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Upon its 1974 release, Gene Clark’s No Other was rejected by most critics as an exercise in bloated studio excess. It was also ignored by Asylum, which had invested $100,000 in recording it. A considerable sum at the time, it was intended as a double album, but the label refused to release it as such. Ultimately, it proved a commercial failure that devastated Clark, and he never recovered.
Though Clark didn’t live to see it, No Other has attained cult status as a visionary recording that employs every available studio means to illustrate the power in Clark’s mercurial songwriting. He and producer Thomas Jefferson Kaye entered Village Recorders in L.A. with an elite cast that included Michael Utley and Jesse Ed Davis, Butch Trucks, Lee Sklar, Russ Kunkel, Joe Lala, Chris Hillman, Danny “Kooch” Kortchmar, Howard Buzzy Feiten, and Stephen Bruton. Clark’s vocalists included Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Shirley Matthews, the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmidt, and Claudia Lennear. These musicians all brought their best to the material. As a whole, No Other is a sprawling, ambitious work that seamlessly melds country, folk, jazz-inflected-gospel, urban blues, and breezy L.A. rock in a song cycle that reflects the mid-’70s better than anything from the time, yet continues to haunt the present with its relevance.
There are no edges on the set, even in the labyrinthine, multi-tracked “No Other,” that juxtaposes guitar-driven psychedelia and out jazz saxophones and flutes with lush vocal harmonies. Even its tougher tracks, such as “Strength of Strings,” that echoes Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand,” melodically delivers an alluring, modal, Eastern-tinged bridge adorned by slide guitar wizardry. In the textured darkness of “Silver Raven,” Clark’s falsetto vocal is framed by an alluring synth, and muted bassline, and is embraced by a chorus that rivals CSNY’s, making for a heartbreaking yet blissed-out country-folk song. “From a Silver Phial,” as haunting and beautiful as it is, is one of the strangest songs Clark ever penned. Its anti-drug references are especially odd as this is one of the more coked-out recordings to come from L.A. during the era. The final two cuts, “The True One” and “Lady of the North” (the latter co-written with Doug Dillard), are the only two pieces on the disc that mirror where Clark had come from musically, but as they wind around the listener, even these tracks are far bigger than mere country-rock tunes, offering glissando passages of pedal steel and piano ostinatos that actually create narrative movement for the lyrics to turn on. No Other’s songs lend themselves to open-ended performances in the studio. Because of his spacious yet always beautifully centered compositional style, they are well-suited to Kaye’s use of multi-tracked instruments and vocals, ambient sonic echoes, and textures that surround them. Clark’s unlikely classic, No Other is continually rediscovered by succeeding generations.
Label: Drag City
Cat.No.: 4AD 0070 LP
Available on backorder