The Byrds returned in late 1971 with their latest album. It would also be the last album for the McGuinn, White, Battin, and Parsons Incarnation of the group. Roger McGuinn would disband the group or fire everyone depending on who you believe.
Farther Along may not be of the quality of their early releases but does contain some good music. The problem that I have with the album is that 35 plus years later it is forgettable as it gets lost in the Byrds catalogue.
Given the problems over the production of their last release Byrdmaniax, by producer Terry Melcher, the Byrds decided to self produce for the first time. They managed to create an intimate, if not energetic, disc that turned them back toward their classic sound. The record buying public was not impressed as it sold poorly and hardly made a dent on the American charts.
Listening to the album for the first time in years, or I should say decades, I was impressed by three tracks. “Tiffany Queen” written by Roger McGuinn, is a nice rocker. Except for the short group effort, “Antique Sandy,” it would be his only writing contribution and may have shown that the well was somewhat dry at the time. Clarence White’s arrangement of the title song featured hymn like textures and would be played at his funeral. He provided a good and sadly last lead vocal on the song “Bugler.” This track about death on the highway is chilling in retrospect.
The worst tracks would be “B.B. Class Road” which was co-written by one of the roadies about life on the road and not even a Clarence White solo can save it and Skip Battin’s, “America’s Great National Pastime” which is just poorly constructed. You can also include a terrible cover of the old rock ‘n’ roll song. “So Fine,” which the group should have had the sense to avoid.
“Bristol Steam Convention Blues” is a Parsons-White instrumental that features some classic banjo playing. “Antique Sandy” is listenable but “Get Down Your Line” and “Lazy Waters” struggle to be average.
“Farther Along” would be the final musical statement by Clarence White who would be killed by a drunk driver eight months later at age 29. For his virtuosity alone, the album is worth a listen. However, as part of the Byrds legacy it settles into the bottom part of their excellent catalogue as an average and ultimately inconsequential album.