If I am going to list or talk about my favorite albums on this blog (which i am!) - there is only one place to start.
In early 1968, after the release of the west coast rock album The Notorious Byrd Brothers and in an effort to fill the void created by the departures of both David Crosby and Michael Clarke, the two remaining Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman decided 'get straight back on the horse' and begin work on a new record. A record that would inadvertently help create the musical movement that would be best known as country-rock.
Originally conceived by Roger McGuinn as an ambitious double-album that would work as an overview of American musical forms beginning with Country and Bluegrass, journeying through Jazz, on to rock 'n' roll, finishing with a side of electronica featuring a newly acquired Moog modular synthesizer, in no small part thanks to new member Gram Parsons, the the journey stopped where it began with country music.
Following the lead set by Bob Dylan on John Wesley Harding and at Parson's suggestion, the new albums was recorded in Nashville, the country music capital.
The Dylan influence is continued on the record with two covers from the then-unreleased Basement Tapes ("You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" & "Nothing Was Delivered"). Country covers old (The Louvin Brothers' "The Christian Life", Woody Guthries' "Pretty Boy Floyd") and new (Merle Haggards' "Life in Prison", Luke McDaniels' "You're Still On My Mind"), sit side by side with McGuinn and Hillman's "I Am A Pilgrim", two Parson's originals ("One Hundred Years From Now", "Hickory Wind") and a cover of a Stax hit (William Bell's "You Don't Miss Your Water").
During post production for Sweetheart Of The Rodeo - Parsons' presence on the record was contested by Lee Hazlewood, who claimed that the singer was still under contract to his LHI label. While the problem was resolved (Parsons sings lead on "Hickory Wind" and "You're Still on My Mind"), McGuinn, conscious not to let the album turn into a Gram Parsons album, replaced Parsons on vocals on three tracks ("The Christian Life", "You Don't Miss Your Water" and "One Hundred Years From Now"), a move that still angered Parsons as late as 1973, when he was quoted in an interview as saying that McGuinn "erased it and did the vocals himself and fucked it up"
Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, the sixth and arguably last great Byrds studio album was released on July 29, 1968. The cover art taken from a 1932 Rodeo poster by Uruguayan artist Jo Mora.
Although not well received at the time, Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, along with Parsons & Hillmans' subsequent work with the Flying Burrito Bros. and Parsons' solo output, became a major landmark, serving as a blueprint for the 1970s Los Angeles country-rock movement, outlaw country and the alt. country of the 1990's and 2000's.
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