Tuesday, 26 July 2016

"The Notorious Byrd Brothers" by THE BYRDS (1997 Columbia/Legacy 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...I Think I'm Goin' Back..."

Gorgeous - forgotten classic - overlooked - ignored like a 'remain' flyer in a British mud-puddle - the Byrds' fifth platter is the kind of album that gives the 60ts a good name. But which version of it do you buy?

In the unnervingly hot summer of July 2016 you can nail this criminally forgotten nugget in two ways – the standalone March 1997 CD reissue on Columbia/Legacy – or as Disc 5 inside the gorgeous and still reasonably priced 13CD Box set from November 2011 – "The Complete Columbia Albums Collection". To locate the standalone CD on Amazon use Barcode 5099748675125 in the Search Line and Barcode 88697873802 for the Box set (see separate review). Frankly frank - you’re quids in either way. I’ll deal with the standalone issue for this review...

UK released March 1997 – "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" by THE BYRDS on Columbia/Legacy 486751 2 (Barcode 5099748675125) is an ‘Expanded Edition’ CD Remaster of the 11-track 1968 album with seven Bonus Tracks (one hidden) and plays out as follows (58:28 minutes):

1. Artificial Energy
2. Goin’ Back
3. Natural Harmony
4. Draft Morning
5. Wasn’t Born To Follow
6. Get To You
7. Change Is Now [Side 2]
8. Old John Robertson
9. Tribal Gathering
10. Dolphin’s Smile
11. Space Odyssey
Tracks 1 to 11 are the album “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” – released 3 January 1968 in the USA on Columbia CL 2775 (Mono) and Columbia CS 9575 (Stereo) and April 1968 in the UK on CBS Records BPG 63169 (Mono) and CBS Records S BPG 63169 (Stereo). The STEREO MIX is used. Produced by GARY USHER and Engineered by ROY HALEE and DON THOMPSON - it peaked at No. 47 on the US LP charts and No. 12 in the UK.

BONUS TRACKS (All Stereo):
12. Mood Raga - Previously released on the 1987 American compilation "Never Before" on Murray Hill Records
13. Bound To Fall – Previously Unissued Instrumental
14. Triad - David Crosby song previously released on 1990 4CD Box Set “The Byrds”
15. Goin’ Back – Previously Unissued Version 1
16. Draft Morning – Previously Unissued Version with an Alternate End
17. Universal Mind Decoder (Early Demo Version of “Change Is Now”) – Previously Unreleased Instrumental Version)

THE BYRDS were:
ROGER McGUINN
CHRIS HILLMAN
DAVID CROSBY
MICHAEL CLARKE

The 12-page booklet is a pleasingly in-depth affair with properly knowledgeable liner notes from noted BYRDS authority JOHNNY ROGAN who authored "Timeless Flight: The Definitive Biography Of The Byrds". Amidst the black and white photos of the foursome looking all mean and moody (when the recordings started there was four - months later – Clarke left and Crosby was fired leaving only the core duo of McGuinn and Hillman) are publicity photos, a concert poster with The Doors and The Paul Butterfield Blues Band as well as repros of a few US Columbia 45s. These are sat alongside track-by-track examinations by Rogan on how such a varied and at times 'beautiful' album could have been be produced amidst the personal and musical toss 'n' tumble that surrounded the band (these notes are reproduced in the 40-page booklet inside the 'Complete' Box set - so you won't loose out on that count).

But the big news is the Audio – a remaster by BOB IRWIN and VIC ANESINI. Using the Stereo Masters (for all tracks) -these top engineers did the transfers and mixing at Sony’s Studios in New York and VIC ANESINI in particular is a name I've sung the praises of before. He’s handled very prestigious SONY catalogue – Elvis Presley, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Carole King, Janis Joplin, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Nilsson, Paul Simon, Mountain, Lou Reed, Roy Orbison, Santana, Mott The Hoople and The Jayhawks to name but a few. Clean – full of presence and warmth – this thing is a joy to listen too – and when songs like "Goin' Back", "Draft Morning" and "Tribal Gathering" kick in - there's unlikely to be a dry Byrds eye in the house...

"Notorious" opens with "Artificial Energy" - a warning song about overdoing 'speed' - and I'm not talking about going fast on a Penny Farthing. It's slightly camp brass gives it a far more upbeat vibe and at 2:18 minutes is short and breathy. But that cool opener is trounced into absolute chemical submission by something so sublime that mere adjectives fail me - their truly breathtaking cover of Goffin and King's "Goin' Back". A hit penned by the mighty songwriting duo of Gerry and Carole for Dusty Springfield - The Byrds take this beautiful melody and literally make it soar - a pun I hate to use when it comes to this band of all bands - but in the case of this rendition - aptly fits. "Goin' Back" is beautiful stuff with sessionman Jim Gordon providing the drum roll at the end of the tune. Next up is Paul Beaver's Moog and Red Rhodes' Steel Guitar on Chris Hillman's equally musical "Natural Harmony" - another song with slightly drugged-up lyrics like "...head thrown back...arms open wide..." (reminds me of driving in my soft-top Porsche in Walthamstow in December).

Again another segue into a masterwork - the stunning "Draft Morning" which Rogan quiet rightly describes as 'one of the greatest and most bitter moments in the Byrds song catalogue'. Originally penned by David Crosby before he was unceremoniously chucked out of the band - both Hillman and McGuinn added more and therefore take the threesome songwriting credit (apparently its The Firesign Theatre who supply the gunshots in this anti-Vietnam winner). Another gem penned by Goffin and King - "Wasn't Born To Follow" turned up a year later as "I Wasn't Born To Follow" in January 1969 on the lone Carole King/Danny Kortchmar project LP "Now That Everything's Been Said" by THE CITY. It's also famous for its inclusion in the cult movie "Easy Rider" (The City version show sits prettiness - se separate review).

Other classics include "Get To You" where Roger McGuinn waxes lyrical about the mellowness of the English after a trip to Blighty and "Tribal Gathering" where David Crosby sings affectionately about hippies in San Francisco's Golden gate Park in January 1967 where the ensemble 'human be in' was taking all manner of trips (and not necessarily one needing a passport). I also love the clearly grumpy Crosby on 'Version 1' of "Goin' Back" in the Bonus Tracks with what sounds like a Mike Oldfield type Glockenspiel in the mix not present in the released version...and "Triad" is fantastic stuff.

The Byrds left behind a sizeable back catalogue where ridiculously shiny jewels like "Notorious" can get 'overlooked'. Remove that inner bummer and began your 'space odyssey' here. And remember kids – take a tip from a speckled Byrd and stay away from that 'Artificial Energy' speeding stuff (Red Bull, Snickers Bars and the like)...

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