Notorious Byrd Brothers: Finally, a Byrds Reunion on Chris Hillman’s Latest Album

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and co-founder enlists David Crosby, Roger McGuinn for new record.

August 12, 2017 5:00 am

Rock fans who’ve been waiting patiently for a Byrds reunion tour to take flight—the original lineup last played together at their 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction—might be disappointed. The original members, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman have yet to agree on a reunion.

But to keep the rumor fires alit—and our hopes eight miles high—the band’s Hillman, who played bass, sang backing and lead vocals, and showed off his sorely under-used songwriting prowess on the band’s 1967 classic Younger Than Yesterday, has managed the second-best thing.

Byrds Have Mini-Reunion on New Chris Hillman Record
(left to right): Chris Hillman, David Crosby, Michael Clarke, Roger McGuinn, circa 1968’s ‘The Notorious Byrd Brothers’ album (Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Hillman, who’s set to release his first new solo record in 12 years, rounded up former bandmates David Crosby and Roger McGuinn for Bidin’ My Time, a 12-song set featuring a trio of recast Byrds numbers.

These include album opener, “Bells of Rhymney,” a reworking of the folk song first recorded by Pete Seeger and then folk-rock-ified by The Byrds on their 1965 debut, Mr. Tambourine Man (Crosby lends guest vocals to the track); “She Don’t Care About Time,” a ’60s b-side written by the late Gene Clark (McGuinn’s 12-string Rickenbacker guitar solo, which swipes J.S. Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, supposedly influenced the Beatles’ George Harrison to write the jangly “If I Needed Someone” for Rubber Soul); and “Old John Robertson” (reworked as “New Old John Robertson”), which was co-written by Hillman and McGuinn and originally appeared on 1968’s The Notorious Byrd Brothers. (The latter album saw the firing of longtime member Crosby, whose antics at the previous summer’s Monterey Pop Festival boiled over into band politics. Crosby also fought and failed to include his song “Triad” on the album, which is about a ménage à trois. Interestingly, on the 1997 reissue of the album, the “hidden track” is audio of the band arguing in the studio over drum phrasings on one of Crosby’s songs ).

Also included on the new album is a Byrds-related deep cut, “Here She Comes Again,” penned by Hillman and McGuinn and only ever released on an Australian live album. The track features Hillman playing the bass for the first time in more than 30 years (he’s mostly been a guitarist/mandolinist since his days with the Byrds).

Another notable track on the album is Hillman’s take on Tom Petty classic “Wildflowers,” which originally appeared on Petty’s 1994 album of the same name. (Petty is an unabashed Byrds head, who covered Gene Clark’s “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” on his multiplatinum solo album, Full Moon Fever.) Heartbreakers Mike Campbell, Benmont Tench, and Steve Ferrone also show up on the album. Why all the Petty? Because he produced the album (Hillman’s longtime collaborator Herb Pedersen is listed as an executive producer.)

If you’re interested in digging deeper into Hillman’s post-Byrds catalog, we’d strongly suggest checking out his work in the Flying Burrito Brothers (with country-rock-era-Byrd Gram Parsons), Manassas (a supergroup co-founded by Stephen Stills), and the Desert Rose Band (a bluegrass outfit he formed in the mid-’80s).

Hillman will be supporting the new album in a string of shows starting in September. Get tickets here.

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