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The Byrds - Live At The Fillmore February 1969 album review

Patchy set from the cosmic cowboy years

Cover art for The Byrds - Live At The Fillmore February 1969 album

The original Byrds had scattered to the winds by early ’69. Gene Clark busied himself with bluegrass maestro Doug Dillard, David Crosby was immersed in sessions for the first CSN album, and Chris Hillman had formed The Flying Burrito Brothers with another ex-Byrd, Gram Parsons. All of which left Roger McGuinn firmly in charge, heading up a line-up whose best feature was hotshot guitarist Clarence White.

Cut over two nights at San Francisco’s Fillmore West, the four-piece (with new rhythm section John York and Gene Parsons – no relation to Gram) still sound like a band in transition, their timing a little ragged and McGuinn’s vocals lacking punch.

They aren’t helped by either the slightly muddy sound quality – Fillmore owner Bill Graham using The Byrds as guinea pigs for a projected live recording by Mike Bloomfield – or a set list centred on fitful new album Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde. That said, there’s a brilliantly woolly version of So You Want To Be A Rock‘N’Roll Star, while White excels on the likes of Nashville West and Time Between.

Caught at the crossroads of country and psychedelia, the live Byrds experience is much better served on the first two sides of 1970’s double LP (Untitled).