The Byrds - Sweethearts of the Rodeo
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Sweethearts of the Rodeo (Sony Legacy, 1997)

The Byrds

Reviewed by Bill Sacks

This remastered reissue contain a chunk of The Byrds' recordings from 1968, the year of both Gram Parson's brief tenure and departure of original bassist Chris Hillman along with Parsons for the Flying Burrito Brothers. It also represented the most concerted effort toward renovating the idea of what "country music" ought to mean that the culture had produced in a generation.

The evidence is everywhere on "Sweetheart," particularly in Roger McGuinn's rethinking of his fascination with Bob Dylan's music: he began transforming his arrangements of the group's Dylan covers from radio-friendly 4/4 jingles to something considerably more personal and, frequently, more sinister.

Almost three decades after its initial release, the album has retained its cohesion as a cycle of great songs because its sense of history defies the calculated amnesia of "popularity" by insisting that attention to the past is an irreplaceable component of vital expression.

Some of that sense of wholeness can also be attributed to the rich session production by Gary Usher at the Columbia Studios in Nashville. "Sweetheart" places the fantastic steel guitar work of Jay Dee Maness and Lloyd Green alongside McGuinn's signature 12-string Rickenbacker sound and electric 6-string fills from Clarence White, and the result is an instrumental harmony every bit as powerful as the original Byrds' vocal mix had been.

CDs by The Byrds

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