and Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde albums. The big mid-'60s hits are revisited in a medley, and a few other songs first recorded in the pre-White days — "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "Chimes of Freedom" among them — also show up. There are also covers of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens tunes that would not show up on Byrds albums. It's a pleasant but not outstanding set, probably of most interest to those who enjoy White's guitar playing. He and McGuinn work pretty well together here, but the timing of the band as a whole is sometimes tenuous, and the vocal harmonies are not as full as those of other Byrds configurations.

Customer Reviews

Indispensable (Almost)*

The Byrds were one of those bands whose albums (while always brilliant) were marred by odd production choices and poor mixing and sequencing. But the live band of the late 60's and early 70's was one of the best acts around. Fronted by Roger McGuinn with the non-stop energy of undersung country/blues/bluegrass guitar god Clarence White, this live set is pure gold, start to finish - What live rock is supposed to be. *Unfortunately, the iTunes store version is missing the real highlight of the set - a 10-minute medley of Mr. Tambourine Man/Turn!Turn!Turn!/Eight Miles High that 'blows the roof off the joint,' as Dave Letterman would no doubt say. So, four stars for the iTunes partial album for losing that track, and 5 stars for the CD version.

Great Music, But Poor Vocal Quality...

The real disappointment is the lack of vocal depth, because Roger McGuinn was not a very powerful vocalist. When the former members started to leave the Byrds, the vocal richness diminished with each loss. Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons all left expansive voids in the trademark vocal harmonies when they left the Byrds. It overshadowed the fact that the musicianship probably improved over the last few years of their run.

The reason to buy this album

is Clarence White. Maybe the most unique rock guitarist that ever was (and IMHO the greatest bluegrass guitarist ever before that). The sound isn't great and the playing is ragged at times, but Clarence is totally original. If you want The Byrds greatest hits or even their prime country rock phase this isn't it. But if you love electric guitar with all its idiosyncracies (Clarence's b-bender and McGuinn's 12 string) this is it.


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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