1965/1999: Columbia CK 66230
I must preface any comments Im about to make with a very important disclaimer: I wasnt raised on the Byrds, their work wasnt contemporaneous to my life, and I have never fully explored their oeuvre in my adult life. Not that my comments are denigrations or even particularly negative, mind youI just want it clear from the start that what I have to say about this album is prima facie, strictly based on uninformed impressions. Naïveté, if you like, or ignorance, or innocence it really doesnt matter to me, as Im writing to celebrate, but I wanted to be clear right off the bat that Im not making scholarly observations here.
Now that thats out of the way, Ill esplain why I have this CD at all, given my acknowledged ignorance as to the Byrds legacy. Its very simple, actually: when I was maybe 9 or 10 I had checked out an LP from the Walla Walla Public Library that included the track Eight Miles High, and I was pretty amazed by it, and that recording stayed in the back of my mind for many, many years. When I finally decided, in my early adulthood, to get a copy for my ownself, I did so on the recollection that it was on another albumI think it was by the band Lighthouse, I can picture the cover but even www.allmusic.com hasnt resolved that issue for me yetand thus I spent years on a wild-goose chase for what should have been an easy acquisition.
When I finally got smart and simply searched for a song called Eight Miles High, things came together and I zoomed in to this Greatest Hits collection. As Ive written elsewhere, Im not really a fan of Greatest Hits things but in this case it did have the one song I was looking for for so long, and it seemed a reasonable solution to just get the damned thing after all this time. When I finished playing the track in question countless times to satiate myself and got around to listening to the rest, I realized I was skimming only the surface of a profound amount of 1960s rock historys development that Id either avoided or escaped knowing about, depending on your point of view. I mean, I know this kind of development was vitally important in Rock Music History, but does it actually merit obsessive deification and analysis in the greater perspective of all Music History, even all Rock Music History? The Byrds, The Who, The Stones, The Whoevers, they were all part of the picture, but I cant quite bring myself to think of them as a pantheon of Olympian gods as they seem to be (or have been) to others with more personal connections to those days.
And certainly, as Ive indicated in my comments about Beatles recordings, they may or may not have been groundbreaking but in any case they certainly were far from immaculate, and the sloppiness and other flaws of those recordings (and Im referring now to the performances, not the technical recording processes) have long kept even the most allegedly iconic and earth-shatteringly brilliant recordings at arms length, for me: maybe its just that theyre so massively eclipsed (in most cases, not all) by what has followed, but I frankly cant find the bulk of these recordings so massively innovative or even (in some cases) good.
Having said all that . I have mixed reactions to this Byrds compilation, but Ill start with the track that I first knew of (even erroneously attributed), Eight Miles High. Of course when I heard it as a child I had no awareness of its drug-trip connotations or implications but even now I listen to it and think well, yeah, I suppose it could be drug-trip-related, but thats not crucial to the song, really. And actually what I hear when I play it now is a tribute to the British Invasion sound of the 1960srain-grey town, known for its sound in places small faces unbound Liverpool?
And overall most of this album doesnt particularly grab me. With exceptions. At the top of that list would be the bonus track It Wont Be Wrong, (originally released on 1965s Turn! Turn! Turn! but even before that, in 1964, in a less gripping form called Dont Be Long), which still dazzles me. That track massively upstages Eight Miles High, for me, but then Im a confessed fan of melodic and chorded beauty, and It Wont Be Wrong gushes so beautifully and darkly within its pop-song structure. I love how it darkly and sensuously sways along its melodic spine and flares into passionate vocal chords almost parenthetically . And such chord flares! I never tire of listening to this track (and the louder the better) .
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.