Byrds – The Complete Columbia Albums Collection

January 01, 1970



It goes without saying – although it’s been said countless
times before – that the Byrds were the quintessential American band of the

Rivaled only by the Beach Boys in terms of longevity and
matched solely by Buffalo Springfield as far as their enduring impact, they
seized upon literally every touchstone of popular music advanced during the
‘60s and ‘70s, from folk, tradition and country to rock, psychedelia and
experimentation, frequently fusing the forms and creating new genres all their
own. It’s almost impossible to appreciate the full depth of their
accomplishments during a single sitting, but a new box set created by Legacy
and Columbia, their signature label, helps put matters in perspective by
following their trajectory from their first album to their last.


Those counting their pocket change ought to know at the
outset there’s nothing new added to this collection, save a booklet that
documents each song on every album in exacting detail. Even those familiar with
the band’s history will find that a bonus, although the same detailing
accompanied the previous reissues. As for the albums themselves, each is
represented in mini cardboard sleeves that reproduce the original art and liner
notes. Those that went to the trouble of purchasing the individual albums when
they were previously reissued with added bonus tracks are best advised not to
splurge for the box, because while the add-ons are retained, no new ones were
added. Which of course is fine; no one wants to have to repurchase an entire
catalogue for the sake of a few added incidentals. Likewise, neither Pre-Flyte, the band’s 1973 reunion album
or any of the posthumous live recordings or rarities compilations are included
as part of the package, suggesting that The
Complete Columbia Albums Collection
is in fact all it promises and nothing


Still, as is, this eleven album compendium – thirteen if the
extra discs accorded Untitled and Sweetheart of the Rodeo are counted – is
a remarkable document tracing the trajectory of this ever-evolving ensemble.
The original five-piece is represented early on (although famously on Mr. Tambourine Man the instrumentation
was largely the work of session men for hire), then there’s the four-piece once
Gene Clark bails, a three piece after Crosby’s kicked out, a four piece again
when Gram Parsons enters the picture, and eventually, an entirely new set of
recruits, save Roger McGuinn who carries the Byrds banner until the very end.
Indeed, every album bids exploring, with the extras accorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Turn Turn Turn, The Notorious Byrds Brothers, Easy
and Untitled being of
special note. For the novice, this is both a good beginning and an end. For the
diehard devotee yet to attain the majority of the individual albums, it’s an
archive well worth acquiring. Suffice it to say, one would be hard pressed to
come up with another box that’s anywhere near as essential.


of Freedom,” “Eight Miles High,” “My Back Pages,” “Wasn’t Born To Follow,”
“Hickory Wind” LEE ZIMMERMAN

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