Friday, February 4, 2011

Gene Clark - Echoes

Echoes (1967) ****1/2

Gene Clark's debut solo album is actually more consistent than any album the actual Byrds released in their lifetime, an entire record filled with none but good songs and none the Dylan and suchlike covers that the Byrds had been for so long over-reliant upon.  This CD is actually a repackaging of the 1967 Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers LP, with the first six bonus tracks distractingly added to the front of the CD - and even worse, they're totally extraneous, consisting of nothing more than six randomly chosen Byrds songs that bear the Clark songwriting credit, and having nothing at all to do with the solo material on this issue.  The three bonus tracks tacked on to the end are more fitting, consisting of a pair of brilliantly performed covers, "The French Girl," and "Oh Colombe," that the liner notes accurately peg as sounding like the Left Banke gone folk rock, in addition to an excellent acoustic demo of "So You Say You Lost Your Baby." 

The eleven songs sandwiched between that constitute the original album are uniformly excellent in songcraft and performance, with Clark alternately issuing soundalikes of his old band ("Is Yours Is Mine") to '66-era Beatles ("Elevator Operator") to the sort of country-rock he, along with Gram Parsons, would pioneer ("Tried So Hard") to bristling, jauntily upbeat folk jingle ("Think I'm Going To Feel Better") to over-orchestrated late '60s strings'n'things McArthur Park melodrama (the title track).  None of the songs are up to the caliber of "Feel a Whole Better," or "Eight Miles High," but what is?  During his tenure in the Byrds, Clark proved himself an intermittently decent songwriter capable of delivering three or four good songs per album; no one would have suspected the depth of his songwriting talent based on such a meager track record, until this album blossomed his talent once and for all.  It may or may not be his best solo album; up until the mid-'70s, he rarely released a bad one. 

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