How New Musical Discoveries Led to Music From the Past

The Byrds Greatest Hits

My last discussion here on “Rescued Vinyl” reminisced on the debut of the late Jeff Healey, and the introduction of non-mainstream North American music into the life of a young man on the verge of adulthood. With the passing of teen adolescence came the knowledge that there was so much to be found beyond the mass produced popular music of the late 1980s, and access to shows like “America’s Top Ten” in the UK became a weekly fix for my musical cravings.

Fast forward into the 1990s, and the growth of satellite television brought with it an abundance of channels devoted to non-stop music, from the early days of MTV to the arrival of VH1, CMT and even obscure German channels that featured music from across Europe too. Exposure to an eclectic mix of musical tastes occurred around this time too, during that transition from college to full time employment. Thrust into an automotive workshop with people of all ages, it was a little surreal that the older generation craved dance music from BBC Radio 1, while younger colleagues preferred to rediscover music from the past. It was around this time, maybe 1993 or so that an apprentice mechanic at the time introduced me to The Who (I knew of them, but had never expressed an interest), and ignited a new found respect for music that preceded ‘my generation’ (pun not intended – okay, busted, it was too hard to resist that statement).

By the mid 1990s, I no longer identified with the music of MTV, moving beyond their demographic and onto the VH1 bus. A mixture of adult contemporary music, some old rock, and some folk too; VH1 offered some escapism, but the same shows and tunes were so heavily rotated that it became stale quickly. Etching closer to my mid twenties halfway through this decade, it was a chance encounter with CMT Europe that drastically changed my musical course. Sure, I’d been fond of the country music played in our household at a very young age, but I had no clue that this ‘new country’ represented a genre that had grown and matured too. Discovering artists such as Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, and The Mavericks, was in no way dissimilar to those weekly Casey Kasem shows, but was now available 24/7, rather than once a week during the wee hours.

I fondly remember a show on CMT Europe that was advertised as “the place where rocks meets country,” which ran once a week and introduced me to many iconic North American artists (including Steve Earle and John Mellencamp). This show would ultimately provide my very first exposure to the Canadian band Blue Rodeo; a band that was indeed a little country, but had a distinct rock-blues sound that grabbed my attention. While I cannot recall the music videos guilty of such deeds, I would eventually find their Greatest Hits CD later in life, and the band quickly become a permanent fixture of my listening pleasures, and remain so still today.

Fast forward to the present day, and while I solemnly swear not to over-indulge you with everything ‘Blue Rodeo,’ I remain a huge fan of this band and continue to respect their originality and creativity. Which brings me to the focus of this “Rescued Vinyl” article (finally – go ahead and exhale now). Browsing through some boxes of used vinyl during a recent trip to Southern Ontario, my rapid thumbing through hundreds of albums came to a sharp halt upon the discovery of “Greatest Hits” by The Byrds. Whilst having a vague familiarity with this band, due in part to their popular hit “Mr Tambourine Man,” what reasons prompted me to pause when finding this particular album?

After some deliberation, it became very obvious. Of all the bands to which Blue Rodeo’s music has been compared (to which there are very few, given their originality that has since defined a genre of its own), many reference similarities to the music of The Byrds. And after having played this album a few times over the last couple of days, such comparisons are very much justified. Both bands offer great musicianship, tight arrangements, and timeless vocal harmonies. Blue Rodeo could easily make “Turn! Turn! Turn!” their own, equally as much as The Byrds could stamp their own sound on “Heart Like Mine.”

Boasting 12 tracks, this Greatest Hits album commences with the instantly gratifying guitar riff and dominant base line of “Mr Tambourine Man.” And upon hearing this once more, combined with notions of these musical connections across a couple of decades, it occurs to me that Blue Rodeo’s “Rose Coloured Glasses” shares many similarities in construction, melody and delivery. For some reason, I can’t hear one without hearing the other at this point. Different generations of musical creativity, so cannot be considered a separation at birth, but musical ‘brothers from different mothers,’ perhaps (suggests L)?

Returning to the earlier statement made about my delayed exposure to The Who, the discovery of this album by The Byrds shows that history has repeated itself once more. Another timeless collection of amazing music from a past generation; one to which I was yet again a late arrival to the party, but better late than not at all. The Byrds are certainly a very welcome addition to our expanding collection of rescued vinyl.

~ M

See this album on Discogs.