33 1/3: The Byrds – Notorious Byrd Brothers by Rick Menck (Continuum Books)

The 33 1/3 series is a music nerd’s wet dream – entire books devoted to just one album. It’s too much depth for most, but the books are short (usually just over 100 pages), and each volume’s author takes a different approach the material – some reflect on what an album means to them, some focus on the behind-the-scenes aspects of an album’s creation, some dissect the music, and some even write short novels inspired by an album. Author Rick Menck’s (who drums for a variety of groups, including Velvet Crush) examination of The Byrd’s 1968 psychedelic-country classic Notorious Byrd Brothers has three distinct phases: First, he talks about his own history with the album since first hearing it in college. Second, he gives a pre-Notorious  Byrd Brothers history of group from their early days in the folk scene, through 1967’s Younger Than Yesterday. Finally, a track-by-track look at the tumultuous recording sessions that tore the band apart (David Crosby would quit by the time the album was completed, and others would follow soon after), yet produced the most interesting and diverse material (covering traditional country, space-rock, soul, and folk-rock) they ever released. Menck makes an excellent argument for this album’s status as an under-appreciated masterpiece, and by the book’s end I found myself itching to give the album a listen for the first time in years. Well done.