I think I was aware of The Byrds in the sixties from hearing singles on the radio, such as their cover of Dylan’s ‘Tambourine Man’. I have approached the band from a less orthodox route, having heard some of the recordings of the late Gene Clark such as his albums ‘White Light’ and ‘No Other’. I absolutely adore the song writing and the aural space in the recordings. More recently I picked up the second volume of The Byrds Original Album Classics 1968-71. Gene Clark had left the band in early 1966, before ‘Fifth Dimension was released but he does get a songwriting credit for ‘Eight Miles High’. This may be the only track he was featured on, if at all, as the original recording of the song was rejected by CBS as it was recorded at a studio belonging to an alternative record company, RCA (Wikipedia).
I chanced upon my copy of this album a couple of days ago when I shunned the £5 asking price in favour of a couple of cheaper albums from the 70s, ‘Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry’ plus ‘The Baker Gurvitz Army’; when I got home I was able to check and discovered that I not only loved the album when I listened to it on Spotify, but a check on Discogs confirmed that the LP was a UK first pressing! Luckily, the album was still waiting for me today!
It’s reckoned to be one of the first exhibiting a psychedelic sound, certainly ‘Eight Miles High’ fits that description. I’ve read that McGuinn (Jim, later Roger) had wanted to solo like John Coltrane. I was also fascinated with their version of Hey Joe, almost pre-punk in it’s speed fuelled approach in places. The closing track on side 2, ‘2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)’ is innovative in it’s use of sound samples.
There’s no doubting that this album has that old ’60s sound, but it’s also immensely enjoyable. I love McGuinn’s jangly Rickenbacker and the vocals are very good, probably David Crosby imposing himself!