The recipe for a box set, any of those mammoth reissues currently in vogue, is simple: Just toss the hits and a few odds and ends into a square package and slap on a $40 price tag. Easy, right? Not according to CBS producer Don DeVito, who spent a year (and six figures) assembling The Byrds, the label's 90-track anthology of the '60s folk-rock band. ''It's tough enough putting together an album with 10 tracks,'' says DeVito. ''You can imagine when you have 200 tunes and alternate takes. You're talking round-the- clock work-taking tapes home on weekends to listen, second-guessing yourself every minute.''
DeVito had to wing it in tracking down Byrds master tapes. Many were found in unmarked boxes at a CBS vault in upstate New York originally built by the army during World War II to withstand enemy attack. Others were found as far away as Japan. DeVito then hired Byrds leader Roger McGuinn to pick the best version of each song. ''It was time-consuming, but interesting,'' says McGuinn. ''I didn't realize how much we'd done.''
But all that was a cinch compared to DeVito's next project an Aerosmith box planned for 1991. According to DeVito, some of the group's '70s tapes are ''terribly deteriorated. We're having to transfer them to digital right away,'' he adds. ''I had no idea how wild this could be.''