On Second Thought: The Byrds – Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde (1969)

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So many changes had occurred in the Byrds camp since they formed in 1964 and then wowed the pop world a year later by spearheading a new stripe of music coined folk rock that was just as successful and influential as anything the British bands were doing.

Like the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, the Yardbirds and other fabled groups from across the sea, the Los Angeles band refused to stand still. Innovation ran through their veins, as the Byrds continued to stun and satisfy the masses with their adventurous sojourns into space rock, jazz rock, psychedelic rock, country rock and so on. The sky was seemingly limitless for these talented guys.

By the time Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde (Columbia Records) came calling, the band had encountered a series of personnel shifts. Founder Roger McGuinn, who handled vocals and guitar, was the only original member in the group at that point. Having to recruit a fresh set of players, guitarist Clarence White, bassist John York and drummer Gene Parsons were pegged to fill such roles.

Although Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde is not the best album in the band’s catalog, a fair share of bright spots are to be had. The pedal steel guitar work is particularly fantastic, the arrangements are inventive and Roger’s distinctive nasal-pitched vocals are confident and inspired.

Constructed of purebred country curves, complete with troves of twang and the smell of greasy fried chicken and sizzling hot biscuits and gravy, tracks like the hand-clapping “Old Blue,” the heartily harmonious “Your Gentle Way Of Loving Me,” the swaying gait of “Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” and a giddy instrumental, “Nashville West” are definite delights heard here, as well as a cover of Bob Dylan and Rick Danko’s “This Wheel’s On Fire” that ripples and crackles with touches of burning acid rock sensations.

Governed by a cosmic consciousness, “Child Of The Universe” projects a tone that’s both eerie and heavy, “Bad Night At The Whiskey” counts as an unsettling slice of rather sludgy hard rock, and “Candy” serves as a catchy commingling of tipsy pop hooks and psychedelic grooves. The blues are one genre the band never really tampered with much, but Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde examines them embodying the style with rewarding results on a medley of a revisited take of “My Back Pages,” an instrumental, “BJ Blues” and a treatment of Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” which closes the album.

As stated, the Byrds were always big on experimentation, and this record showcases their hunger for sonic exploration. Certainly a mixed bag of sounds, Dr. Byrds and Mr. Hyde may lack the instant commercial appeal of the group’s past releases, but remains an interesting and intriguing artifact of the era.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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