Roger McGuinn found himself looking for new members again. Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman had left the Byrds and formed the Flying Burrito Brothers and drummer Kevin Kelley had also departed. Gene Parsons was selected to play the drums and session musician John York was hired as the bassist. The best decision was adding Clarence White as a guitarist. He had played on a number of Byrds albums and he and McGuinn would form one of the best, if underrated, guitar duos in rock history.
Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde was the perfect title for the album as the Byrds would produce music that spanned their career. Their country roots would lead to a number of tracks but Roger McGuinn would also reach back into the group’s past for some good old psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll. It may not have been cohesive but it sure was interesting.
As the last remaining original member there was little doubt that by this time Roger McGuinn was in charge. He wrote or co-wrote six of the ten songs and arranged a seventh. He also sang lead on all the tracks contained on the original release.
The first four tracks show perfectly the schizophrenic nature of the album. “This Wheel’s On Fire,” written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko, is given an almost perfect cover. It quickly establishes that White’s guitar picking style would combine well with McGuinn’s 12 string. The song is transferred into an epic cosmic rock rendition. Two country songs quickly follow. “Old Blue” is an old traditional love song arranged by McGuinn and Gary Paxton’s tune, “Your Gentle Way Of Loving Me,” is treated to a country-rock sound with some brilliant playing by White. “Child Of The Universe,” which was written for the movie Candy, is dark rock ‘n’ roll.
“Drug Store Truck Drivin’ Man” was a brilliant song written by Roger McGuinn and the departed Gram Parsons. It was a pithy and sarcastic response to the group’s reception at the Grand Ol’ Opry.
Other songs of note were “King Apathy III” which criticized the hypocrisy of some members of the hippie movement and the rocking “Bad Night At The Whiskey.”
Dr.Byrds and Mr. Hyde may not be the best Byrds album but it was better than 95% of what was being released at the time. I would not recommend it as a starting place if one would like to explore The Byrds catalogue, but as an album it provides a lot of surprises and certainly will keep your attention.