Untitled (The Byrds album)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Studio album by The Byrds|
|Released||September 16, 1970|
|Recorded||Live LP: February 28, Queens College, New York City, NY|
March 1, 1970, Felt Forum, New York City, NY
Studio LP: May 26 – June 11, 1970, Columbia Studios, Hollywood, CA
|Genre||Rock, Country rock|
|Producer||Terry Melcher, Jim Dickson|
|The Byrds chronology|
|Singles from (Untitled)|
(Untitled) is the ninth album by the American rock band The Byrds and was released in September 1970 (see 1970 in music) on Columbia Records, catalogue item G 30127. The album peaked at #40 on the Billboard 200 album chart, during a chart stay of twenty-one weeks and reached #11 in the United Kingdom. (Untitled) is a double album, with the first LP featuring live concert material from two early 1970 gigs in New York City, and with the second LP consisting of new studio recordings. A single taken from the album, "Chestnut Mare" b/w "Just a Season", was released on October 23, 1970 and reached #121 on the Billboard chart. The single was released in the UK on January 1, 1971, where it did considerably better, reaching #19 on the UK Singles Chart, during a chart stay of eight weeks. The (Untitled) album is notable for being the first official release of any live recordings by The Byrds and also for being the first album by the Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons and Skip Battin line-up of the band.
Following the firing of The Byrds' bass player, John York, in September 1969, Skip Battin was asked to join the band as York's replacement, at the suggestion of drummer, Gene Parsons, and guitarist, Clarence White. Battin was, at 35, the oldest member of the band and the one with the longest musical history. Battin's professional music career had begun as one half of the pop music duo, Skip & Flip, with Gary Paxton in 1959. The duo had notched up a string of hits between 1959 and 1961, including "It Was I", "Fancy Nancy" and "Cherry Pie". After the break-up of Skip & Flip, Battin moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a freelance session musician and formed the band Evergreen Blueshoes. Following the disbandment of that group, Battin returned to session work in the late 1960s and it was during this period that he met Gene Parsons and became reacquainted with Clarence White, whom he had known from a few years earlier. York's dismissal and Battin's recruitment marked the last change to the band's line-up until the five original members of The Byrds reunited in 1972.
For most of 1969, The Byrds' leader and guitarist, Roger McGuinn, had been developing a country-rock stage production of Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt with former psychologist and Broadway impresario, Jacques Levy. The musical was to be titled Gene Tryp, an anagram of the title of Ibsen's play, and would loosely follow the storyline of Peer Gynt with some modifications to transpose it from Norway, as in Ibsen's original, to 19th century south-west America. The musical was intended as a prelude to even loftier plans of McGuinn's to produce a science-fiction film tentatively titled Ecology 70, starring former Byrd Gram Parsons (no relation to Gene) and ex-member of The Mamas & the Papas, Michelle Phillips, as a pair of intergalactic flower children. Ultimately, Gene Tryp was abandoned and a handful of the songs that McGuinn and Levy had written for the project would instead see release on (Untitled) and its follow-up, Byrdmaniax.
Of the twenty-six songs that were written for the musical, "Chestnut Mare", "Lover of the Bayou", "All the Things" and "Just a Season" were included on (Untitled), while "Kathleen's Song" and "I Wanna Grow up to Be a Politician" were held over for The Byrds' next album. "Lover of the Bayou" would later be re-recorded by Roger McGuinn in 1975 and appear on his album, Roger McGuinn & Band. Despite not being staged at the time, Gene Tryp was eventually performed in a revised configuration by the drama students of Colgate University between November 18 and November 21, 1992, under the new title of Just a Season: A Romance of the Old West.
The Byrds, having toured extensively throughout 1969 and early 1970, decided that the time was right to issue a live album. At the same time, it was felt that the band had a sufficient backlog of new compositions to warrant the recording of a new studio album. The dilemma was resolved when it was suggested by producer Terry Melcher that the band should release a double album, featuring an LP of concert recordings and an LP of new studio recordings, which would retail for the same price as a regular single album. At around this time, Jim Dickson, The Byrds' original manager, who had been fired by the group in June 1967, returned to The Byrds camp to help Melcher with the editing of the live recordings, affording him a co-producers credit on the double album.
