When Gene Clark died in 1991 after years of substance abuse, obit writers cited his brief period as a founding member of the Byrds. Clark was actually much more. He infused the original band with much of its soul and vision, establishing himself as a pivotal folk-rock innovator, a fact known to the band and hardcore fans but never comprehensively chronicled until John Einarson’s 2005 Clark biography, Mr. Tambourine Man.
Like bandmates Jim (now Roger) McGuinn and David Crosby, Clark was a former folkie captivated by the Beatles. His baritone vocals were as integral to the Byrds’ sound as McGuinn’s jangly Rickenbacker twelve-string electric. So were Clark originals such as “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better”, “I Knew I’d Want You” and “She Don’t Care About Time”. McGuinn and Crosby may have shared co-writer credit on “Eight Miles High”, but they essentially embellished a song that Clark had created. Overwhelmed by demands of fame and tired of clashing with the contentious Crosby, Clark left the band in 1966; Byrds manager Jim Dickson landed him the Columbia contract that spawned this album.
Recorded with the Byrds’ rhythm section of Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke, plus A-list Los Angeles studio musicians Glen Campbell and Leon Russell, Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers has justifiably gained stature over the past 40 years, not only as a glorious brew of ’60s folk-rock, proto-country-rock and complex, Beatlesque pop, but as an expository effort that defined and clarified Clark’s importance to the band he left behind (and briefly rejoined).
Given the fact the vocal harmonies from the Gosdins (future Nashville star Vern and his brother Rex) were of marginal importance, their overblown billing can only by explained by the fact that Dickson also managed them. Clark invoked the Byrds sound several times, on “The Same One” (with guitar from Clarence White, then just beginning to plug in), “Couldn’t Believe Her”, and “So You Say You Lost Your Baby”. The painfully emotional “Echoes”, a bit of baroque ’60s art-rock framed by Russell’s string arrangement, showcases Clark’s stunning lyrical impressionism.
Revolver-era Beatles influence bursts forth from “Is Yours Is Mine” and “Elevator Operator”. Buck Owens is the influence on “Tried So Hard” and “Keep On Pushin'”, a harbinger of the country-rock Clark would pursue with Doug Dillard in 1968. Six bonus tracks include two alternate takes, two acoustic demos, and mono mixes of both sides of a 1967 Columbia single. This isn’t the album’s first reissue, but this edition conclusively summarizes and showcases Clark’s early genius.