Younger Than Yesterday

The Byrds

Columbia Records, 1967

REVIEW BY: Dan Smith


Recently I've become quite taken with the music of the Byrds, perhaps the seminal American '60s pop group. The last time the group graced these pages, I reviewed their sophomore effort, Turn! Turn! Turn!, a work that showed a great deal of energy and imagination but with the rough edges of a relatively new band. By their third album, Fifth Dimension, the Byrds had truly completed the circle and become a real folk-rock powerhouse, and with Younger Than Yesterday, the final "classic period" Byrds record, the group made perhaps their definitive statement.

Younger Than Yesterday is not perfect. But it's close. It features some of the Byrds' most lasting radio hits--both the original ("So You Want To Be a Rock 'N' Roll Star") and the cover (Dylan's "My Back Pages"). But it also includes some of their most avant-garde and interesting work.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The record kicks off with "Rock 'N' Roll Star", one of the group's most famous pieces, with Chris Hillman's bubbly bass line, Roger McGuinn's jangly guitar leads and a perfectly appropriate horn solo flying above tight three-piece harmonies (Hillman-McGuinn-David Crosby). The lyrics are a sardonic shot at the music industry. The star of Younger Than Yesterday is Chris Hillman. Hillman, for the first time, is an active songwriter on this album, and in fact provides the lion's share of the material. "Have You Seen Her Face" is the first of his songs, and is a happy, harmony-driven stereotypical '60s pop song (note that this doesn't make it bad, quite the opposite, actually)

Crosby contributes three pieces, all of which are introspective, relatively slow-paced works. "Everybody's Been Burned" is a melancholy number that showcases Crosby's impressive voice, which rarely comes to the fore on Byrds records except in the three-part harmonies. "Mind Gardens" is a truly unique track. The lyrics have no rhyme or meter, they have a flowing, free-association intensity that is added to by backwards guitars and the almost Indian feel of the backing track. "Renaissance Fair" is the third, and is a dreamy track about Crosby's experiences at a renaissance festival (which I suppose weren't as cliched in 1967 as they are in the 1990s). The bonus tracks on this reissue include some additional Crosby tracks--"Lady Friend" and the surprisingly good "It Happens Each Day", which apparently marks Crosby's first use of sea imagery in a song.

Hillman's other contributions include the country-tinged "Time Between" and a rocker called "Thoughts And Words" that powers along over Michael Clarke's ferocious drumming. McGuinn takes center stage on the fun space-rocker "CTA-102" (the second half of this song, unfortunately, has to rank up there with the great "What were they thinking?" moments of rock music) and an excellent cover of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", which is easily the group's best Dylan interpretation and must rank as one of the Byrds' great achievements.

The verdict: Get the Greatest Hits album first. Then it's a toss-up between this and Fifth Dimension.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 Dan Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia Records, and is used for informational purposes only.