- Rich, tubey, solid, with tight, note-like bass, what early Byrds record sounds this good?
- Top quality covers of great songs by Joni Mitchell (For Free) and Neil Young (Cowgirl in the Sand, See the Sky About to Rain)
The album features the original Byrds lineup of McGuinn, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman.
Even though this is not one of The Byrds’ stronger albums, it does have some very nice material. For Free on side one may very well be the high point of the album for me. They also do a nice version of Neil Young’s Cowgirl In The Sand.
This vintage Asylum 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 Byrds 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 1973
- 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 Byrds
- 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.
Born to Rock & Roll
Things Will Be Better
Cowgirl in the Sand
Long Live the King
(See the Sky) About to Rain
In 1972, Roger McGuinn’s final version of the Byrds unceremoniously broke up, but the following year the group briefly reunited — surprisingly enough, with the classic original lineup of McGuinn, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman. However, if most of the participants meant for this to be anything more than a one-shot get-together, you couldn’t tell from listening to the resulting album; Byrds never sounds much like a Byrds album, absent McGuinn’s chiming 12-string guitar and the group’s striking harmonies (the Byrds’ twin aural calling cards). Much of the original material, especially David Crosby’s, sounds like cast-offs from their other projects. And what sort of a Byrds album features two Neil Young covers and not a single Bob Dylan tune? In all fairness, Byrds has its moments: Gene Clark’s “Full Circle” and “Changing Heart” are great songs from the group’s least-appreciated member, and McGuinn’s “Born to Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a top-notch rock anthem. But for the most part, Byrds sounds like a competent but unexciting country-rock band going through their paces, rather than the work of one of the best and most innovative American bands of the 1960s.