As there was a four-CD box set of the Byrds back in 1990, the point of putting out another four-CD Byrds box set about 15 years later wasn't all that clear, unless it was a mercenary exercise to get more mileage of the band's durable catalog. Yet appear this 2006 box set did, with many of the same tracks that had appeared on the 1990 Byrds box set, though there are some appreciable differences. The span of There Is a Season is a little wider, taking in some of the demos they recorded prior to the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single, and also fitting in a couple of Gene Clark songs from their 1973 reunion album. While all the hit singles and most of the group's most popular album tracks are on both sets, the secondary songs filling out the boxes vary, with There Is a Season putting out some material that wasn't officially issued until after the 1990 box set (on expanded CD editions of their albums and Live at the Fillmore West February 1969). Conversely, the earlier box set has some LP cuts and obscurities that failed to make the cut for There Is a Season.
Of course, There Is a Season does contain a lot of significant, and often great, folk-rock music; no package with 99 Byrds songs could fail to do that. As for what it offers the serious Byrds collector -- who's probably at least as apt to consider buying this as a general Byrds fan -- there isn't all that much. There are five previously unissued tracks, none of them extraordinary, including a 1967 Swedish radio version of "He Was a Friend of Mine," a couple live September 1970 Fillmore East performances, and a couple live cuts from February 1970. There are oddities from soundtracks and live compilation albums, including the Candy soundtrack version of "Child of the Universe," "Nothin' to It" (done by the Byrds on the early-'70s album Earl Scruggs: His Family and Friends), and a couple live 1973 performances from the Banjoman movie. It's well-sequenced enough that it does give a solid sense of the band's growth and accomplishment through their folk-rock, psychedelic, and country-rock phases, though there's no getting around the fact that it starts to get steadily less exciting after it passes the halfway point.
The big added attraction on There Is a Season is not on the CDs, but on the bonus DVD disc, which contains ten TV clips of the group from 1965-1967. All of these, mind you, are mimed and not live, but it's still a fun (if brief, lasting just 26 minutes) assortment of glimpses of the band in their most creative era on U.S., U.K., and Swedish programs. Even here, however, there could have been room for improvement, as there's some more interesting footage of the Byrds from this era, including their live set in the mid-'60s movie The Big TNT Show and versions of "Long Tall Sally" and "Not Fade Away" (neither of which they released on record in any form). Is this nitpicking? Probably. But if you're going to lay out more than 50 dollars for an anthology that likely contains some or much material you already own, you have the right to make the point. ~ Richie Unterberger