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Roger (formerly known as Jim) McGuinn is one of the most original and influential American rock performers. Although his seminal '60's band the Byrds were regarded as the "American Beatles" by some, the band had its own individual sound, distinguished by McGuinn's celebrated 12-string Rickenbacker guitar playing. McGuinn also developed his own distinctive vocal style, intended as a middle ground between Bob Dylan and John Lennon. As a Byrd or as a solo artist, McGuinn has arguably never recorded a bad album. He has perhaps participated in some mediocre ones; who hasn't over the course of a 45-year career? But a bad McGuinn album doesn't exist. Every one of his works bears his personal stamp, which still sounds original despite his many imitators. After the breakup of the Byrds in 1973, McGuinn recorded five solo albums in as many years, and those albums have aged better than many other '70's recordings. The first two were reissued on the Sundazed label in January 2004, and the next two were reissued the following October. Thunderbyrd is still out of print in the U.S., but is available as an import from Germany.

McGuinn's self-titled solo debut was released in 1973, the same year as the ill-fated reunion album by the five original Byrds. "My New Woman" was apparently recorded during the same sessions, since the Byrds are audibly present on this track. For the most part, the album continues in the same country and folk-rock vein as the latter-day Byrds albums. It opens with the Dylanesque "I'm So Restless", and mainly consists of similar singer-songwriter type songs, along with a couple of traditional folk songs ("The Water Is Wide", the Celtic "Heave Away"). The songs on Side One have a bit of an edge, while Side Two is full of prettier songs. The best song is "Draggin'", a vintage road song. All in all, a good solo debut.

Track Listing:

1. I'm So Restless -- (McGuinn/Levy)
2. My New Woman -- (McGuinn/Levy)
3. Lost My Drivin' Wheel -- (Whiffen)
4. Draggin' -- (McGuinn/Levy)
5. Time Cube -- (McGuinn/Hippard)
6. Bag Full Of Money -- (McGuinn/Levy)
7. Hannoi Hannah -- (McGuinn/Levy)
8. Stone -- (Oldham/Penn)
9. Heave Away -- (Trad. Arr. by McGuinn)
10. M'Linda -- (McGuinn/Levy)
11. The Water Is Wide -- (Trad. Arr. by McGuinn)

Peace On You basically follows the same path with more studio polish. There are songwriting contributions here by Al Kooper and Dan Fogelberg, who also make instrumental appearances on their tracks. But the album's best songs were written or co-written by McGuinn. On "Same Old Sound", he bemoans the fact that people want him to keep playing Byrds songs, and plays a few familiar notes to underline his point. "Gate Of Horn" is a fond reminiscence of the old tavern in Chicago, interspersed with an Irish jig. The sarcastic title track (written by Charlie Rich) pokes fun at the then-fading flower-power generation. Peace On You was released on CD in January 2004 by Sundazed.

Track Listing:

1. Peace On You -- (Charlie Rich)
2. Without You -- (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy)
3. Going To The Country -- (Donnie Dacus)
4. (Please Not) One More Time -- (Al Kooper)
5. Same Old Sound -- (McGuinn)
6. Do What You Want To -- (Donnie Dacus)
7. Together -- (McGuinn/Levy)
8. Better Change -- (Dan Fogelberg)
9. Gate Of Horn -- (McGuinn/Levy)
10. The Lady -- (McGuinn/Levy)

Roger McGuinn & Band runs for barely half an hour. McGuinn left most of the writing to the titular four-piece backing band, whose members (Steve Love, Richard Bowden, Greg Attaway, and David Lovelace) had previously been members of a band called Cold Steel, a short-lived offshoot of the Flying Burrito Brothers. This crew mainly offers simple but appealing mainstream rock. The only new McGuinn compositions are "Easy Does It" and the uncharacteristic reggae song "Lisa". Otherwise, there are new versions of two Byrds songs ("Lover Of The Bayou" and "Born To Rock And Roll") and Bob Dylan's much-covered "Knockin' On Heaven's Door". Roger McGuinn & Band is a minor effort to be sure, but it's easy to like.

Track Listing:

1. Somebody Loves You -- (Love/Kemp)
2. Knockin' On Heaven's Door -- (Dylan)
3. Bull Dog -- (Bowden)
4. Painted Lady -- (Attaway/Lovelace)
5. Lover Of The Bayou -- (McGuinn/Levy)
6. Lisa -- (McGuinn)
7. Circle Song -- (Lovelace)
8. So Long -- (Bowden)
9. Easy Does It -- (McGuinn)
10. Born To Rock And Roll -- (McGuinn)

1976's Cardiff Rose was the best of McGuinn's '70's solo albums. On this album, he was aided by several musicians who had been featured in Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour of 1975. Produced by the late Mick Ronson, who usually had a tendency to bring out the harder rocking side of the people he worked with, Cardiff Rose has a harder edge than any other McGuinn album. In a blind taste test, you might not even recognize McGuinn's singing or playing on the raunchy-sounding "Rock And Roll Time", written by McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson, and Bob Neuwirth. He excels on the neo-Celtic pirate song "Jolly Roger" (is that self-referential?) and on Dylan's "Up To Me". "Pretty Polly" is a traditional folk song that McGuinn originally recorded with the Byrds for the Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album. Cardiff Rose is a strong album all around.

