BYRDWATCHER: A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles



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FARTHER ALONG
(Columbia KC 31050; 1971)

Track Listing

Credits:
Released November 17, 1971. Produced by The Byrds. Engineered by Mike Ross. Recorded in London, August 1971. Cover photos: Ed Caraeff. Cover design: Virginia Team.

Personnel:
The Byrds v. 6.1
Roger McGuinn: vocals, guitar
Clarence White: vocals, guitar, mandolin
Skip Battin: vocals, bass, piano
Gene Parsons: vocals, drums, rhythm guitar, harmonica, steel guitar, 5-string banjo

Except:
On "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"
Substitute John Guerin on drums?

Singles from album sessions:
"America's Great National
Pastime" / "Farther Along"
Columbia 45514
Released November 29, 1971


"Farther Along"
When Clarence White died in July of 1973, killed by a drunk driver, he had a Catholic funeral service. After the priest performed the burial rites, Bernie Leadon and Gram Parsons began to sing "Farther Along." Soon many of the mourners joined in on the country gospel standard both the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers had recorded. Clarence White's standout track on the last Byrds album became his own epitaph.



The Byrds realized that Byrdmaniax was a deeply flawed work. They fired Terry Melcher as their producer and manager and resolved to produce their next record themselves. But while they recognized that Melcher's overproduction had been a mistake, they failed to grasp that the basic problem with that LP was the weakness of its content. Instead of the highly-polished junk of the previous album, on Farther Along, the band delivered stripped-down, straightforward junk.
If there were any doubt that the band's judgment was impaired, it was dispelled when "America's Great National Pastime" was chosen as the album's single. The most execrable Battin/Fowley track to date, it's another Americana novelty like "Citizen Kane," this time with a mock Vaudeville piano. The Kinks mined the music hall vein successfully for years, but in the clumsy hands of Battin and Fowley, the rinky-tink piano is reduced to an annoying gimmick. The same pair contribute "Precious Kate," a boring midtempo number. Battin also sings lead on "Lazy Waters." This is his least offensive Byrds song, partly because McGuinn sings backing vocals and partly because neither Battin nor Fowley wrote it. Again all the Battin songs are built on keyboard parts, with almost no Byrds sound whatsoever.
Of course, there's plenty of blame to go around. McGuinn's major contribution was to rehash the chords from "King Apathy III," trick them out with some fake Chuck Berry licks, and pass the result off as a new song, "Tiffany Queen." He also sings lead on the only song written by all four of the '70s Byrds, plus their minder Jimmi Seiter: the ballad "Antique Sandy," about Seiter's girlfriend. It's hard to understand how any five people, let alone these five, could write such a boring song. And the use of double-tracked vocals and too much echo shows that the Byrds could overproduce themselves just as well as Terry Melcher.
Gene Parsons gets yawns for "Get Down Your Line," another dull ballad like "Yesterday's Train," and a hail of rotten fruit for co-writing "B.B. Class Road" with Stuart "Dinky" Dawson, the band's roadie. Parsons gets the vocal, but it's so out-of-character that for years Byrds fans believed that roadie Dawson had been permitted to sing lead on this misbegotten barroom boogie. Skip Battin must have been relieved that none of his compositions would go down in history as Champion Byrd-Dog.
Clarence White isn't totally blameless -- he suggested covering the Fiestas' "So Fine," which, like the other '50s-style rockers on the album, is rendered quite unconvincingly. But the best moments on Farther Along belong to him. "Bristol Steam Convention Blues," another bluegrass instrumental like "Nashville West" and "Green Apple Quick Step," has a nice banjo part that redeems Parsons a bit. "Farther Along," with its perfect harmonies and great mandolin work, has a country gospel arrangement authentic enough to outflank Gram Parsons's slightly earlier version on the Flying Burrito Brothers' Burrito Deluxe (A&M, 1971). "Bugler," a midtempo number by Larry Murray with more fine mandolin playing, is the best song on the album, and by far the best vocal ever recorded by Clarence White during his time with the Byrds.
So the album contains a few gold nuggets hidden in a big panful of sand. Fans wondered what the heck the Byrds were thinking, to have released an album with so many weak tracks. They found out soon, when the first rumors broke about a reunion of the original Byrds.
The Farther Along sessions are bookended by two pairs of songs released on Earl Scruggs albums. The Byrds contributed two tracks, recorded in April of '71 for an album by the Earl Scruggs Revue called Earl Scruggs, His Family and Friends (Columbia, 1971) (a new version of "You Ain't Going Nowhere" and a cover of Doc Watson's "Nothin' To It"). Two more live tracks emerged years later on the soundtrack to a tribute to Scruggs, called Banjoman (Sire, 1977) ("Roll Over Beethoven" and "Mr. Tambourine Man"). According to the liner notes of the LP, the concert took place about six months before the death of Clarence White, to whom the album is dedicated. If so, that would place the tracks in January of '73, by which time Gene Parsons had been replaced by John Guerin. A month or so later the Columbia Byrds broke up, even as the originals were about to release their reunion album on Asylum. At the same time, McGuinn, Gene Parsons, White and Battin all had solo projects in the works.
In retrospect, it seems likely that all the Byrds (except maybe White) were saving songs for other projects -- two other projects in McGuinn's case. So while McGuinn was distracted by and busy with the reunion project, the others were insecure about it. These tensions (among others) had brought the band close to the breaking point by the time Farther Along was recorded. Given all these obstacles, we should perhaps be thankful that the album has a few nice moments. Fans of the band who were disappointed in the Byrds' swansong consoled themselves with the thought that the original Byrds would have an album out soon.


