Reviews and Suggestions Rock History

Deep Grooves: Gene Clark – Silverado ’75 Live and Unreleased (Collector’s Choice)

Collector’s Choice continues its’ current run of reissues of Gene Clark’s oeuvre with this lost classic from the mid-70’s.

By the time this album was released, Clark’s star had long since faded. Since he had left the Byrds back in the early ’60’s after penning some of their best-known songs, Clark had tried to forge his own path by blending bluegrass with rock and roll in a way no one had ever tried before, and, for the most part, since. Despite the artistic success of those ventures, due to Clark’s reluctance to tour and other often-contrary business decisions, the albums Clark put out were generally ignored by the public. In 1973, however, the original lineup of the Byrds had reformed for an album (simple called Byrds) and a tour. Though the album wasn’t their best, the notoriety raised by the project had made Clark a wanted commodity again

The story goes that the head of Asylum Records, David Geffen, offered Clark the then astounding sum of $100,000 to use as a budget to make an album Geffen was going to promote to the heavens. This was going to the album to finally break Clark into the mainstream and make him a household name. Clark took the $100,000 and added every bell and whistle he could to the album, 1974’s No Other (a title that would be somewhat prophetic), including gospel choruses, violins, and other musical gee-gaws all meant to frame Clark’s eloquent poetry. While reviews of the album were overwhelmingly positive and praised Clark and his producer Thomas Kaye for their treatment of Clark’s songs, Geffen was furious about how much was spent on the album’s meager total of eight songs. After a disastrous meeting between the two in an LA eatery, Geffen never promoted the album and it also received meager attention from the public. Heartbroken, Clark hired a band (the Silverados) consisting of Riger White on electric guitar, Duke Bardwell on bass and banjo and set out in a van to tour the country to try to salvage the album. Mind you, in no way could the small band hope to duplicate the expansive sound of the album, adding to the unlikelihood of Clark’s goal.

The show captured on this CD was taken from one of the shows of that tour. Despite the new album, Clark and band were reduced to playing secondary markets in smaller clubs, a sad fate for a former Byrd and someone who was as accomplished a songwriter as Clark. Still, from listening to the show, one can hear Clark and the rest of the band giving their all in these performances of songs from all stages of Clark’s career. Though some personal problems of Clark’s made the shows vary in quality, when Clark and his band are on, like they were during this show, it made for a captivating performance. Though instrumentation is sparse, it’s actually a very positive thing as Clark’s song really stand out and with Clark, that’s the best thing anyway. Not to say Clark is lacking personality but when you listen to Clark, like Townes Van Zandt, you know from the moment the first note hits that the songs are some of the very best you’re going to hear and that’s what the focus needs to be on, not hot licks and showmanship.

Any fans of Clarks, Byrds fans or just fans of music with substance and solid songs will enjoy this set. No matter he didn’t get his due from the public and his sales were never great – at this point in time Clark was more often than not at the top of his game creatively and the show captured for this album proves how good he was when he was functioning on all cylinders. An excellent album.


2 replies on “Deep Grooves: Gene Clark – Silverado ’75 Live and Unreleased (Collector’s Choice)”

Great review Scott and thanks for the kind words about Gene. I saw him with McGuinn and Hillman during that collaboration. They played a lot of Byrds including 8miles and Chestnut Mare. They gave the small crowd at the Seattle Paramount a great show. They are awesome live musicians and proved they were there for the Byrds. Remember that was in the dark ages of disco. Ha! Yes Gene was part of the group and did his songs well. Why do we take them for granted until they’re gone? If I had heard some more press about his solo efforts I might have looked for him more than the reunions. I heard a snip of Silver Raven late at night on the FM and was wondering since until the internet opened all the doors. Are we in the dark ages of rap? ying/yang. Thanks again, Vince

Thanks for the kind words about the review, Vince. Yes, Gene was one of a kind. I’ve heard stories of great boots of shows of that vintage but have never heard any – hope I do someday as I have heard they were great and now you have confirmed. We do certainly need to give artists of that talent more notice when they are with us. Hopefully sites like this will serve that purpose. Thanks again, Vince.

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