The Byrds

In the Beginning

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Before signing to Columbia Records, the Byrds made hours of rehearsal and demo tapes as they perfected their blend of folk and rock. The Preflyte album, released in the late '60s, presented nearly a dozen of those cuts. This CD takes the bulk of that LP and embellishes it with alternate takes and previously unreleased tracks. Discography-wise, this 17-song disc is a real tongue-twister. Five of the 11 Preflyte tracks reappear in the exact same version, along with six alternate takes of Preflyte cuts. There are also alternate takes of both sides of their 1964 Elektra single (released as the Beefeaters), the primitive acoustic demo "The Only Girl I Adore" (previously available only on an obscure Elektra compilation), a previously unissued early version of "It's No Use" (later on their first LP), and the previously totally unreleased original "Tomorrow Is a Long Ways Away," in both electric and acoustic versions. Amid the collector details, one shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the music is excellent, though more tentative and less polished than their "official" Columbia work. The harmonies are angelic and the melodies beautiful. Though this is more derivative of the early Beatles than their later Dylan-influenced folk-rock, one can hear the group's unsurpassed crystalline blend of guitars and voices approaching full bloom. With the exception of an early version of "Mr. Tambourine Man," all the cuts are originals, most of which are fine and never appeared on their later albums; there are many good, otherwise unavailable Gene Clark songs in particular. Minor complaint: some of the alternate takes here are inferior to those on the original Preflyte album.

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