Undeniably, the release of the Byrds’ first four albums on CD in April 1996 set a new, higher standard for reissues of 60’s artists on disc for the following reasons: their state-of-the art sound quality; the generally judicious choices made on the remixing and mastering of tracks; the inclusion of top-flight and often rare bonus tracks; and the superb and informative liner notes (by David Fricke) and song notes (by Johnny Rogan). The entire project exuded class and excellent attention to detail. Clearly, a considerable amount of work, research, and preparation went into it.
Thus it was all the more puzzling why neither Project Director Adam Block nor especially Producer Bob Irwin saw fit to include annotations regarding which tracks on each album had been remixed, and from what type of multi-track masters. One would have thought that would have been a relatively straightforward matter to cover. While casual fans may not have cared, Block and Irwin had to have known that die-hard Byrds’ fans would, and surely deserved that information. Ironically, even the much-maligned 1990 box set had managed to include such historically useful notes, making it crystal-clear which tracks had been remixed and from what source tapes. This unexplained omission has marred the otherwise fine Legacy CD reissue series of the Byrds’ catalog over the years, and led to understandable speculation and debate- notably in the past decade in online forums.
On a more minor note, it was rather surprising that apparently none of the surviving Byrds were asked for their feedback on the remixed tracks prior to the release of these Legacy reissue CD’s. After all, Roger McGuinn had served as a musical consultant on the 1990 box set, reviewing “… hours of previously unreleased material…” and assisting in the creation of new stereo mixes of some songs that had only been in mono (1990 box set, liner notes, 13). David Crosby seemed especially upset that the Legacy reissue team failed to solicit his opinions ahead of time: “… The only thing that pisses me is that they never asked anything. They never talked to me not once, they went ahead and did it and just did it….” (http://www.analogplanet.com/content/david-crosby-can-remember-his-name-and-great-deal-more-part-ii-0).
It is this writer’s hope that, in some small way, this article will lead to Columbia/Legacy Records, as a part of Sony Music Entertainment, Inc., posting a ‘white paper’ of sorts on their website that at least lists which songs were actually remixed from the first four Byrds’ studio albums and from what source tapes (http://www.legacyrecordings.com). Byrds’ fans across the globe can only hope, while they enjoy the group’s incredibly timeless, superb, and eclectic music.
Appendix A: Notes on Methodology and the Compilation of Meter Chart Data
Each track on the first four Byrds’ studio albums was diligently listened to, from each relevant source, at matched volume settings on headphones first in order to map out the location of the instruments and vocals across the soundstage. Next, musical cue points and the actual track lengths were noted; listed lengths are notoriously unreliable and were not used. Then each track was listened to multiple times on both headphones and speakers, first from the various sources that represented the original stereo mix, and then from the respective Legacy disc. Any audible differences between them regarding the volume/level of instruments or vocals, their location and depth in the soundstage, as well as their tone, texture, and general frequency characteristics, were noted. All listening session notes were duly dated. In order to gain more insight and perspective into certain tracks, the monaural mixes were listened to as well.
In order to resolve any questions or uncertainties, or to confirm listening conclusions regarding the status of a particular track-whether or not it had been remixed-comprehensive meter data was compiled from 24-segment, peak reading LED meters from a Sony TC-KA3ES cassette deck. These meters were tested using an Audio Reference CD derived from NCH Digital Waveform Programmable Test Tone software. This Reference CD contained balanced mono signals using standard 16 bit, 44.1 kHz sampling PCM WAV files, with the default output level at 33% of full modulation (Redbook Standard), and presented the following frequencies as sine waves: 33 Hz; 400 Hz; 1 kHz; 13.33 kHz; 15 kHz; and 17.5 kHz.
With the record level (input volume) of the tape deck set at ‘3.0,’ both channels were matched exactly for all the previously listed frequencies, and all registered at –4dB on the meters. The same precise channel matching was observed with the record level set at ‘3.5,’ which naturally resulted in a higher meter reading of 0dB for all frequencies. These two volume settings (‘3.0’ and ‘3.5’) were tested specifically as they represented the most common settings utilized in the testing of individual tracks. As an example, for the CD sources used, the Columbia discs generally were typically set at the higher point (about ‘3.5-4.0’); while the hotter Legacy CD’s usually had to be pegged down to the lower (‘3.0’) level, although there were obviously variations depending on the track. The 1990 box set normally ran between those numbers, although there were occasions where it was dialed in close to the Legacy.
