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Roger McGuinn

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    Roger McGuinn

    Roger McGuinn 8 ( 1973 )
    I'm So Restless / My New Woman / Lost My Drivin Wheel / Draggin / Time Cube / Bag Full Of Money / Hanoi Hannah / Stone / Heave Away / M'Linda / The Water Is Wide

    Bob Dylan plays harmonica on 'I'm So Restless', Beach Boy Bruce Johnson joins McGuinn for the superb 'Draggin' and a team of top session-men contribute to various other tunes here. McGuinn needed to get his solo career off to a strong start and he did, although sticking the name 'Byrds' on it may have resulted in higher sales. Only peaking at a dissapointing 137 on billboard, Roger joined Gene Clark and Chris Hillman in a sales wilderness, post-byrds. Only David Crosby had commercial success, having the good fortune to find Stills, Nash and Young. Crosby could now look back on The Byrds as a troubled apprenticeship he had to go through in order to come out stronger. Almost a vindication of his own huge ego. The actual situation, the relative merits of each individual's solo projects, is a rather different matter than focusing purely on sales, though. There's a downside to this solo McGuinn effort, it doesn't sound consistent. There's no set mood, and whilst we may have hoped for a stirring chamleon effort with McGuinn dipping into futuristic experimental styles, this is very much a conservative singer/songwriter effort. It was the product of a variety of recording sessions and it sounds like it was, simple as that. Still, this is a fine batch of tunes all the same, side one slightly the stronger, yet side two grows on a listener too. It all works out alright in the end. 'My New Woman' appears to be the product of the same sessions that produced The Byrds reunion album. Annoyingly enough for fans of The Byrds, it's far better than any track that actually appeared on The Byrds 1973 album. A genuine Crosby/McGuinn collaboration, 'My New Woman' almost follows on from '5th Dimension', we've a jazzy feel and a stirring, exciting song-structure. Superb vocal harmonies, also. Speaking of superb harmonies, Beach Boy Bruce Johnson, then on a sabbatical from The Beach Boys, provides sunny backing during 'Draggin', a strong song that should have been a single.

    Roger returns to pure folk for the intriguing opener, 'I'm So Restless', 'Heave Away' sees the return of the 12 string rickenbacker sound and it's a delight to hear. Whilst 'Draggin' and 'My New Woman' were both excellent, they sound like they belong on a different record to the likes of 'I'm So Restless' and 'Heave Away', it's this lack of cohesion that perhaps put off buyers back in 1973. It may have just been the lack of promotion coupled with the glut of singer/songwriters that were around at the time. Elsewhere, 'Roger McGuinn' gives us a couple of country tunes and a couple of tunes bordering on light novelty, the worst offender clearly being 'M'Linda', the sound of Roger McGuinn transported to a Jamacian beach. Still, 'Stone' is a beauty, a soulful ballad with a soulful vocal to match. 'I wanted to hit them with both barrels, show them what I could do', McGuinn was quoted as saying concerning his solo debut LP. He certainly did that, and whilst perhaps we had and still have higher expectations from the main-man from the groundbeaking Byrds, 'Roger McGuinn' is a very fine record when listened to without pre-conceptions.

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    top of page Peace On You 7 ( 1974 )
    Peace On You / Without You / Going To The Country / One More Time / Same Old Sound / Do What You Want To Do / Together / Better Change / Gate Of Horn / Lady

    McGuinn surrounds himself with a plethora of big name musicians and gets Bill Halverson ( Crosby, Stills and Nash ) to produce. The huge success Crosby, Stills and Nash enjoyed wasn't to find its way towards McGuinn however and 'Peace Of You' soon faded from the musical radar. Remaining out of print for many years, 'Peace On You' was only reissued as recently as 2004. It's a pleasing album actually and I suspect, the apparent overproduction seen in 1974 sounds less overproduced now. In that sense alone, the album has stood the test of time. The musical backing tends towards country rock, with the emphasis on rock. It tends towards fairly safe middle ground with McGuinn's voice rather than his guitar playing center stage. Of course, we all constantly want to hear that jingle-jangle sound and McGuinn himself takes a swipe at us all and himself during 'Same Old Sound', even seeing fit to include a brief burst of twelve string to illustrate his point. The real departure from The Byrds peak period is the lack of creative tension, that pushing and pulling in different dirctions that would often thrust The Byrds forwards far beyond their capabilites, thus producing unrepeatable moments of magic. You know the ones. So, no moments of magic here and the highlights wouldn't be good enough to sit on any Byrds album bar the last couple. Yet, i've fallen into the same trap as everybody else, haven't I? Even McGuinn himself. If you take away something as strong as The Byrds and replace it merely with polished and professional production, something is clearly always going to either appear amiss or simply make us yearn for something more distinctive from the great man.

    The title track gets us off to a fine start, a clever anthemic tune right in line with the kind of songs McGuinn perhaps should have been singing. No jingle jangle, rather piano, thick bass and solid drums. It sounds better than a good half of 'Byrdmaniax' if we must make comparisons. 'Going To The Country' sees McGuinn flirt with the sound of The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles, the master following the disciples. Ignoring that, we can appreciate the song, the fine tasty playing and the rich production. 'Gate Of Horn' is one of the superior McGuinn penned compositions, although having to cornily announce the intro of the twelve string I could have done without. He features his classic sound by the way most prominently all across the closing tune 'Lady'. A simple tune lacking in pretension and it sounds fresh and comes across as being hugely enjoyable as a result. A simple matter of McGuinn trying to hard across the rest of the LP? Perhaps, perhaps. Anyway, overall 'Peace On You' is competent, solid, professional with no real clunkers yet no real highlights that would scream 'this is the hit', either.

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    top of page this page last updated 04/08/07

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