The Byrds – The Notorious Byrd Brothers

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  • This outstanding Columbia 360 label pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • David Crosby is shown the door, fittingly replaced on the album jacket by a horse’s ass
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Notorious Byrd Brothers showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies.”

This vintage Columbia pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of The Notorious Byrd Brothers Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on The Notorious Byrd Brothers

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Byrds In Mono

None of the monos we’ve played over the years in our shootouts have ever impressed us much.

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?

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Artificial Energy 
Goin’ Back 
Natural Harmony 
Draft Morning 
Wasn’t Born to Follow 
Get to You

Side Two

Change Is Now
Old John Robertson 
Tribal Gathering 
Dolphin’s Smile 
Space Odyssey

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

The recording sessions for the Byrds’ fifth album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, were conducted in the midst of internal turmoil that found them reduced to a duo by the time the record was completed. That wasn’t evident from listening to the results, which showed the group continuing to expand the parameters of their eclecticism while retaining their hallmark guitar jangle and harmonies. With assistance from producer Gary Usher, they took more chances in the studio, enhancing the spacy quality of tracks like “Natural Harmony” and Goffin & King’s “Wasn’t Born to Follow” with electronic phasing. Washes of Moog synthesizer formed the eerie backdrop for “Space Odyssey,” and the songs were craftily and unobtrusively linked with segues and fades. But the Byrds did not bury the essential strengths of their tunes in effects: “Goin’ Back” (also written by Goffin & King) was a magnificent and melodic cover with the expected tasteful 12-string guitar runs that should have been a big hit. “Tribal Gathering” has some of the band’s most effervescent harmonies; “Draft Morning” is a subtle and effective reflection of the horrors of the Vietnam War; and “Old John Robertson” looks forward to the country-rock that would soon dominate their repertoire.

Background

The Notorious Byrd Brothers is the fifth album by the American rock band The Byrds and was released in January 1968 on Columbia Records.

Musically, the album represents the pinnacle of The Byrds’ psychedelic experimentation, with the band blending together elements of folk rock, psychedelic rock, country music, electronic music, baroque pop and jazz on many of the songs. Of these disparate styles, the subtle country and western influences evident on a number of tracks pointed towards the full-blown country rock direction that the band would pursue on their next album.

In addition, The Notorious Byrd Brothers saw the band and record producer Gary Usher making extensive use of a number of studio effects and production techniques, including phasing, flanging, and spatial panning. The Byrds also introduced the sound of the pedal steel guitar and the Moog modular synthesizer into their music for the first time on the album, making it one of the first LP releases on which the Moog appears.

Recording sessions for the album took place throughout the latter half of 1967 and were fraught with tension, resulting in the loss of two members of the band. Rhythm guitarist David Crosby was fired in October 1967 and drummer Michael Clarke left the band midway through recording, returning briefly before finally being dismissed after completion of the album.

Additionally, original band member Gene Clark, who had left the group in early 1966, rejoined for three weeks during the making of the album, before leaving again. Author Ric Menck has noted that in spite of these changes in personnel and the conflict surrounding its creation, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is the band’s most cohesive and ethereal-sounding album statement.

Wikipedia

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