Track Listing:

1. Take Me Away -- (McGuinn/Levy)
2. Jolly Roger -- (McGuinn/Levy)
3. Rock And Roll Time -- (McGuinn/Kristofferson/Neuwirth)
4. Friend -- (McGuinn)
5. Partners In Crime -- (McGuinn/Levy)
6. Up To Me -- (Dylan)
7. Round Table -- (McGuinn/Levy)
8. Pretty Polly -- (Arr. by McGuinn)
9. Dreamland -- (Joni Mitchell)

1977's Thunderbyrd, McGuinn's last solo album until 1991's Back From Rio, is very different from Cardiff Rose and almost as good. At first, it sounds like a fairly typical late-'70's pop-rock album when you hear "It's Gone" and Peter Frampton's "All Night Long". But as the album goes along, it tends toward an urban style of country rock that McGuinn pulls off well. A special treat for rock trivia buffs is McGuinn's rendition of Tom Petty's "American Girl", a classic example of a musical pioneer paying homage to a well-known disciple. Thunderbyrd is a fine album that improves with repeat listenings.

Track Listing:

1. All Night Long -- (Frampton/Gallagher)
2. It's Gone -- (McGuinn/Levy)
3. Dixie Highway -- (McGuinn/Levy)
4. American Girl -- (Petty)
5. We Can Do It All Over Again -- (Williams/Goldberg)
6. Why Baby Why -- (Jones/Edwards)
7. I'm Not Lonely Anymore -- (McGuinn/Levy)
8. Golden Loom -- (Dylan)
9. Russian Hill -- (McGuinn/Levy)

In 1989, the Australian alt-pop band Crowded House released an extended-play CD single for the song "I Feel Possessed", from their 1988 album Temple Of Low Men. The CD's three "B-sides" were three Byrds songs performed live on April 7, 1989 in L.A. by Byrdhouse, which was Roger McGuinn backed by Crowded House (get it?). McGuinn is in good form here, and the songs are well-performed, making this EP a nice little curio for fans of the Byrds and/or Crowded House. Note: In Germany, those same songs were the B-side tracks for Crowded House's 1991 single "Weather With You", which was a better A-side.

Track Listing:

1. I Feel Possessed
2. Mr. Tambourine Man
3. Eight Miles High
4. So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star

After McGuinn scored a comeback in 1991 with the Back To Rio album, Columbia tried to cash in by releasing Born To Rock And Roll, an excellent compilation of songs from his five '70's albums. Although the Thunderbyrd album is not well represented, most of the essential songs from these albums are included here, and it may be all that the casual fan will need. It is still out of print, however.

Track Listing:

1. I'm So Restless
2. My New Woman
3. Draggin'
4. The Water Is Wide
5. Same Old Sound
6. Bag Full Of Money
7. Gate Of Horn
8. Peace On You
9. Lover Of The Bayou
10. Stone
11. Lisa
12. Take Me Away
13. Jolly Roger
14. Friend
15. Dreamland
16. Dixie Highway
17. American Girl
18. Up To Me
19. Russian Hill
20. Born To Rock And Roll

McGuinn's 1996 CD Live From Mars features the Byrds vet in a
VH1 Storytellers type mode, telling stories about his early musical development from age 14 to the Byrds' early days, and playing the appropriate songs as he goes along. McGuinn performs by himself, and is entertaining as he illuminates his past and the formation of the Byrds' folk-with-a-Beatles-beat sound. The musical high points are "Turn! Turn! Turn!", "Eight Miles High", and "Daddy Roll 'Em" (a song he learned in his youth). As icing on the cake, the album ends with two studio bonus tracks, in which McGuinn is backed by members of the Jayhawks. These two songs have a Back From Rio feel. Live From Mars is a great item for McGuinn's fans, and if you've read this far, that's probably you.

Track Listing:

1. Heartbreak Hotel intro
2. Heartbreak Hotel
3. Daddy Roll 'Em intro
4. Daddy Roll 'Em
5. Gate Of Horn intro
6. Gate Of Horn
7. Chestnut Mare intro
8. Chestnut Mare
9. Bells Of Rhymney intro
10. Bells Of Rhymney
11. Turn! Turn! Turn!
12. Beach Ball intro
13. Beach Ball
14. Wild Mountain Thyme intro
15. Wild Mountain Thyme
16. You Showed Me intro
17. You Showed Me
18. Mr. Tambourine Man (acoustic) intro
19. Mr. Tambourine Man (acoustic)
20. Mr. Tambourine Man (electric) intro
21. Mr. Tambourine Man (electric)
22. Mr. Spaceman intro
23. Mr. Spaceman
24. Eight Miles High intro
25. Eight Miles High
26. So You Want To Be A Rock 'n Roll Star
27. King Of The Hill
28. May The Road Rise

Bonus Studio Tracks:

29. Fireworks
30. May The Road Rise

See also Byrds