The Byrds “Notorious Byrd Brothers”

Notorious Byrd Brothers

Na Na Notorious! The Byrds sure are notorious gangstas and especially on this album, recommended as a good introduction to The Byrds. The Byrds were a huge, huge group back in the day. Sometimes, today, it seems like they aren’t considered up there with the big boys (Beatles, Stones, Who, Byrds), but to those in the know, it’s no question. The Byrds were a monumental force in mashing up the folk and rock scenes, and they were also huge fans of Bob Dylan (averaging around two Dylan covers per release). On Notorious Byrd Brothers, they hit their pyschedelic apex, enlisted the Moog synthesizer, fell apart, and created a masterpiece.

They say the horse replaced David Crosby on the sleeve there, he quit the band halfway through the Notorious sessions, as did drummer Michael Clarke. But Chris and McGuinn knew where The Byrds ought to be going (just consult their next album, the heroic and classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo). Some more about this album: produced by Gary Usher;  SFX transitions, swirling 12-string guitars, laid-back rhythms, ever present and beautiful Byrd harmonies, and two of the greatest Carole King/Gerry Goffin penned hits (“Goin’ Back” and “Wasn’t Born To Follow,” (Easy Rider Soundtrack).

It’s the most psych of the Byrds’ outings, closing with the trippy “Space Odyssey,” apparently an attempt to get a piece of Kubrick’s movie soundtrack. All the Byrds reissues are great, with plenty of bonus. Remarkably, all of it on this one is really good. Especially the super-weird “Moog Raga.”

Besides, if you don’t have any Byrds, you won’t understand when we refer to them every other review.

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“Draft Morning”

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  • holy sh*#, I never realized the Byrds got this psychedelic.

  • Kenneth

    It might be interesting to note that this record was among the first to use the Moog synthesizer. The man who programmed the Moog in the studio for Gary Usher co. was Paul Beaver. He (along with collaborator Bernie Krause) released “The Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music” in 1967 on Nonesuch Records, and I believe that record to be the highest selling technical demonstration record of all time (certainly for that time). It is a brilliant recording!

    Beaver and Krause were also responsible for Moog-ing many popular records during that period (including work by The Beatles,The Doors,The Rolling Stones, et. al.) and were employed, for a period, by the R.A. Moog company as west coast sales representatives.

  • Ken

    It should also be mentioned that Beaver and Krause helped (in no small part) introduce the music world to the synthesizer. They had a Moog demonstration booth at the Monterey Pop Festival!

  • J

    The Byrds sound influenced legions of bands from the Replacements, REM, Husker Du and the Minutemen – some big names. They were influential then and still now. That first album alone is revolutionary and considered one of the best ever!

  • Ken

    Without production efforts from those aforementioned fellars (Beaver, Usher), I don’t think this would have been considered a whole lot different from previous efforts. The songwriting is good. “Moog Raga” is good. I believe Sweetheart of The Rodeo to be a superior effort.

  • derek

    The Byrds did some marginally interesting songs that weren’t Dylan covers. Whether they influenced any other bands or not doesn’t matter. Every band is influenced by other bands or artists. The best of the Byrds is still heard today. The rest should stay where it belongs, in the 60s.

  • W. Stacy

    I know I am nearly 2 years late on my comment (I just discovered your site a couple weeks ago – lots of catching up) but this is a transitional record, albeit with some good stuff on it. Production-wise I believe it to be original and, dare I say, daring when taken in context of its release. Song-wise it is lacking and cannot be fairly compared to records like their debut or SOTR. It is better than Byrdmaniax though!

  • ouverview

    The Moog found’ its purpose as a gimmick for pop covers, some which lapsed into a darker LSD-tinged-freak-outs[Mort Garson’s Hair or Wozard of Iz, Hyman’s Age of Electronicus…even Peter Nero and christian composer Ralph Carmichel dabbled]. I guess something disturbs people by emulating natural sounds with a synthesizer.

    Imagine how difficult pat

    B&K and Tonto’s Expanding Head Band didn’t release much music. The Tonto guys would go on to work with people like Stevie Wonder/motown,Gil Scott Heron, Devo…etc. and paul beaver died in 75, just as people like kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and Ashra Tempel were breaking into the golden era

  • Brendan

    @ouverview Synthesizers emulating UNnatural sounds on the other hand… If you like Mort Garson you should check out this brief history I wrote about late 60s SWITCHED-ON music. /ringtone-advertisement

  • ouverview

    @Bendan oops! overlooked!

    The natural sounds I was referring are sounds like in Peace Three, Wendy Carlos – Sonic Seasonings, or the human sounding voice in Tonto’s Expanding Head Band’s – Riversong, reversed human voice recordings, etc..not popular. But for some reason, causing cacophony with a Moog in an otherwise successful contemporary pop tune…the bees knees.

    B&K and Les Paul are similar in a way. Like Les Paul, B&K [to a lesser degree] got people interested in new methods of making music. Their music confused their audience [people actually tried to play How High The Moon not knowing it was 4 guitar tracks overdubbed onto each other.]They both explained their method in detail, and now nobody listens to either one.

    All I can say for sure is that B&K’s music is far more listenable than most of what I’ve heard made with the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer.

  • ouverview

    BTW I don’t think I would have have noticed the Moog on this record w/o your post. thanks!

  • Be on the look-out for the upcoming 2×10-inch release from Sundazed, titled Strange Gathering – featuring out-takes and alternate mixes from the Notorious sessions. Coming late 2010/early 2011. Some extra Moog & control-room Usher!

  • brian

    Where is that double 10″ of Notorious era stuff that Sundazed was going to release? The double 10″ of 5D sessions, Another Dimension, is probably my favorite non standard catalog Byrds release. Been waiting on this one since I learned of it 4 years ago. It’s time Sundazed!

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