Roger McGuinn - guitar, vocals; Clarence White - guitar, mandolin, vocals; Skip Battin - bass, vocals; Gene Parsons - drums, harmonica, vocals; Guest:; Jim Seiter - percussion (on track 5)
Following the release of a new double album and shortly after Roger McGuinn became the subject of Rolling Stone magazine's monthly interview, October of 1970 would find The Byrds touring the college and club circuit in America to rousing response. When many of the band's contemporaries had split up or were nearing the end of their creativity, the double album Untitled would rejuvenate the band's following. An extensive touring schedule during this time also helped develop a new legion of fans and The Byrds were finally gaining a deserved reputation as a compelling live band.
It is no wonder that this occurred, as Roger McGuinn, Clarence White, Gene Parsons (no relation to Gram) and Skip Battin would become the most enduring lineup of The Byrds, performing and recording together from September of 1969 well into 1972. Much credit goes to McGuinn for maintaining a vision for the group and keeping this lineup together, but the secret weapon was guitarist Clarence White. It was White's innovative string bending techniques, combined with McGuinn's signature sound, which extended the band's explorations of country music within a heavier rock framework. White was an utterly unique talent, with blazing guitar chops, a razor sharp sound and astounding musical sensibilities. He was equally adept in both acoustic and electric settings. This was a key ingredient to the cohesiveness and strength of The Byrds live performances during this era. They would experience wildly enthusiastic audiences nearly everywhere they played, especially in Europe where their popularity had never really waned. The Byrds were one of very few bands capable of forging both a spiritual and musical unity between the two decades and both critics and fans agreed that this lineup was more accomplished in concert than any previous configuration of The Byrds.
Presented here is most of the band's second performance during a three-night engagement at the Boston Tea Party, when The Byrds headlined a bill that also featured Mylon Lefevre & Holy Smoke in the support slot. Although The Byrds' standard opener of this era, "Lover Of The Bayou," and a cover of Dylan's "It's Alright Ma" went unrecorded, the remainder of this evening's performance is featured here and provides another fine example of the musical chemistry between these four musicians. Although unheard on this particular set, the group's producer, Terry Melcher, was also on hand for this Boston run and he would join the band on stage to play piano and organ on the following final night of this engagement.
Approximately ten minutes into The Byrds' set, the recording starts as they are performing a lovely electric version of McGuinn's "Ballad Of Easy Rider." The acoustic portion of the performance follows beginning with a showcase for Clarence White's blazing finger work; the traditional fiddle tune "Soldiers Joy" paired with "Black Mountain Rag." This instrumental is sure to dazzle all acoustic guitarists and certainly delights the Boston audience. Next up is an acoustic read on the song that initially established The Byrds reputation, Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." The acoustic portion of this set concludes with Gene Parsons fronting the group and playing harmonica on a romp through Leadbelly's cocaine anthem "Take A Whiff On Me," which would also feature on the Untitled album.
Returning to electric instrumentation, the intensity level kicks up in a big way with a fiery and highly extended jam on "Eight Miles High" to conclude the set. An improvisation begins from scratch and before you know it the group is in the midst of a scintillating raga-oriented jam. For the next 10 minutes, they venture into intense psychedelic territory, featuring a propulsive bottom end by Battin and Parsons and with McGuinn and White both blazing on guitars. Eventually, McGuinn and White drop out allowing the rhythm section to solo, which here is augmented by their road manager, Jim Seiter, adding additional percussion elements. Eventually, White and McGuinn feel their way back in and with the group sizzling again, start to maneuver into "Eight Miles High" proper. McGuinn's Coltrane-influenced opening riffs signal the transition and they finally segue into the first verse of this legendary song. However, the group is still cooking so hard that they blaze right off again, never returning to the lyric. After another few minutes of intense interplay, this "Eight Miles High" jam comes to an explosive close, followed by the band's signature outro instrumental, "Hold It," to end the set.
The Boston audience has no intention of letting the Byrds go without an encore and the group obliges by returning to the stage for three more numbers. A fully electric version of McGuinn's "Chestnut Mare" kicks off the encore in fine form, a song that did well in America, but would soon become a Top 20 hit in Europe. A cover of Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" follows. A staple of The Byrds earliest live repertoire (as well as The Beatles, where it served to feature George Harrison during their early years), this is performed with delirious abandon. For their final number, McGuinn, White, Battin and Parsons forgo their instruments altogether to perform the spiritual "Amazing Grace" a cappella, which brings this performance to a rather quiet reflective end. (Bershaw)
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