The Byrds

Straight for the Sun

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In the fall of 1971, the Byrds were only a few months away from breaking up after several years of diminishing commercial returns, but the final edition of the group happened to be one of the best and most stable. With founder and 12-string guitarist Roger McGuinn joined by guitarist Clarence White, bassist Skip Battin, and drummer Gene Parsons, this version of the Byrds didn't achieve the same magic as the first edition with Gene Clark, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman, but they were inarguably better pickers (especially with White on board), and they delivered some of the best and most distinctive country rock of the era. Straight for the Sun was drawn from a live AM radio broadcast of a show the Byrds played in September 1971 at American University in Washington, D.C., and given how late in the day it was for the group, this disc is a pleasant surprise. The Byrds sound at once relaxed and tight, playing a broad cross-section from their catalog (from early hits like "Mr. Spaceman" and an extended workout on "Eight Miles High" to late-period rarities such as "Citizen Kane" and "Tiffany Queen") with genuine enthusiasm and no small skill, and the interplay between the guitarists is excellent, as McGuinn never had a better foil on-stage than White. The recording is in mono, but the sound is clear, with a few minor glitches, and the balance is quite good for a live mix, with the vocals and instruments giving one another a proper amount of room. Straight for the Sun is highly recommended for serious Byrds fans, capturing a great band sprinting for the finish line; this isn't as strong as the live material on Untitled, but it comes close enough to confirm McGuinn gave the Byrds his all right up to the bitter end.

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