In 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.