Ballad of Easy Rider - CBS 1969
There is a mature and releaxed feeling in these recordings, and though there is a mellow mood in many of the lyrics, it is somehow quite an uplifting experience to listen to the album.
The playing is great, with brilliant guitar work from McGuinn and in particular Clarence White. The vocals and especially the harmonies are of the same high standards that characterize all Byrds albums; great that Clarence White was finally given a lead vocal. His gritty nasal vocals on “Oil in My Lamp” help making the track one of many highlights on the album. In fact, this may be the first album where White really shines as an equal partner to McGuinn, who was now the only original member of the band.
McGuinn was never a very productive songwriter for the Byrds, and here he only contributes one new song, but on the other hand an outstanding one, “Ballad of Easy Rider”.
All member have lead vocals, and though neither John York not Gene Parsons are great lead-singers, their contributions come out quite convincingly.
Highlights, though, are songs songs with McGuinn in front. “Tulsa County” is a fine song with great vocals and fine harmonies. Even more breath-taking is their new version slower version of Dylan´s “It´s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, and McGuinn´s treatment of Woody Guthrie´s “Deportee” is just beautiful.
Among the seven bonus-tracks you´ll find some real gems. Especially Jackson Browne´s “Mae Jean Goes to Hollywood” and considering the short playing-time of the original album, it´s a big mystery why this fine recording was left out. Along with the title track song is probably the closest they come to early Byrds-sound ( Younger than Yesterday ).
“Way Beyond the Sun” is a nice country-blues song, which may not be among the most memorable Byrds-recordings, but still as good as couple of the weaker original-tracks. The alternate versions are all fine; especially the longer version of “Ballad of Easy Rider”.