Monday, April 28, 2014

The Byrds’ First Four Albums Remastered on CD in 1996: A Re-Assessment and Analysis of Remixed Tracks - FOURTH ALBUM: YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY by MARK TEEHAN

Album: Younger Than Yesterday
·         Original Stereo LP (vinyl): Columbia CS 9442 (Released  2/20/1967)
·         Original Stereo CD: Columbia CK 9442 (1989; hereafter referred to as ‘Columbia’)
·         Original Box Set: The Byrds Boxed Set. 4 CD Boxed Set Columbia/Legacy C4K 46773 (10/19/1990; Cruising Altitude disc).
·         Remixed (partially) and remastered CD: Columbia/Legacy CK 64848
·         Original Mono Mix on CD: Audio Fidelity 24 KT + Gold Compact Disc AFZ 110 (Mastered by Steve Hoffman “From The Original Mono Master Tapes”; 2011; No. 2096).

Number of Remixed Tracks: 4 (out of 11)
Remixed Track Numbers: #2, #6, #7, and #8


By far the best sounding of the Byrds’ first four albums as originally released on CD, the Columbia disc was probably sourced from a 2nd-generation, slightly worn safety copy of the original stereo mix-down master tape, done as a ‘flat transfer’. As a result, there are brief instances of source tape flaws on the Columbia disc, especially audible when listening through headphones. Three tracks- “Renaissance Fair;” “The Girl With No Name;” and “Time Between”- had tape hiss at their endings, whereas the Legacy disc contained no such hiss. The Columbia CD sounded fine when listening through speakers.

The original stereo mix of this superb album generally sounded flat and dry, with the drums lacking resonance and impact, and Hillman’s fine bass guitar work marginalized due to the fact that the bass was severely under-mixed and rolled-off. This deficiency was apparent on both the original stereo LP and the Columbia CD. In this writer’s view, the best way to enjoy this great album is by listening to the superior  monaural mix as presented by Audio Fidelity: there, Steve Hoffman expertly mastered from the original mono master tapes for this CD-as he has done for more than 30 years on many other albums. Original Producer Gary Usher did an excellent job in overseeing that mono mix.

Remixed Tracks

·         Have You Seen Her Face (Track #2)- The obvious tip-off that the Legacy version (2:39, actual timing) was a remix would be the additional length of the song: 16 seconds longer than on the Columbia CD (2:23). Aside from pushing out the fade point about nine seconds (from the 2:15 point to about 2:24), the guitars and bass from the LC were mixed louder on the Legacy, which had greater clarity between the instruments than the Columbia did. The remix of this track included on the 1990 box set was done from the 8-track master, and as in the case of the original stereo mix, was sorely deficient in bass; it ran slightly longer (2:41) than the Legacy remix.

As mentioned previously, the mono mix (album and A-sided single, the third released from the album) of this excellent Chris Hillman-written song was much more effective, with much stronger bass presence than heard on the stereo mixes (original and remixes) and a fuller-bodied guitar sound- McGuinn’s solos on a Gretsch Country Gentleman were extremely powerful. 

·         Everybody’s Been Burned (Track #6)- Aside from running about seven seconds longer (3:03) than the vintage mix (2:56), the Legacy remix of this moving, jazz-influenced song written by David Crosby offered markedly superior delineation between the guitars and boosted the percussive effects and rhythm guitar from the RC. McGuinn’s solo on the break, starting at the 1:29 point, was exquisite and perfectly complemented by Crosby’s fine rhythm guitar licks. As well, Crosby’s lead vocal had more depth, and better tone on the Legacy compared to the Columbia, where it sounded flat and one-dimensional. Another annoying aspect to the original stereo mix was the rushed, almost amateurish fade-out to the track. Furthermore, Hillman’s stylized bass lines from the LC became more audible in the remix.

In this regard, the mono mix presented on the Audio Fidelity CD was downright stunning, as the bass guitar was rightly featured more prominently than even on the Legacy remix, exuding an ominous, brooding quality which enhanced the song’s impact noticeably. Surprisingly, the mono album mix ran a little longer (3:00; 2:58 on the single, the B-side to “So You Want To Be A Rock ‘N’ Roll Star”) than the original stereo mix (2:56).

A rather unexpected aspect to the Legacy remix was the fact that after it peaked at +3db in the LC in spots (00:30; 1:14,), and at +2db in the RC at the latter point prior to the break- generally a full 2-3dB higher then the original mix- it seemed to tail off in volume during and after the break. In effect, the remix apparently was reduced in level from the break onwards perhaps to match the lower output of the original stereo mix. In sharp contrast, the monaural mix was up 1-3dB compared to the Legacy over the same span, with the bass guitar much stronger, using matched input levels. This substantially changed the tenor and impact of the song for the positive.

