When The Byrds released “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” in 1968, it was a commercial failure. A half century after its debut, the album has become a classic.
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After Chris Hillman dragged new friend Gram Parsons into the Byrds, they made an album as close to a country masterpiece as a rock act could ever make. In fact, the only tunes better than the definitive covers here of songs by Bob Dylan (“You Ain’t Going Nowhere”), Guthrie (“Pretty Boy Floyd”), and the Louvin Brothers (“The Christian Life”) are Parsons’s originals, especially the incomparable “Hickory Wind.” Sweetheart wasn’t the first country-rock album, but with its gorgeous three-way harmonies and sweet pedal steel, it remains the best. –David Cantwell