Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Gene Clark 5: Roadmaster

Even though his next album contained contributions from all five original Byrds, current Byrd Clarence White, several Flying Burrito Brothers, and even Spooner Oldham, Gene Clark had to wait over a decade for it to be released in America or even the U.K. Roadmaster was compiled from sessions going back a couple of years, effectively closing out his stillborn A&M deal.
The reunited Byrds open the album with two songs, but only the 12-string gives any hint who’s playing. Though “She’s The Kind Of Girl” is sunk by the prominent flute, “One In A Hundred” has more of the vibe, if not the substance. The Burritos are on “Here Tonight”, Chris Hillman’s harmony and Sneeky Pete’s pedal steel prominent for a sublime mix. “Full Circle Song” is another jangly gem, and would get another shot later in the year.
The title track is a sardonic workin’ musician’s lament from Spooner Oldham, but most of the album continues in the sad country-folk vein he’d been mining all along, culminating in a half-speed remake of “She Don’t Care About Time”. Even Flatt & Scruggs’ “Rough And Rocky” and the country standard “I Really Don’t Want To Know”, are slowed down to mournful paces. Of his other originals, “In A Misty Morning” is desolate but determined and “Shooting Star” deserves wider notice, though “I Remember The Railroad” is filler.
Despite all its potential, Roadmaster isn’t one of those hidden masterpieces rock snobs like to tout. Its general wimpiness makes it clear why the label didn’t want to promote it, but as a part of the larger Byrds story, it has its place, which is why we’re talking about it here. Quite simply, it sets the stage for the band’s full-fledged reunion.
Footnote: both the British release on the Edsel label, and even the eventual American release on Sundazed, which usually goes above and beyond to seem authentic, ignored artwork from the album’s original Dutch release in favor of anachronistic photos of Gene at his most Byrdsy. Like it or not, we assume the auteur picked it in the first place for a reason.

Gene Clark Roadmaster (1973)—3

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