The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers
I decided to check out these guys based on recommendations from the Elephant 6 label forum. I’m quite glad I did as I would have never looked to the Byrds for psychedelic music of this nature after hearing Mr. Tambourine Man.
Upon reading the booklet coming with the Columbia reissue you got a clear idea of the band at the time. The year is 1966 and Tension in the group is at an all time high. Falling apart as a rock band they became a studio art project eventually causing some members to eventually leave. At the end of recording the Byrds were only a duo making the title “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” appropriate. After this release The Byrds went onto a different direction as a country group making the highly influencal “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” The country direction is evident here but more subtle and as much as I dislike most country but it really fits in well in this album.
Before I even go into the track details, I would really like to state my appreciation for the great guitar playing. Roger McGuinn has the 12 string Rickenbacker sound perfected creating lush and vibrant playing that is really unequalled. I couldn’t imagine what “Tribal Gathering” and “Natural Harmony” The Singing is also superb as with all Byrd releases. They has a way of becoming one with the song flowing with the melodies in a very relaxing way. The whole voice being an instrument idea fits perfectly with The Byrds.
Artificial Energy 2:18
This groove propels into the great world that is the Notorious Byrd Brothers. With the horns and phasing I get a “San Francisco” feel that I really can’t explain. It’s certainly the most upbeat energetic song on the record making the title appropriate, but only in a drug related way. If you only check out one song from this album make it this one. I regret that it’s hard to get into detail in.
Goin Back 3:26
Already made a hit by Dusty Springfield, The Byrds pull off of yet another cover they are so good at doing. The feel is very mellow with the country influences already creeping in. By the time the chorus rolls around the songs has reached relaxation bliss and really the chorus is magnificent, an album highlight for me.
Natural Harmony 2:42
As I stated earlier the guitar playing here is great. I never tire off the lazy strumming pattern doing the verses. Very short but a great addition to The Notorious Byrd Brothers.
Daft Morning 2:42
“Daft Morning” continues on the mellow mood already in place with one major difference. Sci – Fi sound effects join the mix to make a surprisingly dramatic interlude. Nothing to complain about here.
Wasn’t Born To Follow
Easily most recognizable from the movie “Easy Rider” Wasn’t Born to follow is a standard western cowboy movie tune made even more interesting by the psychedelic phasing.
Get To You 2:39
The bittersweet tear jerker of the album, I really found a connection with this song.
The lyrics about missing a certain someone all make sense at the chorus reassuring you “That’s a little better"
“Change Is Now” 3:21
By this point in the album you have either come to the conclusion that this album is cool or cheesy. Even sometimes I think these guys are cheesy but of course in a good way. “Change is Now” is a dreamy song and the solo is amazing, I have to admit.
Old John Robertson 1:49
A very short song as you can see. This song is filled with slide guitar and western rhythms and as The Byrds like to do, a phased cello solo joins the song to make it more “psychedelic".
“Tribal Gathering” 2:03
My favorite song on the album, the lyrics “She'll hand to you a stick of sandalwood, a little smile and then she disappears. Back into a crowd of happy people, looking like they never came from here” are so euphoric over the classic verse guitar rhythm I love so much. Just before the second minute the song goes into a jazz acid freak-out and then flows right back into the relaxing groove like no one’s business, very dynamic.
Dolphin’s Smile 2:00
The Byrds show of their ability to make strange noises at the start with scratching of the guitar neck while plugged into a phaser. Even though the lyrics may seem a bit cheesy the guitar work miming whale calls is really cool.
Space Odyssey 3:52
Written before the famous movie Space Odyssey this song follows the same spacey vibe as in the movie. Around two minutes a trance vibe begins to settle in after the repeated theme. It’s really overall a pretty sleepy track
Overall Rating 4/5