The Byrds, Fifth Dimension

Kevin Whitehead

By Kevin Whitehead

on 10.05.11 in Reviews

Fifth Dimension

The Byrds

After Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!, the Byrds amped up their wingy eclecticism for 1966′s inspired 5D, which includes the old ballad “John Riley” and old-sounding “Wild Mountain Thyme,” both with admirably tasteful and low-key strings; an early glimmering of country rock (a close encounter with “Mr. Spaceman,” where Roger McGuinn takes a convincing fiddle break on Rickenbacker 12-string); David Crosby emoting “Hey Joe”; and cockpit radio chatter and what sounds like a vacuum cleaner on “The Lear Jet Song.” It’s the sound of a band stretching, discovering its interests — sometimes with a cool demeanor, sometimes over the top. Two songs springboard from splashy ’60s modal jazz, “I See You,” and the hit “Eight Miles High,” with McGuinn’s memorably jumbled electric 12-string solo. It’s fascinating to hear him play at the limits of his technique, barely hanging in there. (“Almost like a parody of a guitar solo, except that it’s real,” a smart observer once said.) An earlier, shaggier, supposedly better take also appears on the expanded reissue, but the single’s tighter, and the guitar playing more gloriously frantic.