ARTIST: The Byrds
TITLE: The Notorious Byrd Brothers
YEAR RELEASED: 1968
CHART ACTION: #47 US, #12 UK
SINGLES: Goin’ Back (#89)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Draft Morning, Wasn’t Born to Follow, Change Is Now
LINEUP: Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman, David Crosby. Michael Clarke on some tracks. Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine filled in when Clarke was out. Other musicians: Clarence White, James Burton, Red Rhodes, Paul Beaver, Gary Usher, the Firesign Theatre, and more.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The true end of the first Byrds era. A crumbling band puts together their best, most consistent record despite it all.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: David Crosby was kicked out midway through the sessions. Michael Clarke left the sessions for a while, and then came back. Gene Clark joined for two weeks and left again. Still, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman persevered and created probably the best Byrds album.
“Goin’ Back” is a classic of harmony and arrangement, “Wasn’t Born to Follow” the same with its flangers and phase shifters, “Draft Morning” is poignant, somber and somewhat peaceful despite the subject matter. “Dolphin’s Smile”, “Change Is Now”, “Old John Robertson”, etc. etc. there are so many winners and classic cuts here. Top 40 radio left the Byrds behind, but they were moving towards cultural significance more than pop sales.
Only the concluding cut holds it back, a moog synthesized sea shanty about space exploration. A weird final cut is pretty much par for their course Still, ten out of 11 excellent cuts and a perfect time period piece.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Wasn’t Born to Follow” was chosen for the Easy Rider soundtrack and plays a prominent role in the movie
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, early tracks, outtakes, and a hidden track of an argument where David Crosby picks on Michael Clarke about his drumming.
GRADE: A: As close to perfect as the Byrds get.