Posts Tagged ‘No Other’

American singer-songwriter and The Byrds founding member Gene Clark’s 1974 solo album “No Other” is to be reissued by 4AD Records in November as a lavish box set which features no fewer than three SACDs, a blu-ray and an 80-page hardcover book!.

Originally released on Asylum Records, a year after the Byrds shortlived reunion, Clark’s psychedelic rock, folk, country and soul record cost a small fortune to make and despite being well received critically, it was a flop. It is said that Clark never really recovered from this blow. Since then, the album has gained greater prominence via a few reissues and has become recognised as a great album of its era. Recorded at the Village Recorder in West Hollywood and produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, “No Other” was originally released in 1974 on Asylum Records, Reaching for the stars, Gene delivered a visionary record of psychedelic rock, folk, country and soul which famously cost a small fortune to make (“It took a lot of time in the studio before we could actually get the songs to the point we wanted them,” Gene said in 1977).  Although warmly received by critics, No Other was a commercial failure and was subsequently deleted shortly after.

However, as The New York Times wrote around the record’s 40th anniversary in 2014, “hindsight has burnished No Other, as it has redeemed other albums that went on to be reconstructed as rock repertory, like Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers and Lou Reed’s Berlin,” with No Other now being increasingly recognised as one of the greatest of its time, if not all time.  Another sign of the album’s enduring charm came that year when feted Baltimore duo Beach House decided to “spread awareness”of Gene’s master work by enlisting friends – most of whom weren’t born when No Other was released – from bands such as Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen to tour the album note-for-note in both the UK and the US.

Five years on from then andNo Otheris finally getting the reappraisal it deserves.  The original tapes have been remastered at Abbey Road, a stunning 5.1 Surround mix of this album created for the first time (done by Neil Wilkes & B.J. Cole at Opus Productions), and both the in the studio and promotional photoshoots have been located.  Furthermore, all the studio takes have been forensically worked on and mixed by the duo of Gene Clark aficionado, author and Long Ryders frontman Sid Griffin and John Wood, More than just bonus material, these tracks offer fans an insight in to how Gene approached recording No Other; no track has been edited or composited in any way, allowing for things to be heard exactly as they went down in the studio and before any overdubbing took place.

4AD have remastered the eight-track album at Abbey Road and are reissuing it on CD and vinyl, There will also be an ‘extremely limited’ deluxe box set which contains the album on silver-coloured vinyl, three SACDs, an exclusive seven-inch single, and a blu-ray disc – which includes HD versions of all tracks, a 5.1 surround mix of the album, the original 1974 vinyl master and an exclusive documentary by Paul Kendall (the director of the 2013 film, The Byrd Who Flew Alone: The Triumphs and Tragedy of Gene Clark) – and a hardbound 80 page book which features essays, extensive liner notes and previously unseen photos.

All the studio takes have been worked on and mixed by the duo of Gene Clark aficionado, author and Long Ryders frontman Sid Griffin and John Wood, the producer famed for his work with the likes of Fairport Convention, Nick Drake & Sandy Denny. No track has been edited or composited in any way so what you hear is exactly what went down in the studio before any overdubbing took place.

All the SACDs are hybrid, meaning you can play the stereo audio on normal CD players. The first (multi-layer) SACD is presented in an exclusive Japanese vinyl replica sleeve and features the eight-track album and the 5.1 surround mix, while two further SACDs offer 18 session tracks and a couple of seven-inch edits. Amongst the sessions is a recording of ‘Train Leaves Here This Morning,’ an Eagles hit in 1972, written by Gene and Eagles founding member Bernie Leadon.

Coming on the eve of Gene’s 75th birthday, this reissue serves as both a celebration for fans and an introduction to soon-to-be fans.  There really is no other like No Other.

‘Incapable of divesting his work of resonance and beauty’ … Gene Clark.

1. Echoes
Having midwifed the more exhilarating variety of psychedelia as the co-writer of Eight Miles High, Gene Clark left the Byrds in early 1966 a move triggered, in a much noted irony, by a fear of flying. The following year came Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, a glorious countrified psych-pop album, and more than distinctive and original enough to establish him as a major act in his own right. In a decision probably more clumsy than malicious, but one that prefigured the misfortunes of Clark’s entire subsequent career, Columbia Records timed its release in direct competition with his old band’s Younger Than Yesterday, on the same label, and it tanked. Its lambent, artfully scored opening track, taking a stately stroll through the twisting paths of inner space, was perfect for its moment. Alas, its moment never got to hear it.

2. So You Say You Lost Your Baby
Lost love was Clark’s creative engine; his former bandmates had always looked forward to his turbulent personal life going awry, because of the songs they’d get out of it. This hallucinatory stormer, also from his debut LP, is an urgent, pounding, organ-driven (in several senses) account of the tripped-out mind as much as the cracked-open heart. Clarke was a superb vocalist, one who merits consideration alongside Scott Walker and Nina Simone. As a lyricist, he needed to be heard rather than read; his ornate, often mystical and sometimes overwrought writing can fall flat on the page, but it soars on record.

