“Natural Harmony” (2:11)
Written by Chris Hillman
Produced by Gary Usher
From “The Notorious Byrd Brothers,” Columbia, January 15th, 1968
Most people know the Byrds for their initial, jingly-jangly, folk-rock phase marked by the iconic 1965 singles, “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” But the band went on to pioneer a variety of novel musical styles including jazz-rock, raga-rock, psychedelic-rock, and county-rock. The band reached its creative peak with the albums, “Younger Than Yesterday” (1967) and “The Notorious Byrd Brothers” (1968). The excellence of “Notorious” is quite remarkable given that David Crosby and Michael Clarke were absent from half of the recording sessions due to having been fired and having quit the band respectively.
“Natural Harmony,” song #17 in our Byrds’ Top 25 Songs countdown, is a deep cut on the “Notorious” LP. Bassist, Chris Hillman, penned this ode to joie de vivre* with its evocative chorus,
Dancing through the streets side by side, head thrown back, arms open wide.
We can definitely hear Hillman’s bandmate, David Crosby’s influence in this song, with it’s laid-back, jazzy, ethereal feel. Producer Gary Usher employed several studio effects that were popular at that time to create perhaps the Byrds’ most psychedelic-sounding song. Guest keyboardist, Paul Beaver, contributes some other-worldly effects with the newly-introduced Moog Synthesizer. “Natural Harmony” was one of the earliest rock tunes to feature the Moog. Jim Gordon fills in expertly for Clarke on the drum kit.
On perhaps the Byrds’ finest album, this was one of my favorite tunes. The studio effects no doubt date this song, but it’s an excellent specimen from the psychedilia era. We’ll be revisiting “Notorious” two more times as we continue to count down the Byrds’ Top 25 Songs.
*Joie de vivre (French: “exuberant enjoyment of life”) is a fleeting mirage outside of salvation in Jesus Christ.