(RetroRock Records, limited edition of 310 vinyl records)VENUE:
PNE Gardens; Vancouver, British Columbia; November 26th, 1971
Cardboard sleeve with a colorful, ‘psychedelicized’ picture of the band against a blue sky, a bird on one bandmember’s head. Different band photo on the rear cover with similar psychedelic effects photoshopped in, the bird in flight, track listing, etc. Robust, waxy inner sleeves house two thick slabs o’ shiny 150g black vinyl.
Lover of the Bayou • So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star • Mr. Spaceman • Bugler • I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician • My Back Pages • BJ Blues/Baby What You Want Me To DoSide Two
Soldier’s Joy/Black Mountain Rag • Mr. Tambourine Man • Pretty Boy Floyd • Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms • Chestnut Mare
Jesus Is Just Alright • Eight Miles High • Hold It • I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better • Roll Over Beethoven
Thanks to the vagaries created by loopholes in international copyright law, it seems that live music from the 1970s – particularly FM radio broadcasts – are fair game for release on CD and vinyl by dodgy European labels. The situation is a godsend for rock ‘n’ roll fans, who now have access to budget “copyright gap” recordings by their favorite artists that were only previously available as higher-priced bootleg titles. This album, however, doesn’t seem to be one of those…Across the Borderline documents a 1971 Canadian performance by the Byrds, and although the show doesn’t appear in my tattered old Hot Wacks guide and it’s not listed on the Bootlegpedia or Bootleg Zone websites, it’s been circulating in limited trading circles for years. Its relative obscurity doesn’t matter, ‘cause the album captures a fine performance that will certainly appeal to any old-school Byrds fan.The band line-up for Across the Borderline comprised singer and guitarist Roger McGuinn, guitarist and mandolin wizard Clarence White, bassist Skip Battin (who doubled on piano), and drummer Gene Parsons (a multi-instrumental talent who also played harmonica, banjo, and pedal steel guitar). This is the same line-up that recorded the 1971 albums Byrdmaniax and the underrated Farther Along, which was released roughly a week before this concert. Oddly enough, the performance includes only one song from the former and two songs from the latter, but it does feature four songs from the previous year’s Top 40 LP Untitled, starting with an appropriately ‘swampy’ take of “Lover of the Bayou” with ringing guitars and a black cat moan. “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” features a soaring arrangement with jangly fretwork, solid rhythms, and an overall psychedelic vibe while “Mr. Spaceman” provides a jaunty sonic trip through the cosmos and Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” is given a gorgeous, chiming performance.
“I Wanna Grow Up To Be A Politician” is an upbeat, bluegrass-tinted tune featuring Parsons’ spry banjo plucking. A mash-up of the band’s original “B.J. Blues” with Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do” closes out the side with a bluesy instrumental jam. Side two opens with a twangy, pickin’ ‘n’ a grinnin’ medley of the traditional “Solder’s Joy” and “Black Mountain Rag” that leads into another gem plucked from the Dylan songbook, the magical, effervescent “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Side two also includes a rowdy cover of Woody Guthrie’s outlaw ode “Pretty Boy Floyd” that is turbocharged by Parsons infectious banjo licks. McGuinn’s “Tiffany Queen” may be the best song from Farther Along, a guitar-driven locomotive that is almost punkish in its intensity. The side closes with my personal fave from Untitled, “Chestnut Mare,” a brilliant story-song with subtle instrumentation and an overall yearning ambiance.
The third side opens with a foot-shuffling, up-tempo reading of Arthur Reid Reynold’s gospel standard “Jesus Is Just Alright,” which the band originally recorded for its Ballad of Easy Rider LP two years previous. The heartbeat of the concert, however, is the lengthy, extended version of the band’s signature “Eight Miles High,” which showcases the band’s instrumental prowess with psych-drenched passages, a lively bass/drum solo, and McGuinn and White’s dueling fretwork. After a short boogie-rock instrumental vamp (“Hold It”), the side closes with a charming take of Gene Clark’s folk-pop gem “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” and a raucous cover of Chuck Berry’s classic “Roll Over Beethoven.” Side four? Well, it has grooves and breaks so that it resembles a regular album side, but it’s blank, as empty as a politician’s promise. Nevertheless, Across the Borderline provides over an hour of great music and while it duplicates a number of songs from the legit release Live at Royal Albert Hall 1971, it compliments rather than competes with that set. Grade: B+ (Rev. Keith A. Gordon) https://originallivemusicreview.blogspot.com/