The latter-day line-up of The Byrds, featuring McGuinn, White, Parsons and new recruit Skip Battin, was regarded by critics and audiences as being much more accomplished in concert than previous configurations of The Byrds had been. This being the case, it made perfect sense to capture the band's sound in a live environment and so, in February and March of 1970, two consecutive New York concert appearances were recorded. The first of these was the band's performance at Queens College on February 28, 1970, with the second being their performance at the Felt Forum on March 1, 1970. (Untitled) featured recordings from both of these concerts, spliced together to give the impression of a single, continuous performance. Of the seven live tracks featured on the album, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Mr. Spaceman" and "Eight Miles High" were drawn from the Queens College performance, with "Lover of the Bayou", "Positively 4th Street", and "Nashville West" originating from the Felt Forum show.
The opening track of the live LP is "Lover of the Bayou", a new song written by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy for their aborted Gene Tryp stage show. The song is set during the American Civil War and portrays the eponymous hero of the musical as a smuggler, bootlegger and gun runner for both the Confederacy and the Unionists. McGuinn explained in a 1970 interview with journalist Vincent Flanders that the song wasn't actually intended to be sung by Gene Tryp but by another character, a witch-doctor named Big Cat. The second song on the live album is a cover of Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street", which would be the last Dylan song that The Byrds would cover on an album until "Paths of Victory", which was recorded during the 1990 reunion sessions featured on The Byrds box set. The rest of side one is made up of live versions of album tracks and earlier hit singles.
Side two of the live album was taken up in its entirety by a sixteen minute, extended version of "Eight Miles High", which proved to be popular on progressive rock radio during the early 1970s. The track is highlighted by the dramatic guitar interplay of Roger McGuinn and Clarence White as well as the bass and drum playing of Skip Battin and Gene Parsons. The song begins with improvisational jamming, which lasts for over 12 minutes, before the band finally sings the first verse of the song. The revamping of "Eight Miles High" featured on (Untitled), represented the ultimate fusion of the original Byrds with the newer line-up. At the end of The Byrds live performance of "Eight Miles High", the band break into a rendition of their signature stage tune, "Hold It", which had first been heard on record at the close of the "My Back Pages/B.J. Blues/Baby What You Want Me to Do" medley included on Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde.
Additional material from The Byrds' early 1970 appearances at Queens College and the Felt Forum has been officially released over the years, beginning with "Lover of the Bayou", "Black Mountain Rag (Soldier's Joy)" and a cover of Lowell George's "Willin'" from the Queens College concert, which appeared on the Byrds box set in 1990. Additionally, performances of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", "Old Blue", "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", "Ballad of Easy Rider", "My Back Pages", and "This Wheel's on Fire" from the Felt Forum show were included on the (Untitled)/(Unissued) release in 2000. A further two songs, "You All Look Alike" and "Nashville West", taken from the Queen's College concert were included on the 2006 box set, There Is a Season.
The studio recording sessions for (Untitled) began on May 26, 1970, at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, Los Angeles, and were produced by Terry Melcher, who had also been the producer of The Byrds' first two albums, Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!, as well as producer of their previous album, Ballad of Easy Rider.
Among the songs recorded for the album were Gene Parsons and Skip Battin's "Yesterday's Train", a gentle meditation on the theme of reincarnation, a cover of Lowell George and Bill Payne's "Truck Stop Girl", sung by Clarence White, and a light-hearted reading of Lead Belly's "Take a Whiff on Me". The album also included the Skip Battin penned, "Well Come Back Home", a heartfelt comment on the Vietnam War. Battin explained the song's genesis to Byrds' biographer, Johnny Rogan, stating "I was personally touched by the Vietnam situation, and my feelings about it came out in that song. I had a high school friend who died out there and I guess my thoughts were on him at the time." Battin also revealed that he couldn't decide whether to name the song "Well Come Back Home" or "Welcome Back Home" but finally settled on the former. Curiously, although the song was listed on the original album and the original CD issue of (Untitled) as "Well Come Back Home", it was listed as "Welcome Back Home" on the (Untitled)/(Unissued) re-release in 2000, possibly in error. The song continues the tradition of ending The Byrds' albums on an unusual note with the inclusion of the Buddhist mantra, "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo", which is chanted towards the end of the song.
