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Old 10-02-2006, 11:32 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers


The Notorious Byrd Brothers by The Byrds
Originally released January 3, 1968 as Columbia CL 2775 (Mono) and CS 9575 (Stereo)


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
8. Old John Robertson
9. Tribal Gathering
10. Dolphins Smile
11. Space Odyssey

The Notorious Byrd Brothers is many things:
  • The Byrds' best album by a country mile
  • One of the best albums of the 1960s
  • Among the most improbable "great albums" ever recorded

But even more importantly than all those things, The Notorious Byrd Brothers is a bold artistic statement from one of the most important American rock 'n' roll bands ever. A beautiful psychedelic art-rock masterpiece that most bands could only dream of touching. American rock critic Robert Christgau once called this album one "of the most convincing arguments for artistic freedom ever to come out of American rock." I concur wholeheartedly.

The album features the Moog synthesizer on almost every track and lots of experimentation. There is much dabbling in raga and eastern influences such as Chris Hillman's excellent "Natural Harmony" as well as some dabbling in country & western in songs such as "Goin' Back", "Wasn't Born to Follow", and "Old John Robertson". These songs would also provide a sneak peak into the bomb that the Byrds would drop on their fans for their next album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Space rock is also excellently mined on "Space Odyssey", an epic musical telling of Arthur C. Clarke's short story, The Sentinel.

Most of the album's lyrics tend to deal with popular hippie subjects of the time, things like peace, love, drugs, the horridness of war, being one with nature, etc. That said, Notorious is not one of those records that is forever stuck in its time, a nostalgic relic for those who remember the 1960s. As a whole, the album has aged very well and many of the songs, such as David Crosby's poignant "Draft Morning", still hold relevance to today's world.

It's also worth noting that this was only the second Byrds record to not contain a Bob Dylan cover. Even without Dylan, the songwriting is top-notch and the musicianship is tight, especially given the turbulent state of the Byrds at that time.

Another key to understanding Notorious is understanding the circumstances under which it was recorded. The band began recording the album in August, 1967 as a quartet. By the time the sessions were over in December, the Byrds were down to a duo. Guitarist David Crosby was fired in October for, among other things, absenting himself from the recording sessions when the decision was made to include Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Goin' Back" on the album in lieu of Crosby's more controversial "Triad" (an ode to threesomes). Drummer Michael Clarke quit a month later out of apparent dissatisfaction over the material being chosen. Several of Crosby's songs were used for the album and he is audible either in voice or instrument on about half of the album. Most of Michael Clarke's drumming duties were handled by session drummer Jim Gordon, though Clarke's drums are heard on a few songs and he has a rare songwriting credit on "Artificial Energy", an ode to Speed. I've always found it ironic that "Eight Miles High" was banned from many radio stations in 1966 for allegedly being a drug song (it wasn't), but when the Byrds do actually write a drug song, nobody noticed.

One final, humourous note about this album...

If you look at the cover art, you'll see a building with four windows with one member of the band in each window. From left to right you see Chris Hillman, Roger McGuinn and Michael Clarke. In the fourth window, where you'd expect to see David Crosby, you see...a horse! Crosby still insists to this day that the horse was meant to stand in for him, as he'd recently been fired from the band when that photo was taken. The official story from Roger McGuinn is that the three other Byrds were out riding horses one day for a photo shoot and at one point, while in the building, Clarke's horse came and poked its head through the window, so they snapped the photo like that. Furthermore, McGuinn has stated that if the horse was meant to be a stand-in for David Crosby, it would have been turned the other way.

All in all, this album is remarkable by any standards you wish to judge it by. It works as a whole album and has some unbelievable music. Not having a copy of this is doing a huge disservice to your music collection.

5/5
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Old 10-03-2006, 02:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Great review Analogdemon

The Byrds were a huge band in their time, probably even bigger shortly after their time. I love spacey stuff
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Old 10-04-2006, 08:28 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Merkaba View Post
Great review Analogdemon
Thank you!
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