uReview: The Byrds “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”

12345678910 (70 votes, average: 8.29 out of 10)

I’d be happy to see a uReview for every Byrds record in the discography (excepting Maniax), seeing as they’re one of the house bands around here, but it’s the middle of country season and I wanna hear your honest opinion on this one. Are you all about Sweetheart or did you never quite get it? Is this really the landmark country-rock record (does it even deserve the ‘rock’ tag)? If not this, then what?

mp3: Radio Spot – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

:D CD Reissue | 2003 | Sony | amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Columbia | ebay ]

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  • The velvety twang of that pedal steel, for me, removes the ‘rock’ from this album. This is my favourite Byrds album, and probably right up there in the Gram Parsons catalouge as well. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is delightfully haunting, and what they did with “You Don’t Miss Your Water” is the perfect foil to Otis Redding’s version.

    maybe i just have a lot of goooood memories attached with this record, but i still think it’s one of the best. reminds me of family weddings in rural Manitoba.

  • Matt B

    One of my ten favorite albums ever. Absolutely perfect from start to finish.

  • Len Liechti

    When I first heard this record, after digging all the stuff from Tambourine Man to Notorious, I couldn’t understand the Byrds’ logic. I was convinced they’d made a wrong turn. How wrong I was! How brave were they to tackle this sort of material from their earlier base at such a time! And without this album, almost certainly no LA country rock, no cowpunk, no alt. country, no New Traditionalists, no Americana. Imagine a music scene without Poco, the Eagles, the Long Ryders, Green On Red, Steve Earle, the Blasters, the Jayhawks . . . One regret: that Gram’s falling-out with McGuinn and various record company legal hassles caused his lead vocals to be erased other than on three songs (for the whole story, read the Wikipedia page on this album, a fine piece of writing). “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” was the first tune I ever learnt on guitar. “Pretty Boy Floyd” led me to discover Woody Guthrie, Rambling Jack Elliott and the other pioneers who fired Gram up. “Hickory Wind” is probably my favourite country song of all time. It’s gonna be a brave soul who slags this one off, Brendan!

  • DinTX

    I guess i just never got this one! I’ve checked it out from the library i work at maybe 5 or so times. I listen through once and i’m done! I guess i’m going to have to try it again – its been probably three years since i’ve heard it. I LOVE GRAM and the Burritos etc but i’ve never got into this one. I even picked up the CD yesterday at work and then put it back down. guess I’m going to try it ONE MORE TIME! but i’ve never really DUG the byrds – so there! and if i want to hear Dylan – i’ll listen to Dylan… DinTX

  • Dan

    My dad was one of those dads that stopped listening to rock or popular music at some point in the late sixties or early seventies and dove right into his other passion, classical music, for the rest of his life. But, when I was a child, he gave me this album and Surrealistic Pillow and said, “Son, these are two of the best albums ever made.”

    And….well…..damned if he wasn’t right. It made sense to me when I was seven in 1982, and my appreciation for the Byrds’ accomplishment has only grown with my increased knowledge and expanded tastes. This past year, for his birthday, I returned the favor by giving my dad the pimped out deluxe Sweetheart set.

    It’s just one of those things.

  • The Byrds were one of the bands I found by tracking backwards to earlier work by members of CSN&Y. Mr Tambourine Man and Turn, Turn, Turn were all I knew of them and I was happy to extend that slightly by becoming the proud owner of The Byrds Greatest Hits and leave it at that.

    But then in 1993 the Byrds featured in two episodes of Dancing In The Street: the ones covering Folk and the Psychedelic era. This made me want to find out more about this intriguing group so I did enough listening to join the dots.

    Even though it was the Eight Miles High Byrds I was initially most enthused about I loved Sweetheart of the Rodeo from first listen, especially the is-it-or-isn’t-it a pisstake The Christian Life. Thanks to Sweetheart, I finally got country music and saw its place in rock history. But I think the Byrds were a number of different bands throughout their history.

    They were extraordinarily influential despite not achieving lasting mass-appeal. And Len’s right – the shape of rock would be very different, and poorer, if not for them.

  • Katie

    Second most overrated album of all-time, right behind ‘Pet Sounds’. I’d take ‘Notorious’ any day over this album.

  • dividebytube

    This album rated high on my list until I listened to The Flying Burrito Brothers – ‘Gilded Palace of Sin’. Perhaps it’s Gram Parson’s vocals, but FBB seemed to have caught the country/rock mix better than the Byrds. To my ears, Sweetheart sounds a little insincere in comparison.

  • horsecalledlightning

    Sweetheart definitely holds up. Although not my favorite Byrds album (Younger or Notorious for me), it’s a great selection of songs, the playing is flawless and the intent is pure. You Don’t Miss Your Water is masterful. It does suffer slightly from the Byrds studied and almost academic approach to country music.

