Monday, March 27, 2017

Younger Than Yesterday - The Byrds

While AM is adamant that Surrealistic Pillow is the definitive psychedelic LP, The Byrd’s Younger Than Yesterday is the penultimate psychedelic offering of '67. (I can hear the grumblings. "Where, exactly, is Sgt. Pepper in this mix?" The greatest rock LP of its era, or any other, transcended all its labels, disallowing its inclusion as the ultimate psychedelic LP. How's that for justification?)  The Byrds are the most influential American band, bar none. Understand the qualifiers: ahead of their time; brought about the folk-inspired rock that set the ball rolling for endless bands (then and now), and long before Dylan; delved into country before it was cool; dug into the uncharted territory of psychedelia (and paid the price with a radio ban); and truly set the tone for the remainder of 1967 (Surrealistic Pillow included). Bands like the Airplane, Love, Moby Grape, The Turtles and Buffalo Springfield had to have absorbed this album like a sponge when released; it's just that obvious. It was the blue print for what the next incarnation of American folk and Psychedelia would be.

Though Younger Than Yesterday was criminally ignored at the time of its release, its critical stature has most certainly grown over the years. Roger McGuinn and David Crosby came into their own as songwriters, coupled with the surprising emergence of Chris Hillman (The Byrd's Geore Harrison), making the extraordinary leap from having only one songwriting credit on Fifth Dimension to having five on Younger Than Yesterday; not to mention Hillman fully exploring country-rock, the musical direction the band would embark upon from that point. Along with Hillman's exploration with country-rock, McGuinn would fabricate another perfect Dylan cover with "My Back Pages" (which the band placed on the album over Crosby's rejection), with Crosby continually expanding his ideas of psychedelia and jazz. Younger Than Yesterday would also be the start of a fantastic affiliation with producer Gary Usher and the continued relationship with pedal steel legend Clarence White, in which Usher would go on to produce The Byrds' next two albums and White would later join the band.

Younger than Yesterday opens with their greatest rock song ever, "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star", by McGuinn and Hillman, which features that great lead and bass, impeccable rock vocals and Hugh Masekela's enchanting trumpet. Hillman's "Have You Seen Her Face," "Time Between" and "Girl with No Name" are superb, the latter two setting the stage for the band's subsequent trend-setting country-rock. In many respects, though, this is Crosby's album (his last with the Byrds before being replaced by a horse – you can figure that one out). "Renaissance Fair" has exceptional harmonies, and a spine-tingling intro in which one guitar follows another, then bass, then drums. "Everybody's Been Burned" is another gorgeous Crosby song, and one can hear clearly that he was working towards the transcendent perfection of "Guinivere" that he would achieve on CSN. Other standout tracks include "Why", "It Happens Each Day" and "Lady Friend" all written or co-written by Crosby. His "Mind Gardens" is experimental and trippy, and trippy was what the Byrds perfected here. If Surrealistic Pillow is the ultimate psychedelic LP, Younger was the catalyst.