Through the Morning, Through the Night (1969) **1/2
This isn't really a bad album if you lower your expectations to that of a mainstream '60s country record (note I did not say country-rock). But from Clark we expect better. One of the problems is that there are only four Gene Clark originals, and of those, only "Polly," is up to his usual darkly-lit standard. "Corner Street Bar," in which he inexplicably adopts a snooty faux-upper-twit British accent, may indeed be the worst song he's ever written, a dreadfully failed attempt at comic barroom sleaze. Of the two remaining Clark songs, "Kansas City Southern," is a pretty good mid-beat country song about that traditional country theme, train hoppin', and the title track is soggily maudlin but prettily melodic in Clark's by-then-patented glacially-paced tortured ballad mode. The rest are shitkicker covers. There's some shitkicking gospel ("I Bowed My Head and Cried Holy"), some chirpy bluegrass ("Rocky Top"), some maudlin honky-tonk balladry ("Four Walls"), and surprisingly, a cover of Lennon/McCartney's "Don't Let Me Down," that closes off the LP. It doesn't work, because Clark's shaky vocals lack the gritty aluminum howl of Lennon's, whose vocal hook made half the original song's appeal. Since there are only four Gene Clark penned tunes and none of those are soul-wrenchingly essential, this is recommended only to Clark completists. But as luck would have it, this little LP is paired on a two-fer CD with the first Dillard & Clark album, so you get to hear it for free if you pick up Fantastic Expedition. And if you cherry-pick the good songs from both LPs with the CD programmer, you've got yourself a bonafide four-star Gene Clark album. The band split shortly after this commercial dud of an album, and so by the next review we rejoin Gene Clark's solo career proper.