Gene Clark and the Gosdin Brothers
published: 14 /
As Gene Clark's 1967 solo debut is re-released, Tommy Gunnarsson takes us through its history and its highlights.
I think it's more or less impossible to write a review of a Gene Clark album without mentioning his involvement with iconic jingle-jangle combo The Byrds, a band he helped form in 1964 with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman.
Clark's role in the band was to sing and play the tambourine (even though Crosby is known to question Gene's ability to keep a steady beat with his tambourine), and he also wrote a lot of the Byrds' songs, penning hits such as 'I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better', 'Eight Miles High' and 'Set You Free This Time'. But by 1966, Clark was tired of the internal fights in the band (and he also had a fear of flying which made touring a bit difficult), and so he left to go solo.
After trying his luck as the Gene Clark Band and Gene Clark & The Group, he finally released his first solo album in February 1967. On 'Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers' he is backed vocally by country duo the Gosdin Brothers and musically by former Byrds colleagues Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, as well as session musicians including Glen Campbell, Jerry Cole and Doug Dillard (with whom Gene would later record two albums, as Dillard & Clark).
Listening to the album today, more than 50 years after its initial release, it's hard not to draw comparisons to, well, The Byrds. Most of the songs here sound more or less the same as the band's contemporary album 'Younger than Yesterday', which shouldn't come as a surprise, really, considering both Clark's background and the backing musicians' previous efforts. That said, the opening track, 'Echoes', actually sounds more like the late Scott Walker than the Byrds, both vocally and musically.
But the jangly opening guitars on the next track, 'Think I'm Gonna Feel Better', immediately sends us back to Byrdsland, and there we will stay for the remainder of the album, I would say. And sure it sounds really good, of course, but at the same time, I can't shake the feeling that there's something missing here. The songs, sadly, just aren't as good as Gene's contributions to the Byrds catalogue.
At the time of its release in 1967, the album was a critical success but a commercial failure, which is often blamed on the fact that it was released at the same time as the aforementioned 'Younger than Yesterday', which made Clark's album stand in its shadow. But I really can't blame the record buyers. 'Younger than Yesterday' is a masterpiece, while 'Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers' is... a really good album, no doubt about that, but not a masterpiece. Not at all.
Sadly, Clark passed away in 1991, and he never managed to get back into the limelight after quitting the Byrds (even though he rejoined them on a couple of occasions), despite a handful of solo albums during the 70s and 80s.
For this new re-release, apart from the 11 tracks on the original album, there are also three bonus tracks: remixed stereo versions of 'Only Colombe' and 'The French Girl' and an acoustic demo recording of 'So You Say You Lost Your Baby'. The booklet contains both a short piece about Clark written by Chris Hillman in 1991 after Clark's passing, and a lengthier essay by Alan Robinson about the album. All in all, I would say that it's good value for your money, especially if you're a Byrds fan, which I'm sure you are if you have read this far. Right?
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