The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn!
Written by David Bowling
Published January 25, 2009
Mr. Tambourine Man was one of the best debut albums in music history
and can legitimately be considered a five star effort. Turn! Turn!
Turn! may be a half star below that lofty level but it is still an
excellent album. It solidified The Byrds position as one of the
leading groups of the sixties and set them on a musical journey that
would lead to their induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991.
Turn! Turn! Turn! would pick up where their first album left off as
its sound is securely in the folk-rock realm of music. The
combination of cover songs and original compositions would again be
backed by the wonderful jangle of guitars and soaring harmonies.
This would be Gene Clark's final album with the group until a
seventies reunion effort. His genius, especially as a songwriter,
would be missed. His ability to write with clarity and beauty
produced some of the better songs of the mid-sixties and were a
perfect match for The Byrds' harmonies. He contributes three songs to
this album. "Set You Free This Time" and "If You're Gone" are
excellent but "The World Turns All Around Her" is brilliant. The
lyrics are memorable and the melody haunting; it justifiably remains
one of the better tracks in The Byrds impressive catalogue.
Jim (Roger) McGuinn would begin to step forward as the future leader
of the group. His love songs, "It Won't Be Wrong" and "Wait and See"
show a writer who has reached maturity. The first features some
brilliant tempo changes and the second was co-written with David
Crosby, his first writing credit with the group. He also shows
creative ability in taking the traditional folk song, "He Was A
Friend Of Mine," and transforming it into a farewell for John Kennedy.
The Byrds would continue their tradition of covering Bob Dylan songs.
Their version of "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" found the group at their
harmonic best and continued the run of excellent Dylan covers. "The
Times They Are a-Changin'" is not so lucky. The song works best as a
stark and painful protest song and the Byrds attempt to make it
tender and popish falls flat, especially when compared to Dylan's original.
"Satisfied Mind" is an old Porter Wagoner hit and the Byrds rendition
moved them toward the country sound that would increasingly dominate
some of their future albums.
The album would end with another unique song choice. Mr. Tambourine
Man concluded with "We'll Meet Again" which was part of the finale of
the movie Dr. Strangelove. Here the group chooses the old and I mean
old Stephen Foster tune, "Oh! Susannah" which most school children
have sung at sometime during their lifetime. The 12 string guitar of
Jim McGuinn and the drumming of Michael Clarke help this song travel
We finish with the first song from the album. "Turn! Turn! Turn!" was
a Pete Seeger creation taken from the book of Ecclesiastes. The Byrds
took this gentle yet powerful song of social unrest and created one
of the formidable peace anthems of the time period. It spent three
weeks as the number one single in the United States and fit the
Turn! Turn! Turn! is another classic relic from the turbulent sixties
and remains an example of American music at its best.
The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man
Written by David Bowling
Published January 24, 2009
The Byrds had an unmistakable sound when their debut album, Mr.
Tambourine Man, burst upon the music world in 1965. The jangle of
guitars, including the 12-string of Jim (soon to be) Roger McGuinn,
and their high soaring harmonies combined to establish a new musical
type known as folk rock. Jim McGuinn (guitar), Gene Clark
(tambourine), David Crosby (guitar), Chris Hillman (bass), and
Michael Clarke (drums) combined their voices and talents to produce
some of the finest music of the era.
Gene Clark would only appear on their first two albums before
leaving, but would make his mark as he wrote or co-wrote five of the
songs. He also tended to be the center of attention when the group
appeared live. His song, "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better," remains a
classic of the time period. This anti-romantic love song featured
sensitive and intelligent lyrics and is equal to just about anything
written during the sixties. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it number
234 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "Here
Without You" features haunting poetry backed by a memorable melody.
The early Byrds will always be best remembered for their connection
to the music of Bob Dylan. They did not so much interpret his songs
as they re-created them. Dylan also owes a debt of gratitude to the
Byrds for presenting his music to the masses and expanding his fan base.
"Mr. Tambourine Man," as played and sung by The Byrds, is one of the
signature songs of the sixties, and is hopefully instantly
recognizable to any fan of rock music. It bridges the gap between
folk and rock and between such artists as Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
The 12-string guitar, which underpins the sound and the multi-layered
harmonies, is perfection. It was a deserved number one hit.
Interestingly, the Byrds' version would rank higher on Rolling Stone
Magazine's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time than Dylan's original at 76 vs. 106.
Three other Dylan tunes grace the album. "Chimes Of Freedom" is
another sixties-defining song and is almost on a par with "Mr.
Tambourine Man." "All I Really Want To Do" features more of their
signature harmonies, while "Spanish Harlem Incident" shows just how
different a journey a song can takes when interpreted by the right artist.
The Byrds turned to Pete Seeger's tune, "The Bells Of Rhymney," for
another classic interpretation. The McGuinn guitar solo is probably
the best on the album.
The album concludes with the old Vera Lynn World War II song, "We'll
Meet Again." I can't help but think this was a joke of some type as
this song was used in the finale of the movie Dr. Strangelove.
Mr. Tambourine Man is a close to perfect album. The production and
the harmonies were more advanced than just about anything being
produced at the time. It remains a landmark of sixties artistry and
an essential listen for any fan of American music history.