The Byrds / Fifth Dimension – The Red Labels Can Rock (More Accurately, Some of Them Can)

More of the Music of The Byrds

More Sixties Pop Recordings

There was not another Red Label that could hold a candle to this copy in our recent shootout, and no 360 label copy could either. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

Does it have 100% of the Tubey Magic of the best 360 Label copies? Maybe not, but it has quite a healthy dose, and it does so many things so much better than any of the tube-mastered originals we played that it was simply no contest. There was nothing that communicated the music remotely as well as this Red Label copy did.

Last time around we wrote that the 360 Label original pressings were the only ones that could win our shootouts.

If you want to hear the real sound of The Byrds in early ’66, only the authentic original tube mastering chain seems to be able to get the job done. The Red Label reissues on Columbia can be decent, even good in their way, but they sure don’t sound like this record.

Needless to say this copy proved us wrong.

We also said this about our best 360 Label pressing at the time:

These old Byrds records tend to be seriously lacking in the frequency extremes, with not much deep bass or extension on the top end. This pressing has SOME extension on both ends, which is a lot more than most.

Aha, now it makes sense. Most of the better 360 pressings we’ve played did not have especially good extension on either end, but this record sure does.

Credit must go to the better cutting equipment that came along in the ’70s. The new stuff is dramatically better at getting more top and bottom from the master tape onto the vinyl, not to mention doing so with less smear, more energy and more rhythmic drive.

Both Sides

Full and rich, yet clear, lively and spacious like nothing we have ever heard. No smear at all either. Try to find an original with no tube smear. (Of course if your system has tube smear it’s harder to hear tube smear on records. Our all-transistor rig has no trouble showing it to us. One thing live music never has is smear of any kind.) It also has an extended top like few Byrds’ records have ever had, in our experience anyway, and we’ve played them by the score.


Side One

5D (Fifth Dimension) 
Wild Mountain Thyme 
Mr. Spaceman 
I See You 
What’s Happening?!?! 
I Come and Stand at Every Door

Side Two

Eight Miles High 
Hey Joe 
Captain Soul 
John Riley 
2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

… its high points were as innovative as any rock music being recorded in 1966. Immaculate folk-rock was still present in their superb arrangements of the traditional songs “Wild Mountain Thyme” and “John Riley.” For the originals, they devised some of the first and best psychedelic rock, often drawing from the influence of Indian raga in the guitar arrangements. “Eight Miles High,” with its astral lyrics, pumping bassline, and fractured guitar solo, was a Top 20 hit, and one of the greatest singles of the ’60s. The minor hit title track and the country-rock-tinged “Mr. Spaceman” are among their best songs; “I See You” has great 12-string psychedelic guitar solos; and “I Come and Stand at Every Door” is an unusual and moving update of a traditional rock tune, with new lyrics pleading for peace in the nuclear age.

Mono Vinyl

None of the Byrds’ Columbia monos we’ve played have ever done much for us.

Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly tolerate that kind of sound on modern equipment?

Although, to be fair, we’ve stopped buying them, so there may actually be a good copy or two out there in used record land that we haven’t heard. In our defense, who really has the time to play records with so little potential for good sound?

How about the Sundazed mono pressings?

The best Columbia stereo copies are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical — three areas in which the Sundazed reissues are seriously lacking.

Does anyone still care? We simply cannot be bothered with these bad Heavy Vinyl pressings. If you’re looking for mediocre sound just play the CD. I’m sure it’s just as terrible.