THE BYRDS – On A Wing: Volume 2  (Sound Stage – SS6CDBOX49)

Byrds On A Wing: Volume 2In December last year, the Sound Stage label issued a massive Byrds boxed-set titled The Byrds On A Wing: Volume 1 and the good news is that a mere few months later, Volume 2 has arrived! While an obvious continuation of the series, this (slightly smaller 6 disc) collection doesn’t exactly pick up where the last instalment left off, but rather provides more depth to roughly the same period as before, circa 1969 – 1989.

However, as any eagle-eyed Byrds fan will tell you, the group was no longer around for the majority of these years, and as a result, there is, in fact only one disc on this set dedicated to the group themselves – a 1978 performance on disc 2, by Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and Gene Clark, with occasional cameos from Kim O’Kelly and David Crosby. Even at this, there are few complaints musically, with treasures like ‘It Doesn’t Matter’ and ‘The Ballad of Easy Rider’ alongside classics like ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’, ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and ‘Eight Miles High’. Prior to this disc, it is those Flying Burrito Brothers (featured on two discs of Volume 1) who get things started, this time with a recording from the 1969 Seattle Pop Festival. This is another particularly enjoyable recording, with highlights including the Burrito staple ‘Sin City’, ‘Train Song’ (a familiar reprise from Volume 1) and the usual country heartbreakers like ‘You Win Again’ and ‘She Thinks I Still Care’.

Disc 3 and 4 bring us up to speed with the relatively short lived Flyte, founded by Gene Clark and Chris Hillman. These come from two performances at North Hollywood’s Palomino Club in December 1982. On the plus side, there are some little diamonds; a bluegrass version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’, ‘Running The Roadblocks’, ‘Easy Rider’ and a wonderful cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘If You Could Only Read My Mind’. On the downside, both discs 3 and 4, present virtually the exact same set-list, which, musically is very good, but being so similar and so close together, its maybe just too much.

The final discs on Volume 2 are taken from concerts in early 1989; The Ritz in New York (January) and Tower Theatre, Philadelphia in April. Disc 5 focusses on the Desert Rose Band, fronted by Chris Hillman and disc 6 documents a David Crosby ‘solo’ set, recorded during a particularly tumultuous period of his life. The Desert Rose contribution, in its own right, is pretty decent, even if the 80s country rock thing doesn’t translate quite as well as some of the other material elsewhere on the set. The Crosby disc is partly solo and partly band-backed but has a lot to offer; in particular, keep an ear out for a stripped back version of ‘Guinnevere’ and raucous versions of ‘Déjà Vu’ and ‘Wooden Ships’.

In conclusion, while this instalment perhaps doesn’t have quite as much immediate impact as its predecessor, (part of the reason for this being the crossovers and similarities in material used on both volumes, Byrds On A Wing: Volume 2 still holds its own. For example, if one looks at this collection as more of a whistle stop tour of life after the Byrds, rather than a thin on the ground, ‘Byrds’ boxed-set, it does a bang-up job, with unusual, unpredictable and hard to come by tracks from an interesting two decades.

Christopher James Sheridan

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‘Jesus Is Just Alright’ – live at the Fillmore East in 1970:

Read Chris’ review of volume 1 here.

THE BYRDS – On A Wing: A Compendium Of Historical Performances: Volume 1 (Sound Stage SS8CDBOX48)

On A WingThe Sound Stage label are back with an absolute monster from the vaults, this time in the form of an 8 disc (yes 8 f*uking disc) box set, dedicated to the folk-rock pioneers, The Byrds. Made up of 109 tracks, there is a lot to get through in very little time (and cyber space) so I’ll pick out some of my own highlights and you can decide for yourself what I’ve missed.

Kicking off in 1968, in the wake of the band’s reshuffle, the historically “typical” sound of the Byrds is captured here. For example, renditions of folkie standards like ‘Old Blue’ and the JFK-themed arrangement of ‘He Was A Friend of Mine’ are among the company of the Dylan and Guthrie covers, so often associated with the Byrds. In among these, seep the country elements also associated with the group; of particular note are ‘Nashville West’ and Gram Parsons’ lament, ‘Hickory Wind’.

Parsons features a good deal and particularly on Disc 2, which transports us from November 1968 to June of 1969 and to the Palomino Club, in North Hollywood, where Clarence White joins forces with Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. At times, the sound really isn’t great, but the excitement of the moment comes across and at times it is hard trying not to get caught up in the concert, even if just as a listener…some near 50 years later.

‘The Train Song’ is an upbeat, energetic and that spur of the moment vibe still spills out through the speakers and jumps from one feeling to another; to that of the wild ‘Dream Baby’ or the laid bare and lonesome ‘She Once Lived Here’ or ‘Black Limousine’…yet the atmosphere reuses to die. Disc 3 continues the same performance and while the inconsistencies in the sound remain the main source of complaint, numbers like ‘Sweet Mental Revenge’, ‘Another Place, Another Time’ and an otherwise brilliant version of Merle Haggard’s ‘Hungry Eyes’ remain among the high points.

