I had the hardest time finding Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde through blogspots a year ago when I was first getting into the Byrds and decided that I needed my hands on absolutely everything they’ve ever released, but based on its negative reputation and its Godawful cover (it looks like the cowboys are riding their own faces?!?!), I wasn’t too sussed. Only Robert Christgau seems to have worked up any sort of defense for the album, and I think even then, he would admit that there’s a dramatic drop in quality from their preceding albums; “No matter how tightly a Byrd song is produced, its beat, its phrased guitars, and its uncitified harmonies all imply an insurrectionary human energy that transcends technics” is a beautiful sentence that should have been reserved for Mr. Tambourine Man or 5th Dimension. Luckily, they remastered and reissued this this year and I found it with no problem.
One problem: shit sucks. Sure, new member Gene Parsons might be the best drummer the Byrds have had at this point, but he can’t carry dead weight. Besides that, the handclapping of “Old Blue,” the riff of “King Apathy III” and the Hendrixian-“Hey Joe”-esque backing vocals of “Bad Night at the Whiskey” and the choruses of “Baby What You Want Me to Do” are praise-worthy; only those parts of those songs though, and nothing else. Elsewhere, obligatory Bob Dylan cover, “This Wheel’s on Fire,” impressively manages to be loud and yawn-inducing at the same time (and if the last thirty seconds of synthesizers is indicative of the proto-electronic music that Roger McGuinn wanted to make for Sweetheart of the Rodeo, then thank God for Parsons). Obligatory Bob Dylan cover #2, “My Back Pages,” was already available on Younger Than Yesterday (where it wasn’t even one of their best Dylan covers in the first place). “Child of the Universe” and “Candy” have rib-nudging singing that would have been justified had they come with melodies while Gram Parsons forgot to take “Nashville West” with him for good reason. And the band dare to finish the album with thirty seconds of high-fiving and congratulatory masturbation.