[Review] Roger McGuinn (1973)

The lead Byrd tries a little of everything on his first solo flight, but it’s not clear where he’s headed.

Kronomyth 1.0: Free as a Byrd.

Roger McGuinn’s first album is all over the map: blues, jazz, country, folk, rock, and one song performed on the banjo and Moog synthesizer (“Time Cube,” in case you’re curious). The guest list is an impressive one that includes all of the original Byrds, Bob Dylan and Bruce Johnston. And yet, somehow, Roger McGuinn was roundly ignored by fans and FM radio stations alike. It’s too bad, since the album deserves an audience [at least Brian Eno seems to have picked up a copy, to judge by the cover of Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)].

The Byrds’ albums were often eclectic affairs, and McGuinn returns to the same haunts on his own: Dylan-inspired folk rock (“I’m So Restless”), airy/jazzy David Crosby songs (“My New Woman”), songs about planes (“Draggin’) and authentic folk songs (“Heave Away”). McGuinn also steals a page from the Byrds-inspired Eagles (“Lost My Drivin’ Wheel”) and prefigures the island feel of “Don’t You Write Her Off” on “M’Linda.”

Where the main Byrdman fails on his first album is in creating a clear persona. He takes pains not to try the same trick twice, and the album’s scattershot approach is its undoing. It’s an interesting record, often engaging, but I couldn’t tell you where the man’s loyalties lie after hearing this album: folk, jazz, pop, rock. This can be filed under “too smart for its own good” if you care, with a caveat that it’s too smart to ignore.

Original LP Version

A1. I’m So Restless (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:05)
A2. My New Woman (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:10)
A3. Lost My Drivin’ Wheel (David Wiffen) (3:27)
A4. Draggin’ (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:36)
A5. Time Cube (Roger McGuinn/R.J. Hippard) (3:15)
B1. Bag Full of Money (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:19)
B2. Hanoi Hannah (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (2:50)
B3. Stone (Spooner Oldham/Dan Penn) (2:59)
B4. Heave Away (Traditional, arr. by Roger McGuinn) (3:03)
B5. M’Linda (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (2:42)
B6. The Water Is Wide (Traditional, arr. by Roger McGuinn) (3:06)

The Players

Roger McGuinn (vocals, guitar, moog, banjo, harmonica) with Hal Blaine (percussion on B5, tambourine on B6), Gene Clark (vocals on A2), Michael Clarke (drums on A2), Jerry Cole (guitar on A3), David Crosby (guitars & vocals on A2, harmony on B1/B6), Bob Dylan (harmonica on A1), Buddy Emmons (steele on B1/B6), Chris Ethridge (bass on A4), Jim Gordon (drums on A3), John Guerin (drums on A4/B1/B3/B6), Chris Hillman (bass on A2), The Jimmy Joyce Chidren’s Chorus (vocals on B3), Bruce Johnston (ooos & piano on A4/B1/B6), Charles Lloyd (sax on A2/A4), Spanky McFarlane (vocal on B4), Mercedes Benz (landing on A4), Spooner Oldham (organ & piano on B3), Leland Sklar (bass on A3), David Vaught (bass on B1/B4/B5/B6). Produced by Roger McGuinn; engineered by Raghu & John Fiore; mixed by Raghu.

The Pictures

Photography by Bob Jenkins. Art direction by Ron Coro.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in June 1973 in the US (Columbia, C 31946) and the UK (CBS, S 65274) with lyrics innersleeve.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Columbia, KC 39146) with innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in 1988 in the UK (Edsel, ED/ED CD 281).
  3. Re-packaged with Peace On You, Roger McGuinn & Band, Cardiff Rose and Thunderbyrd on 5CD box set on September 5, 2016 (Sony).

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