On the surface, Roger McGuinn, the former leader and 12-string jangle-meister of the Byrds, and Mick Ronson, who contributed the wicked guitar crunch to David Bowie's Spiders from Mars period, might seem like a wildly unlikely musical combination, but the two became friendly when they both toured as part of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, and after that road trip came to a close, Ronson went into the studio with McGuinn to produce his next solo album.
The result, 1976's Cardiff Rose, is easily one of McGuinn's finest solo efforts; with fellow Rolling Thunder veterans Rob Stoner, Howie Wyeth, and David Mansfield joining McGuinn and Ronson in the studio, the band sounds tight and enthusiastic from front to back, and while this rocks a good bit harder than the average McGuinn effort, Ronson's six-string swagger never gets in the way of the songs, and Mick's production is unexpectedly sympathetic, adding the right seafaring touches to the pirate tale "Jolly Roger" and coming up with a lovely old-timey arrangement for "Pretty Polly."
McGuinn also had a better batch of material at his disposal than on his previous set, Roger McGuinn & Band; he wrote a handful of strong originals, including "Partners in Crime" (a witty salute to Abbie Hoffman, then on the lam), the charging rockers "Rock and Roll Time" and "Take Me Away," and the beautifully atmospheric "Jolly Roger," while he was also lucky enough to receive fine contributions from Bob Dylan ("Up to Me") and Joni Mitchell ("Dreamland").
Sadly, Cardiff Rose didn't fare especially well on the sales charts, which is a shame -- it finds McGuinn in excellent form, and proves he could have moved outside of the musical framework of the Byrds and still had plenty to say with the right collaborators.
by Mark Deming
1. Take Me Away - 3:04
2. Jolly Roger - 4:59
3. Rock And Roll Time (R. McGuinn, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Neuwirth) - 2:49
4. Friend (R. McGuinn) - 2:08
5. Partners In Crime - 4:53
6. Up To Me (Bob Dylan) - 5:37
7. Round Table - 4:07
8. Pretty Polly (Trad., Arranged And Adapted By R. McGuinn) - 3:20
9. Dreamland (Joni Mitchell) - 5:20
All songs by Roger McGuinn and Jacques Levy except where noted.
Bonus Tracks 2004 Issue
10.Soul Love (Demo Recording) (David Bowie) - 3:06
11.Dreamland (Live) (Joni Mitchell) - 5:29
*Roger McGuinn - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocals
*Mick Ronson - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Recorder, Accordion, Piano, Organ, Autoharp, Percussion, Vocals
*David Mansfield - Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Steel Guitar, Mandolin, Violin, Banjo, Organ, Percussion
*Rob Stoner - Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*Howie Wyeth - Drums, Percussion
*Timmy Schmit - Vocals
*Kim Hitchcroft - Saxophone
1973 Roger McGuinn - Roger McGuinn (2013 Edition)
1979 McGuinn, Clark And Hillman (2014 Japan SHM Remaster)
With The Byrds
1964 The Byrds - Preflyte (2012 Edition)
1968 The Byrds - Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (Double Disc Set)
1969 The Byrds - Live At Fillmore
1971 The Byrds - Live At Royal Albert Hall
1973 Byrds - Byrds