Album review: GENE CLARK – Gene Clark Sings For You

Omnivore Recordings [Release date 15.06.18]

After leaving The Byrds, Gene Clark’s solo output contained some wonderful music, even though releases were fairly sporadic – particularly in his later years.  There have been a small number of archival releases since his death in 1991, and Omnivore now add to Clark’s legacy with the release of a fabled acetate of 1967 recordings, combined with a further six tracks.  This is not some legendary unreleased album, more a collection of demos that were recorded in West Hollywood’s Larabee Studios.

Clark’s distinctive aching vocal and poetic lyrics on opener ‘On Her Own’ immediately set the tone, a real treat for fans.  The purpose of the sessions, titled Gene Clark Sings For You, was to secure a new recording contract following the relative lack of commercial success for his (now revered) solo debut Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers.  The eight tracks are fairly rough, and the backing for Clark (by unidentified sidemen) is sparse and rudimentary in places.  The drumming, in particular, is quite distracting on some of the songs.  That said, the magic still shines through and although this release isn’t recommended as a starting point for Clark novices, it’s worthy of investigation for committed fans.

‘Past Tense’ is another impressive number, perhaps the only track here that hints at the peak that Clark would later hit with his masterpiece No Other.  The version of ‘That’s Alright By Me’ precedes the one that Clark recorded at a later session (which was subsequently released on the Flying High compilation).  ‘7.30 Mode’ is similar in style and structure to his work on 1971’s White Light album.

The final six tracks on this release stem from Clark’s association with a group of young musicians that he had met, who later became known as The Rose Garden (Omnivore are simultaneously releasing their 1968 album for Atco).  Clark gave the band a five-song acetate of unreleased tracks, which were all written around the time of his debut solo album.  Those recordings are all included here, with ‘On Tenth Street’ being a particular standout.  In addition to the acetate is Clark’s original demo of ‘Till Today’, which The Rose Garden would go on to record for their album.

With a booklet containing detailed notes by Clark biographer John Einarson, and a number of period images, this is a stellar collection and a worthwhile addition to the Gene Clark solo catalogue. ***1/2

Review by Jim Henderson

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