To Byrds...


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Tracks from album sessions:
Original album tracks:
"Tiffany Queen":
Roger McGuinn
Rec. date: August 1971

"Get Down Your Line":
Gene Parsons
Rec. date: August 1971

"Farther Along":
Traditional, arranged
by Clarence White
Rec. date: August 1971

"B.B. Class Road":
Gene Parsons & Stuart Dawson
Rec. date: August 1971

"Bugler":
Larry Murray
Rec. date: August 1971

"America's Great
National Pastime":
Skip Battin & Kim Fowley
Rec. date: August 1971

"Antique Sandy":
Roger McGuinn, Skip Battin,
Gene Parsons, Clarence White,
and Jimmi Seiter
Rec. date: August 1971

"Precious Kate":
Kim Fowley & Skip Battin
Rec. date: August 1971

"So Fine":
Johnny Otis
Rec. date: August 1971

"Lazy Waters":
Bob Rafkin
Rec. date: August 1971

"Bristol Steam
Convention Blues":
Gene Parsons & Clarence White
Rec. date: August 1971

Other tracks from album sessions:
"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere":
Bob Dylan
Rec. date: April 1971
Appears on Earl Scruggs,
His Family & Friends


"Nothin' To It":
Doc Watson?
Rec. date: April 1971
Appears on Earl Scruggs,
His Family & Friends


"Roll Over Beethoven":
Chuck Berry
Rec. date: January 1973
Appears on Banjoman

"Mr. Tambourine Man":
Bob Dylan
Rec. date: January 1973
Appears on Banjoman


Unreleased tracks from album
and later sessions:

"Lost My Drivin' Wheel"
David Wiffen
Rec. date: January 12, 1972

"Born to Rock 'N Roll"
Roger McGuinn
Rec. date: April 18, 1972

"Bag Full of Money"
Roger McGuinn & Jacques Levy
Rec. date: June 1972

"Draggin'"
Roger McGuinn & Jacques Levy
Rec. date: June 1972

"I'm So Restless"
Roger McGuinn & Jacques Levy
Rec. date: June 1972

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Byrds Albums | Farther Along

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