[Review] Roger McGuinn: Cardiff Rose (1976)

The Rolling Thunder Revue spills into the studio for a new Roger McGuinn album.

Kronomyth 4.0: Hard rain on the high seas.

If you think Bob Dylan is a genius, well, Roger McGuinn thinks so too. How else to explain the desire to keep the mystery man’s show rolling with this studio album? Produced by Mick Ronson, Cardiff Rose is the Rolling Thunder Revue Part Deux, with David Mansfield, Rob Stoner and Howard Wyeth all on board, plus lyricist Jacques Levy again heavily engaged.

It’s not a bad thing to be the Bard’s little brother, of course. The opening “Take Me Away,” which recounts the Rolling Thunder road shows with Dylan, reveals a re-energized Roger McGuinn. What follows are poetic sea chanties (“Jolly Roger”), Desire-era Dylan (“Friend”), a narsty Ian Hunter impersonation (“Rock And Roll Time”) and a loopy ode to Abbie Hoffman (“Partners In Crime”). It closes on a Joni Mitchell original, “Dreamland,” that sounds like her experimental heiness filtered through the Dead. (Mitchell later covered the track on Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter.)

Not everything on Cardiff Rose is gold. The Dylan original, “Up To Me,” is essentially “Shelter From The Storm” in its Rolling Thunder rendition with new lyrics, and the two tracks that follow (“Round Table,” “Pretty Polly”) might have been better given that there are only 9 tracks on here. Yet, song for song, this is a strong effort with nice production from Ronson.

McGuinn is still a prickly character to pin down on Cardiff Rose. Is he a rocker, a folk historian, a Dylan disciple or a Byrd in restless flight? You won’t find the answer here, but you will find a lot of good music. The expanded CD reissues include a live version of “Dreamland” and a cover of the old Ziggy nugget, “Soul Love” (very cool).

Original LP Version

A1. Take Me Away (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:00)
A2. Jolly Roger (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:56)
A3. Rock And Roll Time (Roger McGuinn/Kris Kristofferson/Bob Neuwirth) (2:46)
A4. Friend (Roger McGuinn) (2:07)
A5. Partners In Crime (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:52)
B1. Up To Me (Bob Dylan) (5:36)
B2. Round Table (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:05)
B3. Pretty Polly (arranged & adapted by Roger McGuinn) (3:17)
B4. Dreamland (Joni Mitchell) (5:20)

CD reissue bonus tracks
10. Soul Love (demo)
11. Dreamland (live)

Original 8-track version
A1. Take Me Away
A2. Rock and Roll Time
A3. Pretty Polly
B1. Partners in Crime
B2. Round Table
C1. Up to Me
C2. Jolly Roger (part 1)
D1. Jolly Roger (conclusion)
D2. Friend
D3. Dreamland

The Players

Roger McGuinn (acoustic & electric guitars, vocals), David Mansfield (acoustic & electric guitars, steel guitar, mandolin, violin, banjo, organ, percussion), Mick Ronson (acoustic & electric guitars, recorder, accordion, piano, organ, autoharp, percussion, vocals), Rob Stoner (bass, percussion, vocals), Howard Wyeth (drums, percussion) with Kim Hitchcroft (saxophone), Timothy Schmit (vocals). Produced by Mick Ronson.

The Pictures

Art direction by Ron Coro. Design by John Kehe. Photography by Ethan Russell.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in May 1976* in the US (Columbia, PC/PCA 34154), the UK and the Netherlands (CBS, S 81369) and Australia and New Zealand (CBS, SBP 234850) with lyrics innersleeve. (*First appeared in 5/22/76 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the US (Columbia, 34154-2).
  2. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2002 (Song, 510582).
  3. Re-issued on expanded compact disc on October 19, 2004 in the US (Sundazed, SC-6204) with 2 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-packaged with Roger McGuinn & Band on 2-for-1 compact disc in 2007 in the UK (Beat Goes On, BGOCD-774).
  5. Re-issued on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2007 in Japan (Sony, SICP-1546) with 2 bonus tracks.

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