Various Artists

Country & West Coast: The Birth of Country Rock

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The 1996 Rhino CD compilation Heroes of Country Music, Vol. 5: Legends of Country Rock is usually regarded as the best various-artists anthology of country-rock from the late '60s and early '70s, though it was unable to license material by a few of the genre's more notable innovators. While the songs on this 24-track collection are generally less known (and sometimes downright obscure), Country & West Coast: The Birth of Country Rock might actually serve as a better examination of how the style originated, both due to its greater length and the fine quality of the selections. Certainly, many of country-rock's leading lights are represented, including the Byrds (in both the David Crosby and Gram Parsons eras), the Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons solo, Poco, the Everly Brothers, Clarence White solo, the Dillards, Dillard & Clark, Michael Nesmith & the First National Band, Pure Prairie League, and Jerry Jeff Walker. So too, however, are artists who made notable early contributions to country-rock's genesis, though they're usually not thought of as country-rockers (the Lovin' Spoonful, Ian & Sylvia, the Youngbloods, John Phillips, the Gosdin Brothers). So, too, are artists who aren't even known to all that many record collectors, like Blackburn & Snow, the Spencers, the Corvettes, and Guilbeau & Parsons (Gib Guilbeau and a pre-Byrds Gene Parsons). There are some pretty well-known tunes here, like the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City," the Byrds' "One Hundred Years from Now," and the International Submarine Band's "Luxury Liner." But the accent is more on items that still haven't gotten their due, some of which are very good indeed, whether it's Gene Clark's "Tried So Hard" (a bridge between the Byrds' folk-rock and country-rock); Blackburn & Snow's "Time" (with superb male-female harmonies); Guilbeau & Parsons' slightly Cajun-ized country-rocker "Your Gentle Way of Loving Me"; the bluegrass-country-folk-rock hybrid of the Dillards' "Nobody Knows"; and the slightly psychedelic Byrdsy country-folk-rock of the Spencers' "Make Up Your Mind." Yes, some big names are missing, including Buffalo Springfield, Rick Nelson, Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, and the Grateful Dead, as well as some notable cult ones, like Hearts and Flowers. It's still a fine trawl through some of country-rock's more interesting, creative recordings, annotated with detail in the accompanying 24-page booklet.

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