CD Reviews


Over the last 75 years rock music is strewn with lost and unrecognized classic albums. Some have remained lost. Others are found, dusted off, repackaged, and returned to the mantle of the success they deserved all along. The case for the high-flying Byrd, Gene Clark’s 1974 contemplative Americana masterpiece No Other, has long been acknowledged over the decades. The groundswell became so pronounced, a tour of alt rockers resulted in 2014 with members of Beach House, Fleet Foxes, and Grizzly Bear.

The latest re-issue of No Other came out in November of last year. The journey in this album continues but the current edition highlights the sonic production qualities that Clark must have envisioned for what he dreamed would be his signature album. A sit-down listen to No Other and a viewing of the concert film from the 2014 tour is like an emotional tsunami of the soul. The completion of No Other is an act of grace that allowed the cloud of addiction to clear away from Clark’s spirit long enough to see the light that always shinned for him.

With the support of David Geffen and his Asylum label, Gene Clark allowed his musical and lyrical muse to fly free as he shared glimpses of the spiritual light he found. It is an unparalleled series of eight songs recorded for this album with a clear-eyed hold on his longing for sobriety, meaning, and creative actualization. With No Other Clark achieved this seemingly unattainable goal that led him to the company of Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, and John Lennon.

The session musicians, including Stephen Bruton, Mike Utley, Leland Sklar, and Russ Kunkel, bring their best to the proceedings. Producers Clark and Thomas Jefferson Kate have archived tracks that are so rich remixing and remastering adds remarkable dimension to an album that already plays like a great revealing journey through an uncharted creative wilderness.

Lyrically, Gene Clark was always without peer with the possible exception of Bob Dylan, who he never strove to imitate. Clark always had his own artistic template. Those who aspire to write great songs are well-advised to seek out the work of Gene Clark and others who drew little influence from Dylan. On No Other the songs have quality of revelation but always live behind a cosmic cloud. The difference between what Clark achieves as a writer and earlier sings of the psychedelic era is a sense of proprietary clarity. Clark has been in the midst of a first-hand experience; the ink is still fresh on the paper as he works out the melody. He’s the ultimate scribe in the same way that captured flight in his classic “8 Miles High” The title song, “Silver Raven,” and ”The Strength of Strings” play natural chapters that follow his Byrds years.

Songwriter’s continue to be a mystery to us. Gene Clark is no exception. They too often elude us on their path to self-destruction. But when they stop long enough to tell us what they see, we are enriched. Gene Clark nurtured us with music that still is sustaining others across time and generations. It is no wonder he was disappointed to the point of despair at the commercial and critical failure of this album. It’s also easy to see why inscribed on the tombstone of his final resting place are the words “No Other.”

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