Thursday, 23 June 2016

"Two Sides To Every Story" by GENE CLARK (2013 High Moon Records CD Remaster In A Hardback Limited Edition Numbered Pack with a Download Card for 21 More Songs) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Hear The Wind As She Cries..." 

The December 1974 debut solo LP "No Other" on Asylum Records of 'The Byrds' and 'Dillard and Clark' balladeer GENE CLARK is regularly cited by magazines and musical tomes as an 'overlooked slice of musical genius you must hear before you die' kind of record. And they'd be right. A Country Rock album with great tunes and emotional pathos that suffered from public indifference on release but has subsequently garnished adjectives and superlatives aplenty.

His second-platter "Two Sides To Every Story" on RSO Records from three years later suffered the same fate - and on rehearing it in 2016 - I can understand why. "Two Sides To Every Story" was an album out of time - its traditional 'hurly in the morning' Country Rock rhythms, violin swipes and banjo plucks widely out of step with the New Wave crash and clatter of 1977. But as others have pointed out - this pretty-looking but overly expensive and flawed 'High Moon Records' CD reissue of it also has its downsides - especially in the truly disappointing 'Download-Only' Bonus Tracks. There's a lot to get through so here are the two-sided details...

USA released 27 August 2013 - "Two Sides To Every Story" by GENE CLARK on High Moon Records HMRCD-002 (Barcode 641444103126) is a 'Deluxe Edition' CD Remaster - a Numbered Limited Edition of 5000 housed in a Hard Back Book pack (44:14 minutes).

1. Home Run King
2. Lonely Saturday
3. In The Pines
4. Kansas City Southern
5. Give My Love To Marie
6. Sister Moon [Side 2]
7. Marylou
8. Hear The Wind
9. Past Addresses
10. Silent Crusade
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 2nd studio album "Two Sides To Every Story" - released 14 June 1977 in the USA on RSO Records RS-1-3011 and March 1977 in the UK on RSO Records 2394 176. Produced by THOMAS JEFFERSON KAYE - it didn't chart Top 100 in either country.

It also offers 21 extra 'Download' tracks (20 music files, one interview) available via a 12-Digit Download card (inside the hard back sleeve) renewable from the High Moon Records website:

11. Life's Great Fool - Live
12. The True One - Live
13. The Radio Song - Live
14. No Other - Live
15. Silver Raven - Live
16. In The Pines - Live
17. Hear The Wind – Live
18. I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better - Live
19. I'll Be Back - Live
20. She Darked The Sun - Live
21. Kansas City Southern - Live
22. From A Silver Phial - Live
23. Home Run King - Live
24. Sister Moon - Live
25. Daylight Line – Live
26. What Is Meant Will Be - Live
27. Wheels Of Time - Live
28. Some Misunderstanding – Live
29. She Don't Care About Time – Live
30. I Saw A Dream Come True - Live
31. Gene Clark Interview (Taped 1974, Previously Unreleased)

It has to be said that the hardback book is a lovely thing to behold and read - gorgeous colour photos of Clark at his Mendochino house where all the songs were written - snaps of him with Emmylou Harris and Jim Dickson - original Manager and Producer of The Byrds - Biography Pages from the period - the CD apes the RSO Records label - and it's numbered in gold on the rear - a limited edition of 5000. But that's naught to the fabulous audio. JOHN STROTHER did the Tape Transfers and legendary Rhino Records Audio Engineer DAN HERSCH did the Remaster and the Audio is truly superb - all the songs sounding so much better than my battered US vinyl copy.

