Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gene Clark 1: With The Gosdin Brothers

The contributions Gene Clark made to the Byrds are often undermined by the image he built while with the band. Roger McGuinn had the glasses and the 12-string, David Crosby had the big mouth, and Gene stood at his microphone with a tambourine in one hand. However, he wrote their best songs not written by Bob Dylan, and was key to their harmonic blend. With his good looks, McGuinn and Crosby were united against him, and he eventually quit, leaving them to isolate each other. But we digress.
Songwriting superiority doesn’t always translate to a strong personality, and when Gene finally got around to putting out a solo album, it was lost in the promotion of the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday, only months before the country went psychedelic. Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers gives co-billing to the duo who sing background harmonies on many songs, all of which were written by Gene. The other musicians include Wrecking Crewmen Leon Russell and Glen Campbell, Van Dyke Parks, current and future Byrds Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Clarence White, and Doug Dillard, who will become more important soon enough. Pretty promising recipe for an album, huh?
And it is a good album, if a little unfocused at times. “Echoes” is an ambitious lyric with chamber-pop piece strings arranged by Leon Russell, almost predicting Scott Walker. “Think I’m Gonna Feel Better” is very close title to a previous song, lasting barely a minute and a half, while “Tried So Hard” and “Is Yours Is Mine” would fit right in on the latest and previous Byrds LPs respectively. “Keep On Pushin’” is even more country-tinged, showing he was on to something well before Roger McGuinn met Gram Parsons. “I Found You” has a lopey strut that belies its moodiness.
While more straightforward than “Echoes”, “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” gets another Leon Russell treatment, and might have made an interesting single. “Elevator Operator” uses a standard riff we know we’ve heard before for some strained puns, as does “Couldn’t Believe Her” without the puns, while “The Same One” is a sneaky gem in between. “Needing Someone” brings it all back to the standard Byrds sound.
This already short album was made shorter when re-released five years later as Collector’s Series: Early L.A. Sessions, which not only dropped “Elevator Operator” but remixed the other tracks with newly recorded vocals. After the Byrds were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and got their own box set, Columbia/Legacy released Echoes, which presented yet another remixed and rejigged sequence of the album, framed by six Byrds tunes (two of which predated “Mr. Tambourine Man”) and the unreleased “Only Colombe”/ “The French Girl” single plus a demo of “So You Say You Lost Your Baby”. In this century, the Sundazed label—always determined to preserve things as they were—restored Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers as it was, adding the extra single and a variety of unreleased tracks at the end. Any version deserves to be heard by even the most casual Byrd watcher.

Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers (1967)—3
2007 Sundazed reissue: same as 1967, plus 6 extra tracks

2 comments:

  1. Nice review! The second sentence, last word has a typo - should be "hand" rather than had (and feel free to delete this part of my comment).

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    1. Thanks, for the kind words and the correction!

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