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A gram of Byrds and hat full of Devo

Seminal Byrds disc and entire vault of Devo get re-released

Either credited or cursed with kick-starting the California rock/alt-country/No Depression genres, the Byrds' 1968 Sweetheart of the Rodeo nonetheless represents a seminal point in American music. The band's second release that year was its first — and last — with Gram Parsons, who was then a fledgling singer/songwriter responsible for transforming the Byrds from 1966 "Eight Miles High" pilots to "Hickory Wind" hicks.

Sweetheart was originally a commercial disappointment: The West Coast group's established hippie fans didn't warm to pedal steel-enhanced Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard covers. Country & Western traditionalists didn't appreciate pop stars invading their turf. The album has since become a cornerstone of Americana, due primarily to Parsons' contributions.

And don't think Columbia/Sony hasn't noticed. Already expanded in 1997 with eight bonus tracks, the album has more than doubled in size ... and, of course, price.

This spiffy "Legacy Edition" tacks on an extra disc of rarities, most of which feature the tragic but iconic Parsons, who burned out just five years after these sessions. The singer/songwriter's later work with the Flying Burrito Brothers and then solo was arguably more influential, but Sweetheart established him as a driving force in what was later bastardized as "country-rock."

Of the second disc's 20 additional tracks, all but a handful feature Parsons. Although the ragged rehearsal versions are geared toward the hardcore Parsons collector, they also show how much effort was expended on this project. Check out George Jones' "You're Still on My Mind" — take 48.

Ultimately it's your Parsons — not Byrds — obsession that determines whether to splurge for this pricey yet sumptuous reissue.In 1975, while its punk contemporaries were donning torn jeans and disaffected stares in New York, Devo was quietly plotting world domination from its hometown of Akron, Ohio.

Not content to simply compose quirky, jerky synth pop, Devo developed an entire philosophy along with a stage show that included films, masks, matching suits, plastic hats and hair. In addition, the group surmised a theory of de-evolution around which the concept more or less coalesced.

The Complete Truth About De-Evolution, a recently released DVD summary of Devo's 12-year career, shows that these art-punks were so out of step with — and far ahead of — their time, it's astonishing they scored a contract with a major label (Warner Brothers). Their robotic stage movements, primitive videos, low budget production values, geeky personas and flowerpot hats weren't entirely grasped or embraced by the public — including MTV, who inexplicably put their peculiarly provocative "Whip It" video in heavy rotation. But Devo nonetheless opened doors for more commercially based "alternative" bands.

A recent association with Proctor & Gamble puts 1980's original "Whip It" in Swiffer mop ads (with writer/singer Mark Mothersbaugh re-recording his chorus vocal as "Swiffer's good!"). The move either completes the cycle of Devo's anti-corporate stance or is considered the ultimate sellout by whatever hardcore fans it has left.

Regardless, it leaves more questions asked than answered, which fits the band's M.O. For those who missed out on the Devo phenomena, this DVD — a reissue of the band's long unavailable videodisc — is a near-perfect summary. It includes almost all the Devo videos and short films augmented by audio commentary from band members. Add that to the album, single and poster cover art, as well as rare early live clips and you've got a whole lotta Devo.

Still weird, idiosyncratic and even unnerving, Devo's radical artiness pushed boundaries that hadn't been established. The result was a one-hit wonder band that remains one of postmodern pop music's most influential and unusual Dada-esque group.