Various Artists

Early L.A.

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Even by the lower standards of historical rock documentation that were the norm in 1969, the lack of detailed annotation on this obscure album of early recordings by the Byrds, David Crosby, Dino Valente, the Dillards, and Canned Heat is pretty disgraceful. At least it was issued, however, and made some pretty interesting formative early folk-rock experiments available to the public. Side one is what's of particular value, assembling seven tracks produced by Jim Dickson, presumably around the 1964-1966 era (no dates are given, and neither is it made clear who the artists are on the track listings, though subsequent research and informed guesses by astute listeners did). Most interesting of all are four 1964 tracks by musicians in the first lineup of the Byrds, prior to that group's signing to Columbia. "Willie Gene" and "Come Back Baby" are fair, bluesy Crosby solo outings with, interestingly, electric rock arrangements; "The Only Girl" is an acoustic Beatles imitation sung by Crosby, Roger McGuinn, and Gene Clark, naïve but bearing the seed that would become the Byrds; and "You Movin'" sounds like an early Byrd demo with a full electric band (and is different, incidentally, to the demo of the same song released on the Byrds' 1969 demo collection Preflyte). All four of these tracks, however, have been reissued in the CD age, drastically lowering this rare, out of print LP's collectability. That does leave, however, a bunch of other songs by different artists that are of more than passing interest, and make this LP worth scouring for if you're a folk-rock enthusiast. Two 1964 Valente recordings are overlooked early, pre-"Mr. Tambourine Man" folk-rock excursions, with "Black Betty" sounding much like early electric Bob Dylan in some respects. The Dillards' "Each Season Changes You" and "Don't You Cry" sound like they date from a little later than 1964, perhaps 1966 or so, and are nice mid-'60s Byrds-like folk-rock numbers with a tinge of country and bluegrass. (A different version of "Don't You Cry" showed up on the Dillards' pioneering 1968 album Wheatstraw Suite.) In comparison to side one, side two is far less interesting, consisting solely of two overlong Canned Heat blues tracks, with no hints given as to when they were recorded.