Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Sweetheart of the Rodeo is most famous for being the record on which The Byrds brought in Gram Parsons in order to transition from their folk and/or psychedelic sound to country. Gram Parsons is the godfather of country rock, and an artist whose albums you should own. Ryan Adams should never stop thanking the heavens that Gram Parsons invented country rock. No, really.

Anyway, despite the fact that Gram Parsons is the cat's own pajamas, his vocals were removed for the final cut of this album due to legal difficulties. The infighting, jealousy, and legal difficulties surrounding this album are legendary on their own, but the music is so amazing you'd hardly notice.

Interestingly, none of the tracks on this album are written by The Byrds. Most of them are covers of traditional country and folk songs such as The Louvin Brothers' "The Christian Life," and Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (which actually eclipses the original in awesomeness). Gram Parsons penned two tracks for the album, one of them being his famous "Hickory Wind." The version of the song on Parsons' own Grievous Angel is by far the better recording, but The Byrds give it a solid go here on Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about listening to Sweetheart of the Rodeo   45 years after its initial release is that it sounds more like country than just about everything Taylor Swift or Keith Urban has ever done. Back in 1968, Gram Parsons was viewed as a hippie by the country music establishment (Merle Haggard famously refused to work with him for this very reason) and The Byrds were also perceived as freaky longhairs by the Nashville elite.

Regardless of where you stand on country music, there is plenty of great music on this record. The harmonies are tight and the arrangements are impeccable. Nearly a half century later, Sweetheart of the Rodeo is one of the greatest country rock albums ever made.

No comments:

Post a Comment