The Byrds Play Bob Dylan
Review by Steven Stone
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CD Stock Number: CBS Legacy
If it wasn't for the Byrds Bob Dylan might never have become the musical icon he is today. They weren't the only group to cover his songs, mainstream folkies Peter Paul and Mary had the first hit with "Blowin' in the Wind." But the Byrds were the earliest to recast his material into raucous rock and roll. From the opening electric twelve-string guitar lick on "All I want to Do" it's abundantly clear why these Byrd's versions were so popular. It's virtually impossible to keep yourself from singing harmony on along with David Crosby on the chorus.
Covering material from as early as 1965 through 1971 (with one bonus reunion cut from 1990) all the various personnel configurations of the Byrds are well represented on this compilation CD. From the original Byrds line-up of McGuinn, Clark, Crosby, and Hillman, through the super-guitar-slinger period with Clarence White, Dylan's material is well-served by the Byrd's renditions. The only clinker, a "singles version" of "Lay, Lady, Lay" from 1969, complete with an out-of-tune gospel choir back up, is mercifully brief. While it's hard to choose a standout winner selection, my favorite cut by a whisker is the live version of "Chimes of Freedom" from the Byrd's live set at the Fillmore West in 1969. The pyrotechnics of Clarence White's guitar solo rival any Fourth of July fireworks display I've ever seen.
Compilation producer Bob Irwin, mastering engineer Vic Anesini, and A&R supervisor Steve Berkowitz should be commended for the immaculate sound throughout the disk. Even the oldest material is clear while still preserving the essence its particular sonic character. Back in the mid-60's, recording electric bass and drums with even a fraction of their real power was very much a mystery. I'm glad the production team rejected any urges toward doctoring or expanding the harmonic or dynamic range of the original tapes. Here you'll find the sound of the original releases sans ticks, pops, and LP groove noise.
Even if you have all the Byrd's previously released material, a copy of The Byrds Play Dylan should be a welcome addition to your collection. Although all the material here has been previously released somewhere before, getting the complete Dylan songbook Byrds-style on one disc is a very good thing. It's the sort of music that's ideal for slapping onto your CD player to improve your spirits on your next cloudy day.
Sound Quality: 80