When original Byrds Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman oversaw the 2006 box set There Is A Season, they made a concerted effort to highlight the contributions of their band-mate Gene Clark and, in so doing, may well have begun the groundswell of well-deserved recognition the late musician and songwriter is now receiving. This deluxe edition of Two Sides To Every Story is expanded in unusual ways as the ten tracks on the disc proper are accompanied with complete song lyrics, an array of eye catching photos, an informative essay plus a downloaded card for access to rare footage of Clark’s live performances and an interview with the artist himself
In keeping with the rustic landscape of the cover portraits on the hardcover package as well as the flannel and denim attire in which Gene Clark’s attired, Two Sides is largely a return to roots reminiscent of the man’s first post Byrds projects with Doug Dillard and the Gosdin Brothers. In contrast to the lush likes of No Other, this fifth solo album (on his third label) is comprised of songs with readily discernible country folk and bluegrass influences beginning with the very first notes of banjo plucked on “Home Run King” and subsequently rippling through the track up and around the dulcet harmonies of one Emmy Lou Harris. “Hear the Wind” is likewise introduced via bittersweet lines of pedal steel from Al Perkins.
“Lonely Saturday” begs favorable comparison with Harris’ (by this time former deceased) partner Gram Parsons through the doleful wail of pedal steel but more so by the weathered tenor of Clark’s vocal. A far cry from the boyish vulnerability of the master of cosmic American music, the breaks in Clark’s voice bespeak his pain as much as the quietly held notes reflect his resolute approach to his music . The sparse arrangement of “Give My Love to Marie,” featuring violin, grand piano and the far off echoes of drums, accentuates the vivid imagery of its lyrics, but even more so the naked emotion of Clark’s own performance. “Past Addresses” is deeply affecting because its acoustic guitar allows the author’s oblique lyrics to take hold.
This lone cover of “Marylou” is awash with strains of rhythm and blues, the likes of which did not appear often in Gene Clark’s oeuvre, but offer continuity with the previous sessions at which Sly Stone appeared. Oddly enough produced by Thomas Jefferson Kaye, as was its more ornate predecessor, Two Sides boasts some of the same tasteful players as solo efforts prior as well as musicians who were beginning to make their mark at the time of this recording (beside the aforementioned Perkins a multi-instrumentalist lynch-pin of Stephen Stills’ Manassas). Steely Dan man and Doobie Brother Jeff “Skunk” Baxter puts body English into his rhythm guitar playing on “Kansas City Southern” which is fully in keeping with the understated wail of Clark’s singing. Jerry McGee, a John Mayall sideman, deepens the earthy air further with his lead solos
Even in its baroque moments, there’s a simplicity maintained in this production the likes of which earmarked the other high water marks of Gene Clark’s solo career White Light and the compilation Roadmaster. In fact, the crisp and bright electric piano on “Sister Moon” recalls the textured likes of those records even as the orchestral swell rises, with a background chorale, to carry the track forward. And, haunting as it is, “Silent Crusade” is not just an ideal close to this record, but perhaps even the pinnacle that of Gene Clark’s career.