Thursday, November 11, 2004

Review - Roger McGuinn & Band and Cardiff Rose

Artist: Roger McGuinn

Posted on Thu, Nov 11, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Roger McGuinn & Band and Cardiff Rose
Label: Sundazed
Media: CD
Format: Album
WorkNameSort: Roger McGuinn & Band and Cardiff Rose

After the practical disintegration of The Byrds after 1968's Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Roger McGuinn carried the band's name on for five years of variable musical consequence. When he emerged as a full-fledged solo artist with his eponymous debut album, the set's diverse array of songs was encouraging. However, that album's two follow-ups – Peace on You (1974) and Roger McGuinn & Band (1975) – were decidedly disappointing, both to McGuinn (who hoped to achieve some sort of commercial viability by delegating his creative process to producers and sidemen, but didn't) and to longtime Byrds fans.

Roger McGuinn & Band was greeted by a collective sigh of indifference upon its release. Honestly, the album is less "bad" than it is unimaginative, something well-illustrated by the fact that its only real highlights are return visits to Byrds territory on "Lover of the Bayou" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." Apparently realizing the mistake, McGuinn would abandon the band concept (and the scheduled tour to promote the album) to join Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez and Mick Ronson on Dylan's "Rolling Thunder Revue" tour, a communal journey that found the various stars sharing bus space, hotels and stages across America.

Revitalized after the tour, McGuinn set about recording a new album with Ronson at the helm and emerged with Cardiff Rose (1976), his best and most individual solo album. Although the chiming chords and singular voice make it easily recognizable as McGuinn, the combination of straight-ahead rock & roll and folk-informed lyrics (Joni Mitchell's "Dreamland" closes the album beautifully) make for a spectacular and insistent record.

The decision by Sundazed to reissue these two albums simultaneously was a wise one. By comparing the lackluster '75 release to its stunning follow-up (which came out only a year later), it's easy to see how much good a healthy dose of inspiration and some outside ideas can do for a gifted artist stuck in a rut.

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