The Byrds' Greatest Hits

by: The Byrds

Without question, the Byrds were one of the great bands of the '60s and one of the few American bands of their time to continually turn out inventive, compelling albums. As they were recording a series of fine records, they released a number of classic singles that defined their era. The original 11-song LP version of The Byrds' Greatest Hits did an excellent job in 1967 of chronicling the peak years of their popularity, before withering personality conflicts and the resulting personnel changes altered their sound radically, first into a glorious psychedelic/folk/electronic/pop flourish on Notorious Byrd Brothers and then into country-rock on 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Columbia/Legacy's expanded 1999 reissue upgraded the sound quality considerably and added the three minor hits missing from the original collection, which means that Greatest Hits now contains all of the group's hit singles -- from 1965's "Mr. Tambourine Man" to 1967's "Have You Seen Her Face"; what's more, the additional cuts shore up Gene Clark's impossible-to-overstate importance to their music and, by reaching up to 1967 and the Younger Than Yesterday album, give Chris Hillman a well-deserved place at the table as a songwriter in his own right. That's an impressive collection indeed, and it also includes "All I Really Want to Do," "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)," "It Won't Be Wrong," "Set You Free This Time," "Eight Miles High," "5D (Fifth Dimension)," "Mr. Spaceman," "So You Want to Be a Rock N' Roll Star," and "My Back Pages." Only David Crosby is shortchanged by the failure to include "Lady Friend" -- which, in fairness, was not a hit at all, but was one of the group's finest singles and closed out the era represented on this collection. Some other great songs were also left behind on the albums, but important cuts like "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," "The Bells of Rhymney," and "Chimes of Freedom" are included, and even with its few remaining gaps this is pretty close to a definitive single-disc summary of the Byrds' prime. [An expanded edition was also released.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Bruce Eder

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