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Microscope: Mr. Tambourine Man (The Byrds)

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A Microscope of the Byrds' debut album: Mr. Tambourine Man. Released in June 1965, I think that this was the first truly excellent rock album of the 1960's, even more than A Hard Day's Night and The Beach Boys Today!. Still, I don't think this record was the best Byrds' album (in my opinion that title corresponds to Younger Than Yesterday), but it's surely their most revolutionary work, marking the beginning of Folk Rock. Moreover, this was the major influence for Rubber Soul, my very favorite Beatles' album. The Fab Four were taking a favor back, since Roger McGuinn adopted the 12-string guitar after listening to A Hard Day's Night. Even though more than half of the songs are covers (mostly written by Bob Dylan) the fresh sound of the record is what really matters; even the distorted album cover announced the shape of things to come...

Mr. Tambourine Man. Perhaps the most famous cover of a Dylan's song along with Hendrix's version of "All Along The Watchtower". The intro featuring McGuinn's jangly 12-string guitar could be considered as the birth of Folk Rock. The rest of the instruments on this song were played by session musicians (don't know who was the tambourine man), but this was just one of the two exceptions in the album. McGuinn took the lead vocals here doing a great job, and the harmonies during the chorus sound great. The song ends with a nice fade out endlessly repeating the guitar intro. This version is much shorter than Dylan's original, but it's a complete classic that reached #1 in both US and UK.

I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better. A pretty well known song, written and sung by Gene Clark, the byrd that couldn't fly (on airplane), so a year later was fired from the band. But at this point Clark was by far the best songwriter of the group, as it can be seen in this beatlesque tune. Once again the song starts with a jangly 12-string guitar intro, a fingerprint that is repeated on the whole album. The backing vocals are superb (God bless David Crosby), the instrumental middle is very good and the tambourine really justifies its presence. The anti-love theme of the song was also quite rare at the time (but see also the first singles by the Zombies), and this seemed to be an influence on later Bealtes' songs like "You Won't See Me" and "I'm Looking Through You".

Spanish Harlem Incident. Another Dylan's song, with some of the same condiments of the previous tracks. Bass by Chris Hillman and drums by Mike Clarke make a very solid rhythm section. Good song.

You Won't Have To Cry. Co-written by Clark and McGuinn. A fine, quite upbeat song, but not one of the highest points in the album.

Here Without You. And now Clark is talking again. A calm but still capturing melody, with an interesting middle and beautiful harmonies. Great song.

The Bells Of Rhymney. This time a cover of a Pete Seeger's song. This is certainly one of the best songs here, and as George Harrison admitted, it was the main influence for "If I Needed Someone", especially the guitar intro and the fantastic 'Aaahhh' harmonies.

All I Really Want To Do. A Dylan's song again. This is a very good version, with another fine performance and featuring an intricate tambourine almost as a lead instrument (!).

I Knew I'd Want You. Another great Clark's song and a personal favorite. A wonderful ballad. This is the other song where session musicians play instruments, but the vocals are so inspiring that it doesn't matter at all. I can smell an influence on "Norwegian Wood", but probably John had already written the song when the album was released.

It's No Use. The most rocker song of the album and another favorite of mine. Another Clark-McGuinn collaboration. The marvelous circular riff makes the song. The album needed a song like this; it has the same function as "Drive My Car" in Rubber Soul.

Don't Doubt Yourself, Babe. A nice cover. I especially like Hillman's bass lines and the strange guitar sounds toward the end of the song. Not much more to say about this track.

Chimes Of Freedom. Yet another professional cover of a Dylan's tune. A very pleasant song and great harmonies as usual.

We'll Meet Again. An old optimistic song of the Second World War era. Maybe the weakest song of the album, but the lyrics theme works quite well as a closer.

So here it is a key record of the 1960's. Surely better albums came later, but its impact on rock music is immeasurable.

Great review Hombre. I dont have it, but after reading your input I think i'll go ahead and order it tonight.

I'll have a look for it :)

Hello Goodbye:
I bought this LP the same time I bought Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home in 1965.  Bob Dylan's album was released prior to The Byrd's Mr. Tambourine Man.

"Folk Rock" was a term just starting to be used.  But Bob Dylan's electric side of Bringing It All Back Home wasn't true folk rock.  Subterranean Homesick Blues came closest but Bob Dylan more fully developed his own style of folk rock with Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde.

Yes, you can call this album the first folk rock album.  I enjoyed it when I first bought it and that has not changed over the years.

Hello Goodbye:
Bob Dylan - Mr. Tambourine Man
There's electric guitar accompaniment here providing a countermelody to the Bob Dylan's vocals, but this wasn't the song which produced the uproar in the folk community.

The Byrds - Mr Tambourine Man (Remastered)

That Rickenbacker 360/12 sounds so sweet!


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