·         Thoughts And Words (Track #7)- This was an extremely difficult   decision to make, given the fact that Bob Irwin had stated earlier that only three songs from this album had been remixed, and that number had been reached already (counting Track #8, along with Tracks #2 and #6). Nevertheless, my determination that this excellent, multifaceted Chris Hillman track was a remix was based on a preponderance of evidence from three critical sources: actual length, listening comparison tests, and comprehensive meter data. My conclusion here-as with all the remix determinations in this article-was only reached after carefully analyzing all the evidence. If my decision here turns out to have been wrong, then I would stand corrected, as was stated in the introduction.

First of all, the additional three seconds of length on the Legacy (2:55) compared to the original mix (2:52) may not seem important, but they raised a red flag as well as allowing a slightly extended fade-out. Even more significantly, listening comparisons through both headphones and speakers revealed that on the Legacy, the drums and bass from the RC sounded noticeably louder- right out of the gate. Furthermore, the vocals sounded recessed when listening on speakers, and were anchored from the LC, as opposed to the LG as heard on the 1967 mix. The latter had a good balance between channels as well as vocals and instruments, including the backwards guitar parts that began prior (1:24) to the start of the break (1:29) from both channels (1:24-1:51), as well as later from the LC (2:23 onward), including the spot where the vocals ended and the outro started (2:32).

These observations were fully confirmed by meter chart results from 22 selected points throughout the song. Even compensating for the much hotter mastering levels of the Legacy, it proved nearly impossible to achieve any matched channel output levels from the Legacy compared to the Columbia- except for one spot in the LC on the intro! For a good portion of the song until the end section (2:32 onward), even with adjusted input levels, the Legacy’s LC levels were consistently 2dB lower than that of the vintage mix.

On the other hand, completely corroborating my listening results, the RC on the Legacy was generally a good 2-3dB higher in output level compared to the 1967 mix. Whereas the original mix had a nominal differential in channel output levels of 0 to 2dB, the Legacy registered a highly irregular variation of 4 to 6dB (4dB average)- a telltale sign of a remix. On the Legacy, when the break started (1:29), the disparity in output levels between channels was 5dB; when it ended (1:51), the difference was 6dB! In stark contrast, the corresponding figures from the original mix were 2dB and 0dB.

It should be noted that the monaural album mix of this overlooked song sounded superb, and was predictably better than the original mix and the Legacy remix: the bass and drums were mixed stronger, while the vocals and backwards guitar sections sounded solid but in proportion to the rhythm section (its length was 2:52). Why this song was omitted from the 1990 box set, when seven songs from this album were included on it, remains a mystery. As Johnny Rogan rightly pointed out, this tune was “ Arguably Hillman’s finest solo composition….” (2012,322).

·         Mind Gardens (Track #8)- This was a rather obvious remix with a running time of twenty seconds longer (3:46) than the vintage mix (3:26); the fade-out was noticeably extended as a result.


This album’s challenger was Crosby’s fine period piece, “Renaissance Fair” (Track #4; songwriting credited to Crosby/McGuinn; the B-side to the “My Back Pages” single), which harkened back to a bygone era. Although the Legacy version was not a remix in my opinion, the better quality of the source tape and transfer process brought out enhanced detail from the guitars, as well as highlighting Hillman’s superb bass playing, compared to the Columbia disc. This conclusion was corroborated by meter test results, after making the requisite adjustments for mastering differences.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Byrds’ First Four Albums Remastered on CD in 1996: A Re-Assessment and Analysis of Remixed Tracks - THIRD ALBUM: FIFTH DIMENSION by MARK TEEHAN

    Album: Fifth Dimension

  • Original Stereo LP (vinyl): Columbia CS 9349 (Released 07/18/1966)
  • Original Stereo CD: Columbia CK 9349 (1989; hereafter referred to as ‘Columbia’)
  • Remixed (partially) and remastered CD: Columbia/Legacy CK 64847 (04/1996; hereafter referred to as ‘Legacy.’)
  • “Original Album Mono Version” with “Mono Bonus Tracks” (3) and “Original Album Stereo Version.” Sony Music Japan International Inc. SICP 20374. (Blu-Spec CD. Made In Japan. 2012)

Number of remixed tracks on the Legacy CD, CK 64847: 5 (out of 11 tracks)
Remixed Track Numbers: #4, #5, #7, #8, and #9

By far the worst sounding of the original 1987 Columbia CDs, this transitional album was probably sourced from a 4th or 5th-generation safety copy of the master tape; the first six songs (‘Side A’) suffered in sound quality-especially the first four. In any event, the source tape must have been in poor condition, at least ‘Reel A;’ that portion of the album had a gritty, metallic edge to its sound. Fortunately, ‘Reel B’ was in much better shape, so the songs from ‘Side B’ of the LP sounded relatively better on the Columbia- at least passable. Nevertheless, for the songs from ‘Side A,’ the resulting distortion on primarily vocals but also guitar parts did more than anything to unfairly give the entire lot of original Columbia CDs a bad reputation. Most recently, Bob Irwin has stated that only “a third” of this album was remixed for the Legacy CD “… because of oxide loss problems…. ” (King, 2009, 4). This would equate to four songs being remixed, one song less than my detailed listening comparisons revealed.