3. Polly
Ever ahead of a game he somehow always ended up losing, Clark had included country and bluegrass on his first album, well before the Byrds recruited Gram Parsons and recorded Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Two years on, he teamed up with bluegrass banjo maestro Doug Dillard, and a band including future Eagle Bernie Leadon plus other leading sidemen of the new country-rock movement, for a splendid pair of rootsy albums, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark and Through the Morning, Through the Night. Their quality and influence would later be acknowledged with the inclusion of two songs from the latter on Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’s 2007 Americana hit, Raising Sand. One was the title track, the other, this. Dillard and Clark’s haunted, gorgeous original is slow, clear, stark and heavy with longing – country music’s primary emotion, for which Clark, with his rich, tempered vibrato and yearning lyricism, had a particular affinity.

Byrds of a feather … Gene Clark (second right) with the Byrds in an overliteral London photoshoot in August 1965.

4. The Virgin
In 1971, Bob Dylan was the elephant in every singer-songwriter’s room, and he was bound to loom particularly large when the room belonged to a former Byrd. Clark was always too singular, too idiosyncratic, to be a straight-up Dylan imitator, which is perhaps why Dylan, who unjustly scoffed at Donovan, held him in such high regard. The plain, folky, largely acoustic album White Light was as close as Clark ever came to sincere flattery of Dylan – and while it wasn’t all that close, it stands among the finest of that era’s many records unmistakably beholden to the master. On opening track The Virgin, the measured, honeyed, philosophical tale of a girl in the big city, his inflection veers towards Dylan’s – but he never gives himself over to pastiche. Nor would he ever, even when it might have benefited him. Perhaps he genuinely didn’t know how.

5. She Don’t Care About Time
Clark often reworked his own songs. His later versions of Feel a Whole Lot Better and Train Leaves Here This Morning are wonderful, but this is the ne plus ultra of his revisions. Still feeling his way around country rock on the recordings that would be collected on the Roadmaster album, in 1972 he turned to a classic he wrote for the Byrds, the epitome of all things jangly, and rendered it something else entirely. Baroque and suffused with tenderness and wonder, it is one of those overwhelming tracks devotional not only in a romantic but in a quasi-religious sense. The best known such number is, perhaps, the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows – and you wouldn’t want to live on the difference between that and this. It was also a foretaste of what Clark would do next.

6. Life’s Greatest Fool
What Clark did next was produce one of the greatest albums ever made. No Other (1974) eventually became synonymous with the phrase “lost masterpiece”. Initially celebrated for its obscurity – it was deleted by Asylum in 1976, reissued in 1991, then given the bells-and-whistles treatment in 2003 – it is now celebrated for its magnificence. It was in every way a magnum opus: epic, sprawling, poetic, choral, rococo. It cost a small fortune to record, and the already erratic Clark never got over its commercial failure. Its opening song is an exuberant, foot-tapping country-gospel anthem stuffed with counterculture folk wisdom, its downbeat lyric defied by its pure joie de vivre.

7. No Other
Gram Parsons, in some ways a parallel figure to Clark, had a vision of a cosmic American music; Clark lived to fashion one of his own. The title track of his masterwork pulses, glows and rattles in a thrilling meld of country and funk, gospel and rock, with echoes of the Family Stone, Staple Singers, Gimme Shelter and Abbey Road (Anglophilia being a strain unacknowledged in Americana, but not by Clark). It’s unique not only in his own catalogue but perhaps in all of pop music.

8. Some Misunderstanding
Here it is: the centrepiece of the No Other album and indeed of Clark’s career: a slow, eight-minute cry from the heart, reflecting on the perils and pleasures of a life lived too extravagantly. For Clark, who would surely have recognised William Blake as a spiritual progenitor, the road of excess had at last brought him to the palace of wisdom – and what a palace his is. It is a song to be dwelt in, to walk about within, exploring its chambers, curlicues and turrets. It is in most ways the antithesis of his sharp, concise writing of a decade previously, yet what stayed with Clark throughout was soul and soulfulness.

9. All I Want
Come the 80s, Tom Petty and REM were making the Byrds’ 60s sound fashionable again. In 1982 Clark recorded what would be released two years later as the Firebyrd album (later expanded and issued in the UK as This Byrd Has Flown). Again, circumstances (and perhaps self-sabotage) conspired against him; even when blatantly courting the main chance and invoking his past at every turn, he couldn’t catch a break. All I Want sounds like a prototype for later, poppy hits by the Traveling Wilburys and former bandmate Roger McGuinn; an updated, 80s-style Byrds. It is, by Clark’s standards, facile, a plaintive courtship of radio play. Yet it illustrates how he was quite incapable of divesting what he did of resonance and beauty.

10. Gypsy Rider
In 1986, five years before his drug- and alcohol-hastened death at 46, Clark recorded his final studio album, So Rebellious a Lover, with the roots singer Carla Olson. It includes this lovely piece, in the traditions both of biker and rambling-man’s-gotta-be-free songs. Yet it’s a world away in spirit from Born to Be Wild or Free Bird. It is as sorrowful a motorcycle tune as you’ll ever hear, and it invokes an almost unbearable sadness at the prospect of leaving yet another love. “She should have known by now / You’re just a vagabond,” laments Clark. “You may never pass this way again.” It is easy to read too much into words in hindsight, but it truly does sound as if he is performing his own elegy.