In an attempt to convince the skeptical (and serious) music purchaser that this album really is a wise investment in the quality of one’s listening experience, almighty Columbia tries to have its cake and eat it, too, with Charlie Byrd’s Aquarius album from 1969, as the unnamed writer of the album’s liner notes essentially denounces contemporary rock as something out of a horror movie –-
“Like me, are you tired of hearing Halloween noises when the windmills of your mind fill with weird non-music careening over the airwaves on radio, over the box with the big eye (and tin ear), on and off Broadway, and even now on the way to invading Okefenokee Swamp (Nashville Country)?”
So, the hideous rock invasion has infiltrated not just radio but also the small screen and the stage, and the mongrel rock hordes are at the gates, threatening to sully the great musical heritage of American’s southern heartland, à la Columbia artist Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album, released April 1969.
“Do you still crave ‘real’ music played by deft, trained and flexible fingers of live musicians who play sounds dictated by their inner ear rather than by the inner tubes and channels of an electronics specialist?”
Columbia’s naked disdain for 60s modern rock culture while at the same time trying to profit from it (Janis Joplin’s Big Brother & the Holding Company, The Byrds, The Chambers Brothers, Moby Grape, Electric Flag, Santana, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The United States of America, Chicago Transit Authority, and the aforementioned Dylan) is not a pretty thing to behold.
“Is this a purchasing gambit, with you buying the name of the hit song, ‘Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In,’ from the rocker-socker Broadway production, Hair, under the assumption that with the combination of the star-making song and the proven musicianship of guitarist Charlie Byrd, you can’t possibly lose?”
Oh, please, not a song from that dreadful hippie “production” … and yet, “Aquarius” is the album’s kick-off track, because well, a hit is a hit! Columbia just can’t help itself: mock the title track while at the same time prominently feature it. Classy.
And note the label’s tasteful choice of photograph for the album cover – this whole time, I thought Charlie Byrd was a man:
Happily, Charlie Byrd’s guitar weeps in a most melodic way:
Charlie Byrd: Guitar
Joe Mack: Fender bass
Bernard ‘Pretty’ Purdie: Drums & percussion
Bobby Rosengarden: Drums & percussion
Ed Shaughnessy: Drums & percussion
Herbie Hancock: All keyboard instruments
Vinnie Bell: Electric guitar
Mario Darpino: Flute
Romeo Penque: Flute, Alto Flute, Oboe, English Horn & Piccolo