Remixed Songs

·         I See You  (Track #4)- A telltale giveaway was the Legacy’s running time (2:38) being five seconds longer than the Columbia’s (2:33).  Whereas the guitars (LC) and vocals (centered) were severely distorted on the Columbia, to the point of making this song virtually un-listenable (notably on headphones), on the Legacy remix none of these problems were evident. By using the three- track reduction master, Vic Anesini was able to create a much clearer remix, without the annoying distortion present on the Columbia. McGuinn’s Coltrane-inspired 12-string guitar lines were especially effective, while the bell-like sounds near the song’s end were more audible. In an interesting side-note, this song was remixed from the eight-track multi-track master on the 1990 box set, with the drums and clavia in the right channel mixed louder than on the 1996 Legacy remix.

·         What’s Happening?!?!  (Track #5)- David Crosby’s first solo writing credit with the group featured innovative guitar interplay with Roger McGuinn, and sported a psychedelic, raga feel. On the Legacy remix, which ran four seconds longer (2:34) than the original stereo mix on the vinyl LP and Columbia CD (2:30), as well the mono mix (album and B-side single), there was a final guitar note that was missing from the latter original mixes (stereo and mono). The Legacy remix also provided better articulation and balance between the guitars, and brought the drums up in the mix: they were almost buried on the 1966 mix.

·         Eight Miles High (Track #7)- Arguably the Byrd’s best song and finest recorded moment as a true collaborative effort, the original stereo mix showcased its musical strengths quite effectively: Hillman’s deep, ominous, menacing bass intro from the LC, followed by Clarke’s powerful drumming (RC)-arguably one of his finest moments; McGuinn’s inspired guitar playing and incredible solos; Crosby’s excellent staccato rhythm guitar work (LC); and finally, the group’s ghastly vocals cast in the middle of the mix. In the 1966 mix, the song had a dynamic ebb and flow, with a remarkable instrumental balance that maintained the rhythm section at a strong level while the Rickenbacker flashed at breathtaking intensity throughout. The words seamless and exceptional come to mind in trying to describe the original stereo mix of this ahead-of-its-time song, equally well represented by the vinyl LP and the 1990 box set (not remixed), with the former having a slight edge. Even on the Columbia CD, it sounded decent-especially on speakers- at about 85% of the box set’s sound quality.

After exhaustive listening sessions and meticulous notes compiled from metering observations taken over an extended period of time, it became this writer’s contention that the Legacy version was a remix. This became quite apparent on the intro, when the bass guitar opened at a markedly lower output level (-4dB down in the LC), and significantly, without the deep, resonating overtones that typified the original mix. As well, the drums entered the RC at a 2-4dB lower level than the box set, as always, using matched record level (input) settings. Despite this lower start in volume, the Legacy caught up, to the point where, at the start of the second verse, it ran +2dB higher in the LC than the original mix. Further proof that the version on the Legacy was a remix: its 2dB output differential between channels at that spot, compared to the box set’s nominal zero (0dB) variation. 

Significantly, the Rickenbacker was mixed louder on the Legacy, from the opening riffs and continuing throughout the song; ditto for the rhythm guitar in the LC: it too sounded louder on the Legacy. In addition, the vocals were more prominent and rode higher in the remix, and were shifted over to the LG, instead of being positioned  towards the center area (LG-center) as on the 1966 mix. This situation was quite different than the original mix, where the vocals were trapped in the middle, almost buried, giving them that eerie, zombie-like feel.

None of the preceding was meant to diminish the sonic excellence of the remix, including its increased instrumental detail-notably on the guitars. It is certainly understandable how, based on a cursory, non-comparative listening experience, one could conclude that the Legacy version was not a remix- especially if the listener was unfamiliar with the original stereo mix.  Nevertheless, the Legacy version came across as a cleaner, more ‘clinical,’ ultimately different version of the 1966 mix. In the final analysis, a detailed examination of both the aural and metering level evidence supports my conclusion that this track was remixed for the Legacy CD. In some respects, it sounded as if it might have been remixed from the 8-track masters, as opposed to the three-track reduction master, although this is speculation on my part.  While hardly a conclusive sign of proof, it was interesting that Bob Irwin informed writer John Nork that one of the gems unearthed in the exhaustive search through the Columbia tape vaults was the multi-track master tape of “Eight Miles High.” (

