Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Byrds-FIFTH DIMENSION CD (Columbia Legacy)

Ya wanna know why the Byrds've never been tops in pops as far as my listening parameters go? Well, I can give you about FIVE (count 'em!) good reasons. 1) They come off like a buncha fruits. 2) They come off like a buncha pretentious fruits (just get an eyefulla of any of their mid-sixties tee-vee appearances where they stand there and sing as if they had just come down from Mount Olympus to share their totally ethereal being with us hot polloi...sheesh, only Simon and Garfunkel were more self-centered!). 3) I thought Roger McGuinn's granny glass shades were not only ridiculous, but totally impractical. 4) They were the spiritual forefathers of a lotta bad seventies moosh...scratch a Joni, Melanie, James or even Carol and you'll see a Byrd in there somewhere and 5) David Crosby (need I say more???).

It's funny what early impressions can be like, and believe-you-me I felt like the Byrds were a buncha sissies for a long time sitting on horseback mouthing "Mr. Tambourine Man" while soaking up all of that decadent El Lay party scenestering that eventually gave us Charles Manson who, with a little bitta luck, woulda been riding the same wave of seventies songstering megahits as Cat Stevens and Steve Stills if only... But as Aesop's son once said, "Time wounds all heels" and this heel sure has had a change of heart regarding these Byrds...and keeping all of the negativity out of it and all the bad memories and the rest of that laid back jimmyjive guess what! The Byrds were just as GREAT as all those twelve-string whole-grain banana bread types have always said they were!

OK, I gotta say that it doesn't hurt the eyes so much watching old videos of David Crosby pre-facial hair and slimmer than expected, and McGuinn does have that mid-sixties swank look with his grannies (a prop true, but just as much one as Mark Lindsey's ponytail). And frankly, focusing my listening parameters within a boss '66 Velvet Underground scope makes this sound all the more worthwhile...not only does "Eight Miles High" still sound incredibly detached/cool this far down the line but I can even groove on the ersatzness of "Captain Soul" more than I could have even a decade back. And as far as "2-4-2 Foxtrot" goes...well, it doesn't seem that much of a shock knowing that the Silver Apples were only two years away! Just keep Crosby Stills and Gnash outta your mind's eye and you too will appreciate the Byrds' take on "Hey Joe" seeing just how much the Swamp Rats owed to THAT one as they did to the Sonics! Every track a gem...even the country twang goof (see "Act Naturally") doesn't sink like a particularly heavy tyrd plus when they're getting into their inward-turned groove you don't wanna puke because THIS IS 1966 and introspection was still a virtue before a lotta phony hucksters cluttered up the love and peace vision with a particularly frightening air.

I gotta admit that I didn't get a total buzz (or even a partial one come to think of it) outta the TURN TURN TURN album (only other "proper" Byrds album I have not counting a "Greatest Hits" package and the BYRDS ON THE WYNG bootleg) but FIFTH DIMENSION certainly fills the bill, making me want to discover more of the group's mid-period wares before they began tossing out lead doughnuts the likes of "America's Great National Pastime." Well, maybe not THAT much (I mean, there's gotta me some wild new Von Lmo recordings to dive into!), but until something of a dark underground sneer does come along I'll probably be paying more attention to the Byrds than I had before. And if I can only keep images of David Crosby and the lousy in-name-only Byrds of the early-seventies outta the picture maybe I can zoom into the rest with relative ease, dontcha think?


Anonymous said...

Nick Lowe was Aesop's son?

Anonymous said...

Younger Than Yesterday is also a great album. The only weakness imo of the 64-67 Byrds was the rhythm section - Chris Hillman was a crappy bassist and Mike Clarke was only let in the band for being good looking (I guess they needed him to offset Crosby....)

Christopher Stigliano said...

To anon. #1---actually Jay Ward's writers came up with that line long before Lowe or that Australasian group, I believe it was in that episode of "Aesop and Son" where there was a rather funny word gag based on the word "succulent".

Anonymous said...

Chris Hillman was not a crappy bassist! I'll bet his playing was influential on Cale/Morrison.