"Chestnut Mare" had originally been written for the abandoned Gene Tryp stage production. The song was intended to be used in a scene where Gene Tryp attempts to catch and tame a wild horse, a scene that had originally featured a deer in Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Although the majority of "Chestnut Mare" had been written specifically for Gene Tryp, the lilting Bach-like middle section had actually been written by McGuinn back in the early 1960s, while on tour in South America with the Chad Mitchell Trio. Two other songs originally intended for Gene Tryp were included on the studio half of (Untitled); "All the Things", which included an uncredited appearance by former Byrd, Gram Parsons, on backing vocals, and "Just a Season", which was written for a scene in which Gene Tryp circumnavigates the globe. Lyrically, "Just a Season" touches on a variety of different subjects, including reincarnation, life's journey, fleeting romantic encounters and stardom, as touchingly illustrated by the line "It really wasn't hard to be a star."
Six songs that were attempted during the (Untitled) recording sessions were not present in the album's final running order. Of these, "Kathleen's Song" would be held over until Byrdmaniax, a cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" would not be issued until the release of The Byrds box set in 1990, and "Willin'" would be issued as a bonus track on the (Untitled)/(Unissued) re-release in 2000. Additionally, two different excerpts from an unnamed jam recorded during the (Untitled) sessions were issued on The Byrds box set and (Untitled)/(Unissued), where they were given the retronym of "White's Lightning". Two other songs attempted in the studio but not included on the album were John Newton's Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, and a cover of Bob Dylan's "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)", neither of which has been officially released, although live recordings of the songs are included on (Untitled)/(Unissued), with the former appearing as a hidden track. "Lover of the Bayou" was also recorded during studio sessions for (Untitled) but ultimately, a live recording of the song would be included on the album instead, with the studio recording appearing for the first time on (Untitled)/(Unissued).
The album's title actually came about by accident. According to Jim Bickhart's liner notes on the original double album, the group's intention was to name the release something more grandiose, such as Phoenix or The Byrds' First Album, to signify the band's commercial and artistic rebirth. Another proposed title for the album was McGuinn, White, Parsons and Battin but McGuinn felt that this title might be misinterpreted by the public. The band still had not made up their minds when producer Terry Melcher, while filling out record company documentation specifying artist, producer, writers, publishers and track listing for the album, wrote the placeholder "(Untitled)" in the album title box. A misunderstanding ensued and before anyone associated with the band had realized, Columbia Records had pressed up the album and printed the cover with that title, including the parentheses.
Release and legacy
(Untitled) was released on September 16, 1970 in the United States and November 13, 1970 in the United Kingdom. Although the album was issued in stereo commercially, there is some evidence to suggest that mono copies of the album (possibly radio station promos) were distributed in the U.S. In addition, there are advance promo copies of (Untitled) known to exist which list both "Kathleen's Song" and "Hold It" as being on the album (the former under the simplified title of "Kathleen" and the latter as "Tag"). While "Hold It" does indeed appear on the official album release, at the end of the live recording of "Eight Miles High", it was not listed as a separate track on commercially released copies of the album. "Kathleen's Song", however, was not included on the album and neither was it included on the advance promos that listed it in the track running order.
Upon its release, (Untitled) was met with critical acclaim from the music press and stronger sales than the preceding three Byrds' albums had achieved, with many fans regarding the album as a return to greatness for the band. Untitled is generally considered today by fans and critics to be The Byrds' best latter-day album. It is also notable for being the only double album released by the band during their active lifespan, and consequently it is the group's longest album by far. In fact, the studio LP alone, which has a running time of roughly 38 minutes, is longer than any other Byrds album - despite containing fewer tracks than any previous album.