With Emmylou Harris and Steve Soles on Backing Vocals - the album opens strongly on the very Country-Rock "Home Run King" - a banjo-plucking Douglas Dillard drives a tale of local Babe Ruth types that comes on all Commander Cody meets The Ozark Mountain Daredevils (it's a catchy little tune). "Lonely Saturday" is far better - a gorgeous and impressive ballad with the Pedal Steel of Al Perkins to the fore (was part of Stephen Stills' 'Manassas' band) and both Daniel and Matthew Moore adding sweet Backing Vocals. Back to Eagles-bopping-Country with a very uptempo cover of a Traditional - "In The Pines" - Byron Berline's fiddle-playing dominating the 'ye ha' feel. Listen hard you can also hear the Backing Vocals of Douglas Dillard, Pepper Watkins and ace songwriter John Hartford who penned the lovely "Gentle On My Mind" made famous by Glen Campbell. I dig the Country-Rock guitar boogie of "Kansas City Southern" hugely enhanced by Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers ace axeman Jeff "Skunk" Baxter laying down wickedly good slide solos (Daniel and Matthew Moore on Backing Vocals also). Side 1 ends with six and half minutes of "Give My Love To Marie" - a James Talley ballad given the most beautifully tender version by Clark. This is surely an album highlight - a labourer's tale of longing - a miner seeing "...millions in the ground but not a penny for me..." and yet all he can think about is lighting a lantern in a window and giving his love to Marie.

Emmylou Harris and Sam Soles return to bolster up the beautiful "Sister Moon" (Side 2's opening number) with their fantastically expressive combo vocals - a five-minute ballad that screams out to be covered by Bonnie Raitt or Shawn Colvin or someone of that quality. Right from its keyboard-tinkling opening - "Sister Moon" feels like a classic and along with "Give My Love To Marie" is worth the price of admission. Sam Ling and Jessie Obie get their "Mary Lou" R&B song (originally sung by Young Jessie on Modern Records in 1955) get upgraded into a bopping cautionary tale. Buddy Knox, Ronnie Hawkins and even Bob Seger have had a go at covering it - usually in a rocking R&B way - but Clark slows it down and gives it back its original menace. There follows another album highlight - his own "Hear The Wind" - a Country ballad awash with Al Perkins on Pedal Steel and the Backing Vocals of Matthew and Daniel Moore. The pain dripping from the lyrics (used in the title of this review) feel like a man trying to get to the truth. With lyrics like "The first time I saw you...the heart became the ruler of my mind..." the love song "Past Addresses" is another beauty - while the sea sounds of "Silent Crusades" put me in mind of that other neglected-at-the-time post classic - "Pacific Ocean Blue" by Dennis Wilson. But while the album and remaster is a high - the Extras prove a frustrating and bitter disappointment...

The supposed 24-bit WAV Files from the Download prove to be a set of badly recorded audience recordings put down at the 'Mother’s Blues' Club sometime in 1975. The problem is they don't feel like bonuses - but a bit of a rip-off. It's a damn shame - because when he and his band launch into "Silver Raven" for instance - not only can you hear the gorgeousness of the song but also that the group are on top playing form. But the audio reeks of tape wobble and is the kind of crap bootleggers used to pull on fans all of the time. Throughout the excellent "In The Pines" and other tracks there's a woman talking incessantly - so that tune is screwed. His version of The Byrds classic "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" sticks to the original but he banjo's up The Beatles "I'll Be Back" and its on cool rearranged stuff like this that you wish the tapes were studio quality. “Kansas City Southern” sees the band cooking but again there’s poor sound and audience chatter despite the boogie. By the time you get to “Silver Moon” – the hiss levels are through the roof because it’s from another poor tape (I think). The previously unreleased 12-minute ‘B Mitchel-Reed Interview’ taped in Los Angeles in 1974 is better – professionally recorded with the famous American DJ – they touch on the dissolution of The Byrds – the band's youth and inability to handle fame and the egos. It also features clips of songs from The Byrds' catalogue and Clark's own two solo LPs to that point.

I'd honestly have to dock this release a star for those poor and frustrating Extras - which seems churlish in the face of the album's beauty - but a review should reflect the reissue and not the music contained within. Had those live tracks been properly recorded - this reissue would have been in the Neil Young 'Massey hall 1971' CD territory where 10-stars wouldn't be enough. But it's not...and that extortionate price irks too.

A gorgeous album then (overlooked and underpaid) coupled with a properly wonderful Remaster and very tasty booklet presentation - but all of it let down by those extras that promise so much but deliver so little. And from this reissue you can trace it back and 'so hear' why The Byrds made such stunning and melodic music - all that writing talent swirling around in the same band.

GENE CLARK passed in 1991 aged only 46 – but man what a legacy this original Byrd left behind...

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