In compiling meter data for specific tracks from relevant sources, the record level setting was adjusted for each source so that the meters registered at the same level for each channel, normally at a specific point in the intro of each song. In this manner, the different mastering levels of each source were compensated for. The resulting output levels of each channel were charted over a range of usually 20-24 specific points throughout a song. Quite often, this meter plotting was repeated several times, for accuracy and consistency purposes.
Appendix B: References
Books and Articles
Cianci, Bob, 2008. Roger McGuinn: Rickenbackers, Martins & Byrds. Premier Guitar. http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/roger-mcguinn-rickenbackers-martins-byrds-1
Ellis, Andy, 2004. Roger McGuinn (Interview). Guitar Player. http://www.guitarplayer.com/story.asp?sectioncode=4&storycode=4362
Fremer, Michael, 2006 (posted 04/01/2007). Sundazed and Mobile Fidelity Make The Case For Mono! (Album Review: The Byrds (reissue) Mr. Tambourine Man; originally posted in Musicangle, 11/01/2006). http://www.analogplanet.com/content/sundazed-and-mobile-fidelity-make-case-mono-0
Hjort, Christopher. 2008. So You Want To Be a Rock ‘N’ Roll Star. The Byrds Day-By-Day 1965-1973. London: Jawbone Press.
Hoglund, Don. RIAA Equalization Curve For Phonograph Records. http://www.graniteaudio.com/phono/page5.html
Hughes, Rob, 2003. The Byrds. Younger Than Yesterday. Uncut. Take 75.
King, Paul, 2009. The Byrds’ Remastered Albums 1996-2000. http://users.skynet.be/byrdsfollower/remasters1996-2000.htm
Kubernik, Harvey, 2006. Interview with Roger McGuinn: comfortable in his Folk Den. Goldmine. 32: 15: 678, 19-20.
Moseley, Willie C., 2002. Chris Hillman: Bluegrass, Bass, and Back Again. Vintage Guitar Magazine. www.vintageguitar.com/2935/chris-hillman/
Nork, John, 1997. Roger McGuinn Speaks with John Nork (originally published in the Tracking Angle, 2; posted by Michael Fremer, 10/01/2004). http://www.analogplanet.com/content/roger-mcguinn-speaks-john-norkpart-1-0
_________, The Byrds Reconsidered: The 1996 Legacy CD Reissues-Part 1 (originally published in the Tracking Angle; posted by Michael Fremer, 10/01/20004).
_________, David Crosby Can Remember His Name…and a Great Deal More- Part II (originally published in the Tracking Angle, 2; posted by Michael Fremer, 11/01/2004).
Priore, Domenic. 2007. Riot On Sunset Strip- Rock ‘n’ roll’s last stand in Hollywood. London: Jawbone Press.
Rogan, Johnny. 2012. Byrds. Requiem For The Timeless. Volume 1. London: R/H [R. House].
____________. 2008. The Byrds. Timeless Flight Revisited. The Sequel. London: Rogan House.
Rowe, Matt, 2013. An Insightful Look at Audio Mastering with Steve Hoffman. The Morton Report. 5/24/2013. http://www.themortonreport.com/entertainment/music/an-insightful-look-into-audio-mastering-with-steve-hoffman/
Thomson, Graeme, 2012. The Story Of The Notorious Byrd Brothers- Change Is Now. Uncut. 186: 30-35.
_________, Rob Hughes, Tom Pinnock (Interviews by); Introduction by Roger McGuinn. The Byrds’ 20 Greatest Tracks (As chosen by Emmylou Harris, J Mascis, Bobby Gillespie, Jonathan Wilson and more). Uncut. 186: 36-41.
Unterberger, Richie. 2003. Eight Miles High- Folk-Rock’s Flight from Haight Ashbury to Woodstock. San Francisco: Backbeat Books.
___________. 2002. Turn!Turn!Turn!- The ‘60’s Folk-Rock Revolution. San Francisco: Backbeat Books.
AnalogPlanet web site (Publisher: Keith Pray; Editor: Michael Fremer),
Byrds Flyght web site,
Connors, Tim, 1997-1998. Byrd Watcher- A Field Guide to the Byrds of Los Angeles, web site,
Ford, Roger, 2011. Electric Dylan, web site,
Hoffman, Steve. Mastering Engineer’s web site,
Mix Magazine, Classic Tracks, web site,
Rick Resource Rickenbacker Forum, Byrds Forum: by James Krause, web site,
Sound On Sound Magazine, Classic Tracks, web site,
My thanks to Roger Ford, and Christopher Hjort.