[Review] The Byrds’ Greatest Hits (1967)

A career compilation of the Crosby-era Byrds, which few would argue was the classic incarnation of the band.

Kronomyth 5.0: Four byrds a-calling.

In 1967, The Byrds were flying high. Two years later, they were struggling to stay aloft, but that’s a subject for another day. The Byrds’ Greatest Hits is a cash-in compilation from Columbia that features the most popular songs from their first four albums. You’ll find Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!” here, as well as Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Seeger’s “The Bells of Rhymney,” and Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” “All I Really Want To Do” and “My Back Pages.” Maybe they should have called this Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger’s Greatest Hits.

I would tell you that the whole psychedelic folk thing backfired on The Byrds, but what do I know? Not nearly as much as the critics who championed the band’s work as timeless, only to turn their backs on them two years later. (In fairness, many critics continued to warmly receive their new works even amid cooling commercial interest.)

What I always liked best about The Byrds was their individuality. There were those catchy Gene Clark songs, something strange and beautifully elusive from David Crosby and a weird, tuneful trip or two from Jim McGuinn, with Chris Hillman’s country contributions coming a little later. The psychedelic folk covers of Dylan and Seeger were initially electrifying, but quickly acquired a novelty factor while selling the band’s own songwriting skills short.

History will, of course, remember “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” It will not, however, remember “All I Really Want To Do” or “Mr. Spaceman,” and it shouldn’t, especially when there are so many album tracks that better bespeak the band: “I See You,” “I Come And Stand At Every Door” and I can think of a dozen more.

Read more Byrds reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan) (2:17)
A2. I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better (Gene Clark) (2:31)
A3. The Bells of Rhymney (Idris Davies/Pete Seeger) (3:31)
A4. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season) (words from Book of Ecclesiastes, adaptation and music by Pete Seeger) (3:35)
A5. All I Really Want To Do (Bob Dylan) (2:02)
A6. Chimes of Freedom (Bob Dylan) (3:52)
B1. Eight Miles High (Gene Clark/Jim McGuinn/David Crosby) (3:36)
B2. Mr. Spaceman (Jim McGuinn) (2:09)
B3. 5 D (Fifth Dimension) (Jim McGuinn) (2:33)
B4. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star (Jim McGuinn/Chris Hillman) (2:03)
B5. My Back Pages (Bob Dylan) (3:05)

CD reissue bonus tracks
12. It Won’t Be Wrong (1:58)
13. Set You Free This Time (2:49)
14. Have You Seen Her Face (2:40)

Original 8-track version

A1. Mr. Tambourine Man
A2. The Bells of Rhymney
A3. So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star
B1. Turn! Turn! Turn (To Everything There Is A Season)
B2. Mr. Spaceman
B3. All I Really Want To Do
C1. Eight Miles High
C2. I’ll Feel A hole Lot Better
C3. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (part 1)
D1. 5D (Fifth Dimension) (conclusion)
D2. My Back Pages
D3. Chimes of Freedom

The Pictures

Cover photo by Barry Feinstein.

The Plastic

Released on mono, stereo elpee and 8-track on August 7, 1967 in the US (Columbia, CL 2716/CS 9516/18 10 0268); reached #6 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record).

  1. Re-issued on cassette and 8-track in the US (Columbia, PCT 0268/PCA 268).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Columbia, PC 9516).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (Columbia, CK 9516).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc on June 21, 1995 in Japan (Sony, SRCS 6473).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc and super audio compact disc in 1999 in the US (Columbia Legacy, CK/CS 66230) with 3 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2012 (Friday Music).

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