(Untitled) was remastered at 20-bit resolution as part of the Columbia/Legacy Byrds series, and was reissued in an expanded form with the new title of (Untitled)/(Unissued), on February 22, 2000. The remastered reissue of the album contains a bonus CD of previously unreleased live and studio material from the period. The six studio based bonus tracks on the reissue include alternate versions of "All the Things", "Yesterday's Train", and "Lover of the Bayou", along with the outtake, "Kathleen's Song". The remaining eight bonus tracks are live recordings taken from The Byrds' concerts on March 1, 1970 at the Felt Forum and September 23, 1970 at the Fillmore East.
Side 1 (live)
- "Lover of the Bayou" (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 3:39
- "Positively 4th Street" (Bob Dylan) – 3:03
- "Nashville West" (Gene Parsons, Clarence White) – 2:07
- "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star" (Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman) – 2:38
- "Mr. Tambourine Man" (Bob Dylan) – 2:14
- "Mr. Spaceman" (Roger McGuinn) – 3:07
Side 2 (live)
Side 3 (studio)
- "Chestnut Mare" (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 5:08
- "Truck Stop Girl" (Lowell George, Bill Payne) – 3:20
- "All the Things" (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 3:03
- "Yesterday's Train" (Gene Parsons, Skip Battin) – 3:31
- "Hungry Planet" (Skip Battin, Kim Fowley, Roger McGuinn) – 4:50
Side 4 (studio)
- "Just a Season" (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 3:50
- "Take a Whiff on Me" (Huddie Ledbetter, John Lomax, Alan Lomax) – 3:24
- "You All Look Alike" (Skip Battin, Kim Fowley) – 3:03
- "Well Come Back Home" (Skip Battin) – 7:40
2000 CD reissue Bonus Tracks
- "All the Things" [Alternate Version] (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 4:56
- "Yesterday's Train" [Alternate Version] (Gene Parsons, Skip Battin) – 4:10
- "Lover of the Bayou" [Studio Recording] (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 5:13
- "Kathleen's Song" [Alternate Version] (Roger McGuinn, Jacques Levy) – 2:34
- "White's Lightning Pt.2" (Roger McGuinn, Clarence White) – 2:21
- "Willin'" [Studio Recording] (Lowell George) – 3:28
- "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" [Live Recording] (Bob Dylan) – 2:56
- "Old Blue" [Live Recording] (traditional, arranged Roger McGuinn) – 3:30
- "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" [Live Recording] (Bob Dylan) – 2:49
- "Ballad of Easy Rider" [Live Recording] (Roger McGuinn) – 2:22
- "My Back Pages" [Live Recording] (Bob Dylan) – 2:41
- "Take a Whiff on Me" [Live Recording] (Huddie Ledbetter, John Lomax, Alan Lomax) – 2:45
- "Jesus Is Just Alright" [Live Recording] (Arthur Reynolds) – 3:09
- "This Wheel's on Fire" [Live Recording] (Bob Dylan, Rick Danko) – 6:16
- NOTE: this song ends at 5:08; at 5:17 begins "Amazing Grace" (traditional, arranged Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons, Skip Battin)
- "Chestnut Mare" b/w "Just a Season" (Columbia 45259) 23 October 1970
|September 16, 1970||Columbia||LP||US||G 30127||Original release.|
|November 13, 1970||CBS||LP||UK||S 64095||Original release.|
|1990||Columbia||CD||US||CGK 30127||Original CD release.|
|1998||Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab||CD||UK||UDCD 722|
|February 22, 2000||Columbia/Legacy||CD||US||C2K 65847||(Untitled)/(Unissued) reissue containing a bonus disc and the remastered album.|
|2002||Simply Vinyl||LP||UK||SVLP 381||Triple LP featuring the remastered album and fifteen bonus tracks.|
|2003||Sony||CD||Japan||MHCP-103||Reissue of the (Untitled)/(Unissued) release in a replica gatefold LP sleeve.|
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