The Byrds

Under Review:  A Documentary Film [MVD]

This exhaustive double-DVD set traces the Byrds’ musical and personal twists and turns, from hardcore folkies to sonic visionaries to country-rock pioneers. By interviewing a cadre of writers (Richie Unterberger and Anthony DeCurtis among others) and former band members, as well as guitarist Vern Gosdin, composer/lyricist Van Dyke Parks, and Wrecking Crew guitarist Jerry Cole (who played on “Mr. Tambourine Man”), Under Review paints a very thorough portrait of a band whose musical shockwaves are still being felt today. For those on the lookout for instrumental highlights, you’re treated to killer footage of Roger McGuinn burning on banjo with the Chad Mitchell Trio (one of his pre-Byrds gigs), Byrds’ drummer Gene Parsons demonstrating the Parsons/White StringBender that legendary Byrds’ guitarist Clarence White used to stunning effect, and great clips of McGuinn and White throughout—most notably performing “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” with Earl Scruggs. One of the most refreshing aspects to Under Review, however, is how it doesn’t weigh too heavily on any one aspect of the Byrds, most notably the very brief tenure of Gram Parsons. Instead, you get a balanced overview of a groundbreaking act that gives the group’s work as a whole its just due.
—Darrin Fox