ARTIST: The Byrds
TITLE: Mr. Tambourine Man
YEAR RELEASED: 1965
CHART ACTION: #6 US, #7 UK
SINGLES: Mr. Tambourine Man (#1 US, #1 UK), All I Really Want to Do (#40 US, #4 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better, The Bells of Rhymney, Chimes of Freedom
LINEUP: Jim McGuinn, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke. The Wrecking Crew played on the title cut and the B-side.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Folk-rock comes alive, and 12-string Rickenbacker’s sell like hotcakes!
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Some records are touchstones for their time and era. This is one of them, and it’s not hype.
From the first notes of “Mr. Tambourine Man” to the reading of “We’ll Meet Again”, the Byrds ignited Dylan’s rock and roll sparks and provided an impetus for folk singers to get find electric instruments. The covers (mostly Dylan, but their reading of Pete Seeger’s “The Bells of Rhymney” warrants a mention) are fantastic and not just ‘straight’ copies of the originals. Dylan wasn’t a very harmonious singer (understatement) so hearing great 3-and-4 part harmonies on his songs is fantastic.
The revelations are the originals by Gene Clark. Even if he had written just one song, “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” gets him into the pantheon of songwriters. His other contributions on this album were mostly solid as well.
There are a couple of cuts that aren’t as top notch as the rest, and I really don’t dig the ending, so I can’t give it an A+. (You can hear Hillman flub a bass part, I think, on “Spanish Harlem Incident” – maybe it was intentional? Anyway, that’s kind of charming in its own right.) Even today, it’s a sparkling album of folk-rock. I can’t imagine listening to it in 1965 after hearing just the title cut on the radio.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: George Harrison heard “The Bells of Rhymney”, and wrote “If I Needed Someone” based on McGuinn’s 12-string riff.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, some good B-sides and alternate cuts..
GRADE: A-: It’s definitely worth having in any collection just for the harmonies and arrangements alone.