Saturday, November 12, 2011

Michael Fremer Album Review

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

Doug Dillard and Gene Clark

A&M/Sundazed LP 5344 180g LP

Produced by: Larry Marks

Engineered by: Dick Bogert

Mixed by: Dick Bogert

Mastered by: Quien Sabe



Sundazed Reissues Classic Clark Gem
by Michael Fremer
November 01, 2011

Let's divide the world into two groups: one that says "Gene who?" and the other that recognizes the late Gene Clark as one of the greats from the rock era. That's my side of the divide.

Clark possessed a seemingly minor vocal hitch among his sadness cues that, alone could make a despot weep. The other elements of his rich voice were equally effective.

His melodic gift was on a plateau that towered above most of the competition. His songs for the Byrds, ranged from compact rockers like the "Needles and Pins"-ish "I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better" to the oddly metered and still startling "Set You Free This Time," to the desolate "If You're Gone" to the joyful "The World Turns All Around Her."

You'd have to be brain dead to not be immediately swept up in the intense, mostly sad emotions Clark summoned up in his melodic and lyrical writing, yet in The Byrds he was overshadowed, more by the band's totality than by any individual.

Clark left The Byrds in 1966, rejoined for a few weeks in 1967 and then quit permanently.

After signing with Columbia he released Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers (also reissued by Sundazed using the original mix that Columbia had chucked for an eariier CD issue) an album that mixed country, pop and other musical styles. It wasn't successful, probably in part because the name sounded too country for the rock crowd, the cover was the wrong "look" at that time and the music covered too many bases. Critics rightly dug it and it includes a great backing band including top L.A. studio guys who later established their own solo careers, including Leon Russell, Van Dyke Parks and Glen Campbell plus some of his former Byrds band mates.

Clark later signed with A&M and after a false start with another band, put together Dillard and Clark featuring bluegrass great Doug Dillard and former Eagles member and solid songwriter Bernie Leadon, who co-wrote almost all of the songs on this all too short album. Two banjo players (Leadon and Dillard) are joined by an electric harpsicordist, and two mandolin players, one of whom was Chris Hillman, plus an uncredited drummer said to be original Byrds drummer Michael Clarke.

The album has a bluegrass feel, mixed with a rock undercurrent, dominated by Gene Clark's soulful singing and songwriting. There are but four songs on the first side, but they are so richly configured and deeply felt, I'm not sure if most listeners could take or need more.

In fact, the deliberately paced opener, "Out on the Side," is probably enough for an album's worth of musical pleasure and emotional pain. "She Darked the Sun" speaks for itself and "Don't Come Rollin'" mixes a joyful, rollicking melody with a darker lyrical admonition. The side ends with "Train Leaves Here This Mornin'" later covered by The Eagles. You could say The Eagles covered all of what Dillard and Clark was first!

The album features expert picking and lilting harmonies that never stop being enjoyable, thanks in part to a superb engineering job by Dick Bogert at A&M Studios. He gives the closely miked drums shock wave impact, particularly the toms and cymbals and sets them against sparkling strings on a bed of pleasing reverb.

The original, issued on A&M in October of 1968 is hard to find and somewhat pricey, in part because this gem wasn't successful either for Gene but those who bought it treasure it and if you pick up this reissue you'll know why.

I'm not sure who cut the lacquer or from what, given the rumor that A&M's masters were wiped out in the Universal fire of a few years ago (along with Motown and Chess among others), but whatever was used and whoever did the cutting, this reissue is a reasonable facsimile of the forty three year old original.

It's slightly drier and dynamically compressed compared to the original and misses some of the original's sparkle and spaciousness, but since you're not paying audiophile type prices and the 180g pressing—probably done at Rainbo is flat and quiet, there's nothing to complain about here.

I've been listening to and loving this gem since 1968 and I recommend it as highly as I can recommend any album. Thank you Sundazed, for making it available once again.

Thanks to Michael over at  for the exclusive rights to reprint this material. Stop by for more reviews and features.

©2011 & Michael Fremer - - All rights reserved

Reprinted by Permission

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