- 02 Jan 20
The Byrd Who Wouldn't Fly Soars
Anytime that dreaded sub-species the rock snobs get together and indulge in a game of top trumps, this is one of those albums that guarantees a winning hand. Arguably the greatest song writer in the original Byrds – ‘I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better’, ‘She Don’t Care About Time’ ‘Set You Free This Time’ – an ironic fear of flying and the usual internal squabbling pushed Clark out of the nest towards a solo career in 1966. Great albums with the Godsin Brothers and as part of Dillard & Clark – fans of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will be familiar with some of the songs - followed before White Light (1971) and Roadmaster (‘73), both of which are worth seeking out. It was with 74’s No Other, however, that Clark really staked his legitimate claim as one of the giants of country rock, although even that kind of categorisation fails to capture the breath of what he achieved here. Mind you, it sold like sour milk.
Employing the cream of L.A. session musicians at great expense, much to the chagrin of label boss David Geffen, Clark put together a masterpiece, from the upbeat country of ‘Life’s Greatest Fool’ to the dark groove of the title track, the gospel rock of ‘Strength Of Strings’ to the rolling closer ‘Lady Of The North’. Every song – the stunning ‘Some Misunderstanding’, the delicate ‘Silver Raven’, - is touched by genius.
His country-rock background is in there but Clark wrote these songs in a big-windowed house overlooking the Pacific Ocean while in thrall to Stevie Wonder's Innervisions and The Rolling Stones' Goats Head Soup, two brilliant, dense sounding albums that come from very different places. All these ingredients allowed Clark to forge a new California sound, and its influence is detectable in later work by everyone from Fleetwood Mac to Warren Zevon.
The sound on this painstaking re-master - undertaken in Abbey Road Studios by Clark expert Sid Griffin and John Wood, who manned the desk for everyone from Nick Drake to Pink Floyd - which includes extensive session tracks and great version of Dillard & Clark’s ‘Train Leaves Here This Morning’, knocks my old cd into a cocked hat and allows the exquisite production to shine, revealing hitherto hidden layers and finally explaining where all that money went. Absolutely essential.