Sunday, January 10, 2010

#178: The Byrds' Greatest Hits- The Byrds

Mike Natale:

Listened to: Vinyl (yeah, fucking vinyl. I'm badass like that.)

For exactly the same reason as Def Leppard is forever associated with Spring in my mind, Summer is always the season of the Byrds’ Greatest Hits. Every time the chlorine smell hit the air, and the kids stared out school bus windows for the last time, the beautiful harmonies of the Byrds would hit my ears, and I’d feel at home in the season.

Right off the bat I’ll agree with Nick that this album is for “cherry-pickers”, but really, is that so wrong? In the iPod generation, why is it so wrong to encapsulate every bit of the Byrds’ genius into one album. Plus, one has to realize that the full Byrds albums on the list are a variety of styles: Sixties hippie harmonies, Folk, Country, Rock. The greatest hits offers you solely the trippy harmonizing that everyone remembers the 60’s for. Sure, half this album could be a Bob Dylan tribute album, but that’s just what I love about it. Robert Olson said it better than I could “The first album is over-represented, and there's an unwholesome emphasis on the Dylan cuts. Nevertheless, at the time the album was stunning in its breadth and provided the next generation with a good sample of the sound and direction of the group.” I’m proud to admit I’m part of that ‘next generation’, and The Byrds have been a heavy influence on the kind of music I write, though I didn’t realize this for quite some time.

This may be the only “Greatest Hits” album I’m totally satisfied with. If someone wanted to get into Hendrix, I’d give them Are You Experience, for Nirvana it’d be Nevermind, etc. I’d almost never go for a Greatest Hits. But here, here it works, because while other albums may have been more significant during the 60’s, here you have the entire decade captured on an album. I implore everyone to give this album a listen. The harmonies are unparalleled even today, and you can find traces of the Byrds still playing. Hell, for you “indie” music people (a.k.a. I’m too hip to like anything pre-1994), just think of the Byrds as a really high Polyphonic Spree.

Nick Young:

Listened to: MP3

No. Absolutely not. I don’t care how good the songs are- there is no room on the list of “the 500 greatest albums of all time” for a greatest hits collection. The sole exception to this rule is the ‘honey-voiced’ hunk that defined 70’s soul, Al Green, who might not make it on the list if it weren’t for his stellar compilation record... Still, even he has “Call Me” and “I’m Still in Love With You” to ensure his position among the music greats.

The Birds do not belong here- not for this album anyway (no disrespect to their oft discussed immortality). Even if their Greatest Hits collection was removed from Rolling Stone’s list, they would still appear enough times to make Otis Redding a little nervous. “Greatest Hits” is an album for cherry pickers. Classic, era-defining songs such as “Turn! Turn! Turn!,”, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Eight Miles High,” are admittedly great works in their own right. However, they deserve to be placed on a list of greatest songs, leaving room on the list of greatest albums for more qualified, less recognized works.

Would Replace With: The Traveling Wilburys, Vol. 1 by The Travelling Wilburys

Don’t be fooled by the uninspired, black and white album title- this isn’t a greatest hits compilation any more than She & Him’s Vol. 1 is. I would go so far to say that the Wilburys’ debut LP is even more of an original work than the M. Ward / Zooey Deschanel collaboration since it contains absolutely no covers. Though the album sounds like a collection of well-crafted singles, the best of which being the Dylan-helmed outlaw ballad “Tweeter and the Monkeyman,” supergroup sing-along “End of the Line”(I know you’ve heard this before), and the famously covered masterwork “Handle With Care”, all of the tracks were written to flow together exclusively within the context of this criminally overlooked showcase of not one but five legendary artists’ talents. When an album boasts a lineup of so-called immortals consisting of Beatles veteran George Harrison, lifelong troubadour Bob Dylan, “folk-opera” crooner Roy Orbison, much-loved Heartbreaker Tom Petty and, well, Jeff Lynne, there is no excuse as to why you could possibly ignore them. I mean come on, their songs are fucking fantastic! Rolling Stone really needs to reassess its original review.



Y'all come back, now, ya hear? Tomorrow is #241: Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath

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