Gene Clark – No Other (1974): Review

clark

Produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye
Label – Asylum

By 1974, Gene Clark’s record label (Asylum) were becoming increasingly frustrated with the demands and inactivity of an integral part of their roster. His new record, would require travelling and recording between L.A. and San Francisco over a six month period, and furthermore utilized fifteen musicians and eight backing singers. Making the most of a generous budget, he enlisted Thomas Jefferson Kaye as producer for a recording that he hoped would eventually lead to a thirteen song collection. Vinyl space meant that only eight of these tracks could be released, which nonetheless, are regarded as the finest amalgam of styles, content and individual performances of his solo career. Labelled loosely as country rock, there’s a real diversity that takes the record far beyond generic simplification. In reality, “No Other” combines elements of country, rock, blues, jazz and psychedelic pop with extraordinarily seamless results. In hindsight, the fury of label owner David Geffen and the untimely deletion of the album seems like a considerably child like reaction, particularly as there are some real gems inside what is an admittedly oddly misleading John Dietrich directed cover.

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Opening with the carefree mid-tempo rocker “Life’s Greatest Fool”, Clark innocently questions the need to continually scrutinize man’s basic perceptions over an arrangement that that swells sweetly with the harmonizing backing singers. In terms of commercial viability it should have been released as a single, along with the jaunty country pop of “True One”. There’s a sense of pervading darkness in the lines and introspection of “Silver Raven” as imminent apocalypse develops from Clark’s troubled imaginations. It was well documented that the singer had been susceptible to debilitating nervous disorders and panic attacks, and often there’s a sense that his insular suffering spills into the lyrics. The sprawling groove based title track is a contemplative distillation of the blinkered view of those who deny “the tide of life that flows in each direction”, by suggesting that devotion and love should be spiritually broadened, and not just directed to God. Clark saves his best until last with the extraordinary culmination of the yearning love for his wife Carlie, who refused to travel to Los Angeles for recording sessions, and remained at their beach home in Mendocino, nine hours to the north. It opens as a gentle ballad, which then steam rolls into an open hearted, grandiose instrumental and vocal fulfillment of everything one would expect from a man ruminating his love and commitment as “the seasons roll under the sun, passing the shadows of our days”. It’s an honest conclusion to a classy album.

All in all, “No Other” confirms Clark as a richly musical cosmopolitan who delivers a variety of settings and styles, committing his skills to the disparate moods with a genuine zeal that’s hard to resist. It’s such a pity Geffen didn’t “get it” and provide the exposure it so obviously deserved.

8/10

Track Rating
1 – Life’s Greatest Fool (8)
2 – Silver Raven (7)
3 – No Other (8)
4 – Strength Of Strings (7)
5 – From A Silver Phial (7)
6 – Some Misunderstanding (6)
7 – True One (8)
8 – Lady Of The North (9)

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