The halfway stage of this set takes us to some more intimate gigs, beginning with David Crosby, at the Matrix (December ’70) on Disc 4. On this occasion, he’s joined by members of The Grateful Dead to perform a mixture of freshly penned solo material (‘Cowboy Movie’ and ‘Laughing’ for example) and some interesting takes on standards like ‘Deep Elm Blues’. It is slow, more spacious and guides us in perfectly to Disc 5; a Roger McGuinn set from 1974, after the Byrds had finally parted. This one in particular, is a real treat. Alone on stage, McGuinn stands equipped with a guitar and harmonica, running down his Byrd-loyal set of 60s pop hits, traditional numbers and of course, the odd bit of Dylan. From his own work, ‘Bag Full Of Money’ is particularly good.

Disc 6 is probably the rockiest of all the collection, emanating from Amarillo, Texas and featuring McGuinn, Gene Clark and Chris Hilman, alongside a crew of session players. The familiar formula of Byrds big hitters and contemporary efforts is used here, and ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ turns up, surprisingly, for the first time. Of equal note on this disc, are the messy, audience participation-led version of ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ and ‘Stopping Traffic’.

The final discs take us to Gene Clark and The Fyrebirds, circa 1985. ‘Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies; and ‘Tried So Hard’ stand out on Disc7, while Disc 8 builds slowly, through the likes of ‘Here Without You’, ‘She Don’t Care About Time’ and ‘See Your Face’, into the slightly heavier country-rock tinged ‘Dixie Flower’ and ‘One Hundred Years From Now’ and bidding a fitting adieu on Byrds-shaped classics ‘So You Wanna Be A Rock ’n’ Roll Star’ and ‘Eight Miles High’.

Byrds On A Wing…is something of a journey, but a delightful one. Spanning the 8 hour mark, there is a lot to take in. Naturally, there are a few tracks which repeat from time to time, but they’re not unwelcome and even at that, each of them are done with such a different style and approach, they feel completely different to their predecessors.

Christopher James Sheridan

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‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’ – live on TV:

UK debut album by AlascA

AlascA liveOn their debut UK release ACTORS & LIARS, AlascA play eleven tales and songs that have the tendency of lodging themselves in the old grey matter. AlascA’s music has a novel and poetic quality, which to me anyway, will leave a lasting impression.

The tales grow on you and the melodies that guide the lyrics to their end have a place in the past, the present and the future. Their lingering melodies will appeal to the listeners of current indie-folk, but will likewise inspire those who loved the folk sounds, close harmonies and lyrical subtleties of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.

folkmaster@folking.com

ACTORS & LIARS by AlascAACTORS & LIARS was produced by Grammy-award winning engineer and producer Alan Branch (U2, Jeff Beck, Yusuf Islam, Blur, Nine Inch Nails). When released in the Netherlands in 2012 it peaked at No 9 in the Dutch charts in the week after its release (and stayed in the top 50 the subsequent six weeks) and received much critical acclaim in the Netherlands and Belgium. AlascA’s live performances are characterized by their shifts from intimate singer-songwriter tales to bombastic folk-rock explosions. AlascA are based near Amsterdam and consist of Frank Bond (vocals, guitars, bass), William Bond (harmonies, keys), Ferdinand Jonk (harmonies, banjo, 12-string guitar) and Louis van Sinderen (drums, percussion).

AlascA Photo: www.marcobakker.comThe band are inspired by a diverse collection of bands including the Beatles, Love, the Zombies, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Tim Buckley, Gene Clark, the Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Pentangle, David Bowie, Big Star, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, The Dears, The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Sufjan Stevens, Midlake, Yeasayer and Iron & Wine. AlascA have played on De Wereld Draait Door, the Dutch leading prime time television programme and have played at most of the major radio stations in the Netherlands such as Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3FM and Omrop Fryslan.

All the songs on the album apart from Déjà Vu, written by Ferdinand Jonk, were written by Frank Bond. Frank studied English Literature and Literary Sciences at the University of Amsterdam and obtained his Master of Arts Degree in 2009. Frank’s Ma Thesis is on Bob Dylan and provided a critical look into the most prominent academic approaches to Bob Dylan’s lyrics. The thesis was praised for its line of argument and the fact that it proposes a more productive and adequate analysis which also attempts to incorporate the musical elements of Dylan’s song lyrics. After graduation, the thesis was published. Frank, however, is and was not satisfied with the scope of the thesis and is currently working on a revision of his methods of analysis. He is also working on several essays on the various aspects of the current day music industry. In line with his background, Frank’s songwriting and lyrics are inspired by literature and philosophy, in particular Shakespeare, Keats, Coleridge, Yeats, Hemingway, Rimbaud, Pound, Joyce, Lucebert, Sartre, Foucault, Fowles, Kafka, Twain and Lawrence.

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For more information and the latest tour dates visit http://www.alascamusic.com/