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.

1 comment:

James said...

How can you come to the conclusion that Renaissance Fair has not been remixed when there is a (very obvious) sax. part now audible which was completely mixed out (i.e. just not there at all) in the original mix.