[Review] Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman Featuring Gene Clark: City (1980)

A lot of critics probably wrote them off after this album.

Kronomyth 7.0: Rhymes with city.

This is the second album from the reconstituted Byrds trio, diminished now to a duo because of Gene Clark’s instability (sound like any other trios you know?). Clark wrote and sang on only two tracks, then split to sort things out or solve mysteries with Daphne and the gang or something, leaving Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman on the hook with the Alberts to make another album.

While it lacks the standout pop singles of their last album, City does sound more like the work of The Byrds, just not their best work. “Let Me Down Easy,” “One More Chance” and the silly “Skate Date” aren’t bad at all. “Painted Fire” and “Who Taught The Night” are, in fact, pretty bad. The pair probably should have spread these records out a little farther, like CS&N regrouping every three to five years after they’d had a chance to stockpile better songs.

While a lot of City is filler, it’s no worse than Graham Nash‘s albums from the 80s. And the new decade found a lot of folk rockers floundering: Neil Young, Bob Dylan, etc. Most bands from the 60s and 70s have the 80s to thank for an album or two in the discount cut-out bin with their name on it. If you’re intent on owning everything by The Byrds and can defend these solo byrdflights the way most of us defend solo albums by the Fab Four, then you’ll find something of interest in City. McGuinn and Hillman have earned that kind of loyalty, and the clustering with Clark, however brief, will be too tantalizing to some, like the magic glyph of CS&N that has been invoked throughout the ages. There’s little magic on here, mostly mediocre and midtempo rock songs that shine in relation to pleasant memories you have of The Byrds, and not the reunion you bin looking for (every sentence, there is an imperfect ending).

Original elpee version

A1. Who Taught The Night (Chris Hillman/Peter Knobler) (3:13)
A2. One More Chance (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:10)
A3. Won’t Let You Down (Gene Clark) (3:54)
A4. Street Talk (Chris Hillman/Peter Knobler/John Sambataro) (2:45)
A5. City (Roger McGuinn/Camilla McGuinn) (4:38)
B1. Skate Date (Roger McGuinn/Chris Hillman/Camilla McGuinn) (3:02)
B2. Givin’ Herself Away (Tom Kimmel/Lynn Tobola) (3:48)
B3. Deeper In (Chris Hillman/Douglas L.A. Foxworthy) (2:42)
B4. Painted Fire (Gene Clark) (2:54)
B5. Let Me Down Easy (Chris Hillman/Peter Knobler) (3:58)

The Players

Chris Hillman (bass, lead vocals, background vocals), Roger McGuinn (6 & 12-string guitars, lead vocals, background vocals), Scott Kirkpatrick (drums, background vocals), John Sambataro (lead guitar, background vocals) with Gene Clark (lead vocals on A3/B4), Chuck Crane (guitar), Skip Edwards (keyboards & steel guitar). Produced by Ron Albert and Howard Albert; engineered by Don Gehman.

The Pictures

Art direction by Roy Kohara. Design by Phil Shima. Photography by Jim McCrary, Larry DuPont.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette in January 1980 in the US (Capitol, ST/4XT-12043), the UK (Capitol, E-ST 12043) and Australia (Capitol, ST/TC-ST-12043) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #136 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1996 in the US (One Way, S21-18503).

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