Monday, November 12, 2007

No. 232: Mr. Tambourine Man

Band: The Byrds
Album: Mr. Tambourine Man
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: The debut of the preeminent folk-rock band had the California quintet establishing its signature sound. In fact, the sound the band is most identified with -- Roger McGuinn's twelve-string guitar's so-called "jangle" -- was named after the album's title track's lyrics.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I've mentioned my Stockholm syndrome circumstance with this band before.
Best song: All the Dylan tracks are excellent, proving the point that a good band can make a well-written song sound amazing. As for the originals, "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" is one of my favorite breakup songs; It's quite the revelation.
Worst song: "The Bells of Rhymney," a Pete Seeger cover, isn't all that good.
Is it awesome?: This list can talk you into thinking the Byrds are the most important band of the 20th century.

I want to say that this album is misplaced, but I'm not totally sure that it is. If any Byrds record should be on this list for the reason of "great songs on the album," this one should be there (I'm speaking of all the non-compilation records, of course).

Possibly because the album only has five Byrds-penned tracks, the record's highs are pretty high. The four (!) Dylan songs are all excellent, specifically the title track and "Chimes Of Freedom." It's not hard to make those songs sound good as long as you don't sing through your nose and know how to actually play the guitar.

The Byrds originals range from just OK ("You Won't Have to Cry") to the sublimely great ("I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better"). The latter has been covered several times, including one on Tom Petty's "Full Moon Fever."


This is the last of the five Byrds records on this list and I'd be a fool to not to say something about it. That the Byrds have five records on this list is pretty foolish, though it's not as though they shouldn't have any record on here.

"Sweetheart Of The Rodeo" is the highest ranked Byrds record at 117 and it's the one record Gram Parsons was a huge part of. It largely introduced us to Parsons, so I guess I can see having it on here. "Younger Than Yesterday" (124) comes next and I can't really see how it should be there, and it's basically there because it has some decent songs. Not a choice I'd have made.

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" comes at 171. I don't see a reason to have it here, save for it being released in 1967 in America. So, you know, summer of love and whatever. And 178 brings us the band's greatest hits. I see that there. The Byrds, quite frankly, are a greatest hits band.

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