The Byrds

Reunion Special: Live at the Hammersmith Odeon 1977/1978

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This two-CD bootleg is a copy of the two-part BBC Rock Hour aired in the spring of 1978 in the U.S., but this release was evidently taped from a version aired in Great Britain because there are at least two songs that were not a part of the U.S. broadcast. Three of the original Byrds, Gene Clark, Chris Hillman, and Roger McGuinn, each lead their 1977 bands, followed by a reunion of all three for an extended encore. Although it was indeed taped at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, this concert was actually recorded in 1977, as announced on the original broadcast, rather than 1978 as stated on the cover. What is obvious right away is that Gene Clark's set pales next to those by both Hillman and McGuinn. Clark's band is on the first four tracks, starting with a chugging take of his "Kansas City Southern," followed by a lackluster original "Denver or Wherever." While his poignant ballad "Release Me Girl" is a highlight of his set, it's painfully obvious during his talk prior to this song that he's rather drunk. Hillman's band is well rehearsed and his vocals are far superior to Clark's. The material comes from a variety of sources, including "Hot Burrito #2" from his days in the Flying Burrito Brothers and "Rise and Fall" from the also short-lived Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Roger McGuinn's group Thunderbyrd is next. The music includes old Byrds material like "Lover of the Bayou," "Chestnut Mare," and "Mr. Spaceman," all of which are well played. Newer material like Tom Petty's "American Girl" and "Golden Loom" is not quite as strong. The encore includes all three ex-Byrds performing three of their hits: "So You Want to be a Rock 'n Roll Star," Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and a rousing "Eight Miles High," though they clearly didn't have much time to rehearse together in advance. The sound is no better than a comparable 1978 cassette copy of the broadcast, but serious Byrds fans will want to search diligently to pick up this two-CD set.