Pittsburgh Union of Record Geeks electronic

Friday, August 04, 2006

Gene Clark- No Other (2003 reissue)

This album is often cited by cognoscenti as some sort of lost classic, a strange anomaly where quaint singer-songwriter Clark stumbles into a world populated by synthesizers, background singers, far-out druggies, and androgynous freaks like Gene himself on the back cover. But probably these people, intoxicated by the unusal and unnecessary accoutrements on this record, have overlooked the solid core of beauty that exists in nearly all of Gene's songs from his classic era no matter how starkly presented. The extras really only detract from Clark's nearly unparalleled abilities as a songwriter and singer, and make No Other appear to the Gene devotee as another missed opportunity to make the solo masterpiece he deserved to.

Which is why this import reissue of the '74 album is such a revelation. All but two songs from the original album are presented as bonus tracks stripped of the accessories, and all are better for it. "Some Misunderstanding" and "Lady of the North" are tranformed from tracks you could just as soon forget about to among the most affecting in Clark's canon when the fat is cut away and their depth and sensitivity revealed. "From A Silver Phial" is probably the best song ever written by a Byrd in or out of the group no matter in what form it's presented, but again the stripped-down take better showcases the remarkable melody and lyrical cadences.

By programming your stereo, you can transport yourself from the scary underworld elitists mine for their next buzz to a place whose rare air Gene occupied his entire career. The pleasantly countryish "The True One" is the album track that somehow escaped being dressed up, and fits in better with the bonus material that the rest of the original lp. And you can forget about "Strength of Strings," an ill-advised inclusion on the original that seemingly exists only to showcase the overblown production, and replace it with an unreleased version of Gene's staple "Train Leaves Here This Morning" given a new twist by the capable No Other band--who are far more evident on the extra tracks minus the fluff.

This dressed-down No Other may not do much for those seeking an oddity, but for Gene Clark's fans it's comforting to discover that the album we've always wished he made indeed exists.