The Notorious Byrd Brothers
The Notorious Byrd Brothers follows a similar template to Younger Than Yesterday, with the band’s writers, Hillman, McGuinn, and Crosby, contributing most of the material. The album, however, was recorded at a time of turmoil for The Byrds; drummer Michael Clarke left during the recording sessions, while the outspoken David Crosby was fired after trying to lead The Byrds in a more radicalised direction, particularly debates over his controversial ‘Triad’. The Notorious Byrd Brothers is particularly impressive in terms of texture – it was the first rock album to use a Moog synthesizer, while there are also elements of country, horn sections, and other disparate elements mixed into The Byrds’ template, resulting in a shimmering album of baroque pop.
Two of the strongest songs on the album come from Carole King and Gerry Goffin, with the gentle ‘Goin’ Back’ and ‘Wasn’t Born To Follow’, showing the group’s skill as song interpreters. Crosby contributed the excellent ‘Draft Morning’, while his ‘Tribal Gathering’ is a unique amalgam of fifties vocal group harmonies and a gently psychedelic arrangement. McGuinn’s pretty ‘Get To You’ is one of his best songs for the group, and Hillman’s ‘Natural Harmony’ is also noteworthy.
The Notorious Byrd Brothers relies on its wonderful production and inventive arrangements, but it rates as The Byrds’ best album for me.
The 1997 reissue appends an amazingly fun studio fight between Clarke, Crosby, and McGuinn that’s almost worth the price of admission alone.