Gene Clark – No Other (1974)

AllMusic Review: Upon its 1974 release, Gene Clark’s No Other was rejected by most critics as an exercise in bloated studio excess. It was also ignored by Asylum, which had invested $100,000 in recording it. A considerable sum at the time, it was intended as a double album, but the label refused to release it as such. Ultimately, it proved a commercial failure that devastated Clark, and he never recovered.

Though Clark didn’t live to see it, No Other has attained cult status as a visionary recording that employs every available studio means to illustrate the power in Clark’s mercurial songwriting. He and producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye entered Village Recorders in L.A. with an elite cast that included Michael Utley and Jesse Ed Davis, Butch Trucks, Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Joe Lala, Chris Hillman, Danny “Kooch” Kortchmar, Howard Buzzy Feiten, and Stephen Bruton. Clark’s vocalists included Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Shirley Matthews, the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmidt, and Claudia Lennear. These musicians all brought their best to the material. As a whole, No Other is a sprawling, ambitious work that seamlessly melds country, folk, jazz-inflected-gospel, urban blues, and breezy L.A. rock in a song cycle that reflects the mid-’70s better than anything from the time, yet continues to haunt the present with its relevance.

There are no edges on the set, even in the labyrinthine, multi-tracked “No Other,” that juxtaposes guitar-driven psychedelia and out jazz saxophones and flutes with lush vocal harmonies. Even its tougher tracks, such as “Strength of Strings,” that echoes Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” melodically delivers an alluring, modal, Eastern-tinged bridge adorned by slide guitar wizardry. In the textured darkness of “Silver Raven,” Clark’s falsetto vocal is framed by an alluring synth, and muted bassline, and is embraced by a chorus that rivals CSNY’s, making for a heartbreaking yet blissed-out country-folk song. “From a Silver Phial,” as haunting and beautiful as it is, is one of the strangest songs Clark ever penned. Its anti-drug references are especially odd as this is one of the more coked-out recordings to come from L.A. during the era. The final two cuts, “The True One” and “Lady of the North” (the latter co-written with Doug Dillard), are the only two pieces on the disc that mirror where Clark had come from musically, but as they wind around the listener, even these tracks are far bigger than mere country-rock tunes, offering glissando passages of pedal steel and piano ostinatos that actually create narrative movement for the lyrics to turn on. No Other’s songs lend themselves to open-ended performances in the studio. Because of his spacious yet always beautifully centered compositional style, they are well-suited to Kaye’s use of multi-tracked instruments and vocals, ambient sonic echoes, and textures that surround them. Clark’s unlikely classic, No Other is continually rediscovered by succeeding generations. — Thom Jurek

Track Listing:

All songs written by Gene Clark, with additional songwriters as noted. All songs arranged by Gene Clark and Thomas Jefferson Kaye.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Life’s Greatest Fool” 4:44
2. “Silver Raven” 4:53
3. “No Other” 5:08
4. “Strength of Strings” 6:32
Side two
No. Title Additional songwriter Length
1. “From a Silver Phial” 3:40
2. “Some Misunderstanding” 8:09
3. “The True One” 3:59
4. “Lady of the North” Doug Dillard 6:04
Total length: 43:07

 

 

Schill Score:  7.75/10

 

 

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Gene Clark – White Light (1972)

AllMusic Review: Gene Clark’s 1971 platter, with its stark black cover featuring his silhouette illuminated by the sun, was dubbed White Light — though the words never appear on the cover — and if ever a title fit a record, it’s this one. Over its nine original tracks, it has established itself as one of the greatest singer/songwriter albums ever made. After leaving the Byrds in 1966, recording with the Gosdin Brothers, and breaking up the Dillard & Clark group that was a pioneering country-rock outfit, Clark took time to hone his songwriting to its barest essentials. The focus on these tracks is intense, they are taut and reflect his growing obsession with country music. Produced by the late guitarist Jesse Ed Davis (who also worked with Taj Mahal, Leon Russell, Link Wray, and poet John Trudell, among others), Clark took his songs to his new label with confidence and they supported him. The band is comprised of Flying Burrito Brothers’ bassist Chris Ethridge, the then-Steve Miller Band-pianist (and future jazz great) Ben Sidran, organist Michael Utley, and drummer Gary Mallaber. Clark’s writing, as evidenced on “The Virgin,” the title cut, “For a Spanish Guitar,” “One in a Hundred,” and “With Tomorrow,” reveals a stark kind of simplicity in his lines. Using melodies mutated out of country, and revealing that he was the original poet and architect of the Byrds’ sound on White Light, Clark created a wide open set of tracks that are at once full of space, a rugged gentility, and are harrowingly intimate in places. His reading of Bob Dylan’s “Tears of Rage,” towards the end of the record rivals, if not eclipses, the Band’s. Less wrecked and ravaged, Clark’s song is more a bewildered tome of resignation to a present and future in the abyss. Now this is classic rock. — Thom Jurek

Track Listing

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “The Virgin” 3:40
2. “With Tomorrow” Clark, Jesse Ed Davis 2:27
3. “White Light” 3:41
4. “Because of You” 4:06
5. “One in a Hundred” 3:36
6. “For a Spanish Guitar” 5:00
7. “Where My Love Lies Asleep” 4:23
8. “Tears of Rage” Bob Dylan, Richard Manuel 4:15
9. “1975” 3:49
2002 Universal/A&M CD reissue bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
10. “Because of You” (alternate mix) 4:04
11. “Stand by Me” Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller 2:43
12. “Ship of the Lord” 2:32
13. “Opening Day” 4:00
14. “Winter In” 3:17

 

Schill Score:  6/10

 

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