    Parsons was in touch with the soul side of country lending him that special edge Gilded Palace and other Burritos music has. It can be argued that all great country has elements of soul music. George Jones could cover Otis Redding and vice versa.

    Parsons lead vocals were removed from many tracks b/k of legal reasons later replaced by McGuinn who did a great job and even imitated Parsons. While the vocals and playing throughout Sweetheart is flawless there seems to be something missing that the Burritos had. But that’s what makes it the Byrds. They always brought a slight detachment in their tone even when they were completely committed to a song, which in their golden period was the majority of the time.

    I believe Jack Nitzsche said the Byrds were heavenly, music from the gods almost completely lacking sex, while the Stones music came from darker origins and dripped with sexuality. One thing the Burritos and other bands working in country terrain had going for them was the time they made their records. They had a few more years of rock music being pulled back to its roots, more emphasis on groove, etc. The Stones were country honking and started admitting to their love of country music.

    The fact that the Byrds broke ground in 1968 no doubt gave all that followed a bit of direction. God bless them for that.

  • dk

    This is a groundbreaking album, a true masterpiece, and one of the best hundred or so records in the history of rock. That said, it’s probably my third favorite Byrds album, behind Notorious Byrd Brothers and Untitled. Even if you’re not down with the sound of this album (it does come off as stiff in places), you have to recognize the massive influence it had on popular music. That said, it’s not a perfect record, most notably because of Parson’s vocals being pulled from finished tracks. Many of his performances were restored as bonus tracks on the CD re-issue, and they’re proof that this album could have been much better. But then I’m sure the Mona Lisa could be a little better too…

    I highly recommend ‘Sanctuary IV’, which contains demos and outtakes from Sweetheart, and sounds much more relaxed and authentic than the finished product…

  • It can be a very significant subject and ignored by too many bloggers, even professionals. I appreciate your help making people more aware about this subject.

  • Walker

    Just one step behind the Burritos’ magical ‘Gilded Palace,’ but still one of the most pivotal records in the fusion of country and rock – and a captivating record at that. I will always love this album – especially the version of “Nothing Was Delivered”- and will always regard it as one of those comfort albums.

  • Neilmobile

    Incredible album, it’s all about Gram Parsons, his vocals were included on the Byrds boxset versions I believe.

  • Simon

    I bought this in the early 90’s when i was digging around for more Gram…got it on a special double version with “Notorious”. Didn’t really get the LA jazz trumpet/moog experimentation/tin pan alley folk mixture that was “Notorious”, but “Sweetheart” spoke to me straight away. Gram’s stuff got me first…”100 years from now” is just a monster tune,up with the Byrds best, but for me the guiding light and real hero of the piece is one ofthe most under-rated men in that era of music; Chris Hillman. Beautiful soulful harmonies which he would take on with Gram to the Burrito’s, but this seems like the first time he’s been able to let loose, to really show what he’s capable of, and I guess the fact that he left soon after to do more of the same with Gram is proof of that. When i put this record on i find myself singing along to the harmony rather than the melody!
    To me, it’s hard to call it country rock, because as someone earlier said, it sounds so considered, so reverential, and the fact that most of the songs were covers probably has something to do with this. I didn’t grow up in Nashville in the 50’s so i don’t REALLY know, but the only real rock aspect of it for me is the vocals. The country audience probably thought the long hairs were making fun of them, not being serious. The other thing that i think ties it to country way more than rock is the fact that in all probability, the majority of it was played by session guys from Bakersfield or wherever else. Certainly the electric guitars and the steel in any case….Clarence is obviously all over it…Country rock for me is best shown on “Untitled”, a criminally under-rated Lp in my opinion…
    Having bought the CD reissue with all the out-takes, and got all the other versions with Gram’s vocals on, I have to say, I prefer the released version. It’s often the way that you love what you heard first, but I think that without McGuinn’s voice to the fore, they might as well have changed the name of the band.

    Plus it fit on one side of a cassette, with a bit of room to spare for 2 or 3 like-minded tunes…concise, to the point, and no filler.

    Hooray for Sweetheart, and all who have loved her!

  • Whats Wrong with Maniax?

    just want to say maniax has some great tracks. I trust, one of my favorite clarence tracks Jamaica Say You Will. and how can you not love Glory Glory.

  • lonely ranger

    i like the byrds. personally, i like 5th dimension the best, and was sort of dissappointed non of you byrds fans said anything about that. but mostly i need to comment just to call katie out for being a dumbass. pet sounds overrated? are you fucking joking me? do you know what kind of care and what kind of inovation, and simply what kind of crazy it took to make that record? katie, please stop listening to music, if you can’t respect a masterpiece, whats the point? you don’t have to love it, you just need to not be an idiot.

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