It was interesting to observe that some of the sonic differences and remixing decisions found with the Legacy stereo remix seem to have been patterned after the original mono mix of this song,               which ran two seconds longer (3:35 listed; 3:33 actual length) and thus included a barely audible final drum roll absent from the stereo mixes (3:33 listed; 3:31 actual length). Undeniably, the mono mix (single and album) had a driving, relentless intensity that was quite effective: the Rickenbacker was understandably dominant during McGuinn’s three incredible overdubbed solos (starting at 00:11; 1:43; and 2:57), while Crosby’s stabbing rhythm guitar fills were mixed higher prior to the Rickenbacker solos.

However, the 12-string lead receded during the rest of the song, while the vocals were louder, being mixed more out front. The rhythm section was generally well presented on the mono mix, although it inevitably lacked the detail and separation of the 1966 stereo mix, and was normally in the background; the drums provided decent accent at critical points. It bears mentioning that the mono single mix displayed a tad more ‘pop’, with evidence of compression (1-2dB) than the mono album version. As presented on the Blu-Spec disc, the latter exhibited a surprising 2dB channel differential in places- uncharacteristic of a monaural mix, and unlike the single ‘45’ mix’s virtual 0dB channel deviation.

On the other hand, the original stereo mix maintained the Rickenbacker at a solid level throughout the song, aside from the solos, while the vocals were pulled back, giving them that trapped, eerie feel. As well, the interplay between guitars was better presented, while the bass guitar and drums had a much more audible, consistent presence throughout the entire song. Overall, the 1966 stereo mix sounded more like a band playing live in the studio, and had more ambience, as well as a mesmerizing dynamism, than the mono mix. It is this writer’s contention that the incredible musical complexity of this groundbreaking song was more fully rendered on the 1966 stereo mix. 

·         Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)  (Track #8)- Here the Legacy remix (2:16) checked in at four seconds longer than the Columbia (2:12), allowing it to feature a longer fade out; the drums out of the right channel rode higher in the remix, with more ‘pop’ than on the vintage mix. David Crosby’s relentless one-year campaign to get the Byrds to include this Los Angeles favorite originating from their Ciro’s shows, written by Billy Roberts and popularized nationally as a Top 40 single by the Leaves, had finally paid off. The Leaves were one of many LA bands who played the song in live gigs from 1965-1966; their single peaked at #2 on the survey of top Los Angeles station KRLA, on 5/7/1966. It was probably no coincidence that the Byrds had made their first attempt at recording this song about 1-4 days prior to that date, and completed it ten days after it, on 17 May 1966 (Rogan 2012, 1020-1021; Hjort 2008, 94, for the completion date).

·         Captain Soul  (Track #9)- An easy giveaway with the Legacy remix (2:53) timing out twenty seconds longer than the original Columbia mix (2:33); the top end was cleaner on the remix. This soul/R&B-influenced instrumental was primarily the idea of drummer Michael Clarke, who only received part (25%) of the songwriting credit and played harmonica on the break, and served as the B-side to the “5D (Fifth Dimension)” single (Rogan 2012, 297).


By far the most challenging track to decipher was “5D (Fifth Dimension),” the album’s lead off cut and a 45 single that was written by McGuinn as an adventurous foray into metaphysics. Unfortunately, it was misinterpreted by the pop music press in 1966 as a ‘drug song’ and suffered commercially as a result (#39 peak on Cash Box; #44 on Billboard, both 7/30/1966; Hjort 2008, 97; 102). While predictably mastered much hotter on the Legacy- generally +4db louder in the LC compared to the Columbia disc- it was determined to be the same as the original mix. Undoubtedly using a superior source tape, the adjusted channel output levels of the Legacy version closely matched those of the 1966 mix, notably from the vinyl LP; the right channel output of the Legacy was spot on, while the left channel sported several slight 1-2dB increases.

The Legacy version conformed to the critical musical cues of the original mix: 1:14, the vocal bridge with the extended “Oh” leading off the fourth and final verse; 1:55, Van Dyke Park’s haunting organ from the RC; 2:15-2:16, the beginning of the fade out; and 2:32, the song’s ending. These observations were confirmed by careful listening comparisons. This was a case where both the superiority of the source tape and the analog-to-digital transfer used for the Legacy CD made the track sound markedly different from the Columbia, suggesting the possibility of a remix. Once again, the vinyl LP proved to be a valuable source, and helped tremendously in making a determination. If this track was a remix on the Legacy, then it was one of the best-executed remixes ever made, and this writer would duly stand corrected. Incidentally, this song was remixed for the box set from the 8-track masters.