The Byrds released so many excellent albums that when one did not measure up it was judged harshly as the standard had been set so high. Byrdmaniax struggles to be average and is one of the weaker albums in the their catalogue. While there are a couple of high points, ultimately the mundane songs bring the overall quality of the release down.
One of the major problems with the album was the production or I should say the over-production. Terry Melcher added strings, brass, keyboards, and backup singers to the tracks. The issue has always been whether it was with the group member’s knowledge or not? The result was that many of the songs veered from the traditional and accepted Byrds sound and the record buying public was not happy about it.
My other thought was that the voice of Gene Parsons was underused as no tracks contain his lead. His vocal skills were unique and he may have had the best voice in the group at the time.
Three songs rise above the production. Roger McGuinn’s, “I Trust,” is gospel influenced and sends a positive message. “Kathleen’s Song” is a beautiful and sensitive ballad that makes use of a nice chorus. “Jamaica Say You Will” was penned by Jackson Browne and features a gritty vocal by Clarence White.
Skip Battin and his writing partner of the time, Kim Fowley, would write three songs. Only the odd “Citizen Kane” would be mildly interesting. This campy tribute to Hollywood would even sound like the 1930’s. Battin would compose a surprising number of songs during his time with the group, and while they would not be terrible, he would have a difficult time composing tunes that would match the group’s sound.
The best of the rest are McGuinn’s ballad “Pale Blue” and possibly the cover of “Glory Glory” but they are lost in the excess of it all.
Byrdmaniax was a disappointing release in 1971 and remains a deservedly forgotten album today. When exploring the Byrds legacy, your time and energy is better spent elsewhere.