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Music Review: The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!

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Mr. Tambourine Man was one of the best debut albums in music history and can legitimately be considered a five star effort. Turn! Turn! Turn! may be a half star below that lofty level but it is still an excellent album. It solidified The Byrds position as one of the leading groups of the sixties and set them on a musical journey that would lead to their induction into The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1991.

Turn! Turn! Turn! would pick up where their first album left off as its sound is securely in the folk-rock realm of music. The combination of cover songs and original compositions would again be backed by the wonderful jangle of guitars and soaring harmonies.

This would be Gene Clark’s final album with the group until a seventies reunion effort. His genius, especially as a songwriter, would be missed. His ability to write with clarity and beauty produced some of the better songs of the mid-sixties and were a perfect match for The Byrds' harmonies. He contributes three songs to this album. “Set You Free This Time” and “If You’re Gone” are excellent but “The World Turns All Around Her” is brilliant. The lyrics are memorable and the melody haunting; it justifiably remains one of the better tracks in The Byrds impressive catalogue.

Jim (Roger) McGuinn would begin to step forward as the future leader of the group. His love songs, “It Won’t Be Wrong” and “Wait and See” show a writer who has reached maturity. The first features some brilliant tempo changes and the second was co-written with David Crosby, his first writing credit with the group. He also shows creative ability in taking the traditional folk song, “He Was A Friend Of Mine,” and transforming it into a farewell for John Kennedy.

The Byrds would continue their tradition of covering Bob Dylan songs. Their version of “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” found the group at their harmonic best and continued the run of excellent Dylan covers. “The Times They Are a-Changin’” is not so lucky. The song works best as a stark and painful protest song and the Byrds attempt to make it tender and popish falls flat, especially when compared to Dylan’s original.

“Satisfied Mind” is an old Porter Wagoner hit and the Byrds rendition moved them toward the country sound that would increasingly dominate some of their future albums.

The album would end with another unique song choice. Mr. Tambourine Man concluded with “We’ll Meet Again” which was part of the finale of the movie Dr. Strangelove. Here the group chooses the old and I mean old Stephen Foster tune, “Oh! Susannah” which most school children have sung at sometime during their lifetime. The 12 string guitar of Jim McGuinn and the drumming of Michael Clarke help this song travel through time.

We finish with the first song from the album. “Turn! Turn! Turn!" was a Pete Seeger creation taken from the book of Ecclesiastes. The Byrds took this gentle yet powerful song of social unrest and created one of the formidable peace anthems of the time period. It spent three weeks as the number one single in the United States and fit the sixties perfectly.

Turn! Turn! Turn! is another classic relic from the turbulent sixties and remains an example of American music at its best.

About David Bowling

  • http://www.songplanet.net/members/3332/blog.php JC Mosquito

    David – I’m assuming you’re reviewing the original vinyl. The CD reissues with the great bonus tracks should be mentioned too. And don’t forget the big ol’ box set.

  • http://blogcritics.org/archives/2009/01/25/103727.php David Bowling

    Yes that is correct. I am reviewing the original vinyl releases. Too old and too expensive to change. -David

  • zingzing

    there’s a moment in turn, turn, turn where the guitars mass to a certain boiling point and everything in my brain melts. in fact, i’ll listen to it now and tell you when it happens.

    waiting…

    waiting…

    it’s 2:20 in. and i am a puddle of mush, writhing about in my own filth, loving it.

  • Paul

    Another fine review. I really like “The Times They are a-Changing” though.