Early unreleased Gene Clark session for your consideration…

Gene Clark – Gene Clark Sings for You – Omnivore Records OVCD 280 – 1967 – 53:12 ***½:

(Gene Clark – guitar and vocals; Alex del Zoppo – electric piano; other other musicians are unknown)

For many fans of the early Byrds catalog, Gene Clark was the songwriter whose lyrics were most intriguing. His tenure with the group was only two years long but for rabid fans, his influence greatly exceeded that time period. He is credited with having a major influence on the merging of rock with country, bluegrass, and baroque orchestral motifs.

Before joining the Byrds he was a member of the New Christy Minstrels for two albums. The pressures of touring and rifts between band members caused Clark to leave The Byrds in 1966. Over the next  year, Gene concentrated on writing songs and reportedly built up 200-300 unrecorded tracks. It was during this time period that he went into the studios at Larrabee, and Gold Star, in Los Angeles, and laid down eight new tracks, mostly with minimal accompaniment. Clark also privately recorded additional material for his own use.

The eight tracks on acetate laid dormant in Liberty Records vaults until recently they were discovered and turned over to Omnivore Records to release. During this period in 1967, Clark became intrigued by a band of largely high school students who went by the name, The Blokes. The band had a fascination with The Byrds and featured a Rickenbacker 12 string electric guitar, complete with strong harmonies reminiscent of The Mamas and Papas, and Peter, Paul, and Mary. Their harmonies mated well with the “jingle jangle” guitar sound found so intoxicating on the Byrds hits of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Eight Miles High.” Gene turned over five tracks to the group, now named the Rose Garden.

Omnivore has released the entire package as Gene Clark Sings for You,including both the eight unreleased tracks, as well as the Rose Garden acetate, and a demo that Clark produced for the Rose Garden (“Till Today”). Michael Graves restored the masters and the sound mix is adequate for material that could be considered a rough demo.

Gene was only 23 years old in 1967, and his songwriting had a maturity well beyond his young age. These songs hold up well today, and if they had received more care with the arrangements, this music would have been even more impressive. Except for pianist, Alex del Zoppo, nothing is known about the other musicians. The tracks that stand out the most are those that Clark sweetened with the addition of calliope, and string accompaniment. The influence of The Beatles is felt on “Past My Door.” “Down on the Pier” features a two step shuffle in a melancholy 2/4 time. “On Her Own” was written for a free spirit San Francisco girl, and it strongly mirrors Scott McKenzie’s noted “San Francisco” summer of ’67 classic.

“7:30 Mode” is a country tune with Gene on harmonica and a solid lead guitar. On the Rose Garden acetate, “On Tenth Street” shows a heavy Dylan word play talent. It could be channeled today by an artist like Rodriguez. “Long Time” highlights Clark’s plaintive tenor style.

For fans of Gene Clark, there is much to recommend here. It’s a time capsule released fifty years later, showing an artist whose legacy is found primarily on his influence on future folk rock meets country performers.

On Her Own
Past Tense
Yesterday Am I Right
Past My Door
That’s Alright with Me
One Way Road
Down on the Pier
7:30 Mode
On Tenth Street
Understand Me Too
A Long Time
Big City Girl
Doctor Doctor
Till Today

Jeff Krow