Friday, August 29, 2014

Gene Clark Two Sides To Every Story RSO 1977

Gene Clark Two Sides To Every Story RSO 1977 CAT# RS-1-3011

Gene Clark was born in Tipton, Missouri which is about two hours East of Kansas City and near Jefferson City, Missouri.  At a young age, Gene Clark's family moved to Kansas City and by the time he was finishing high school, his family was found itself on the Kansas side.  Clark would graduate from what had to be extremely rural, Bonner Springs High School (the town, outside of a Wal-Mart and a concert venue is still fairly rural to this day, suburban, yes, but still pretty sparse).

Prior to becoming a Byrd and changing the face of American music, Clark gigged around with some high school bands, one of the groups was named Joe Meyers and the Sharks another named the Rum Runners.  He would establish a residency in Kansas City with a group called the Surf Riders at a venue named the Castaway Lounge (years later, it would become a gay bar that Melissa Ethridge frequented).  As a member of the Surf Riders, Clark was discovered by Leavonworth, Kansas native, Randy Sparks, as he was passing through with his folk band, the New Christy Minstrels.  Clark was hired by the band and he would embark on tours with the Minstrels.

The Minstrels got Clark to California and across the rest of the USA.  It is rumored that he quit the band after hearing the Beatles.  After leaving the folk scene, Clark soon met Roger McGuinn at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.  The rest obviously is history as the two would piece together the Byrds.  From 1964 to 1966, Clark would pen some of the best known Byrds original tunes.  In the early days, Clark was the dominant force behind the band as many members had yet to develop their own songwriting skills.  However, writing hits like "Eight Miles High" and "Set You Free This Time" earned Clark extra royalties which brought resentment.  Further, Clark wasn't really a fan of touring and had a long time fear of flying, by 1966 he left the group.

After leaving the Byrds, Clark returned to Kansas City for a brief time prior to going back to LA to start a solo career.  His early solo-work is thought of as highly influential in the development of country rock or alternative country sound.  Unfortunately for Clark, his replacement in the Byrds, Gram Parsons, would obtain higher praise for the same genre-bend of country and rock, especially consider Parsons is thought of as the driving force behind the Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo.  For some time, Parsons and Clark almost mirrored each other, both pressing the blend of country with rock music, Parsons with the Byrds and later solo, Clark as a solo artists and a number of collaborations.

Ultimately, Clark could never reach the success he had with the Byrds.  Further, his sort-of Byrds replacement would be crowned the father of country-rock and outshine Clark critically and in popularity.  Much of this was likely owed to Clark's disdain of touring and fear of flying, however, Clark's material also became highly experimental when set next to that of his contemporaries.  While others may have had consistency, you can't say Clark wasn't trying to push boundaries.

Regardless, his solo work is filled with highlights, so much so, that even as late 1977 the guy was still putting out quality albums like this when everybody else had attempted a Rod Stewart type sell-out if they were still playing at all.  The album sounds nothing like 1977, it's a fairly low-key, country affair.  The song quality is still there with his songs, "Kansas City Southern," "Mary Lou" and the beautiful ballad, "Hear the Wind."  His cover of the traditional "In The Pines" showcased his talent as an interpreter and vocalist, further, after listening, it's pretty clear Kurt Cobain's interpretation owed a lot to Clark's on the same tune.  While it's not the top of his catalog, it's an essential for Clark fans and is certainly deserving of reassessment after years in the shadow of Clark's prior solo-work.

In the Pines
Hear the Wind

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