Amoeblog

Gene Clark - A Tragedy In Two Parts: Part One - No Other

Posted by Miss Ess, January 30, 2008 08:14pm | Post a Comment

Once, on the long long long orange lit drive home from L.A., crap-o car stereo blaring, my better half asked me almost incredulously, "Why is this album pretty much the best album ever made?!" 

Why indeed? Sometimes writing about music is a real drag. Gene Clark's No Other truly is one of the most lasting and perfect albums I've ever heard.
 


On a tip from a coworker (I am almost certain it was Shayde), I bought No Other around four years ago. I liked Gene's previous album White Light, so I was ready to hear more. I popped in No Other and liked it immediately, but ultimately it was over time that this album became more and more haunting. Like, I couldn't get it out of my head ... like, for years. Seriously, waking in the night with just this one little moment of "From a Silver Phial" tinkering through my mind.

I read the liner notes earlier today from the cd reissue and someone describes Gene's sound as achieving the "Cosmic American Music" feeling Gram Parsons had once sought. I guess that's a fairly apt way to describe a fairly indescribable album.

Usually heavy production freaks me out. No Other was released in 1974, when it was all production -city all the time, unless you were Carly Simon or something, but let's not go there. The production work on this album is so layered, dense and, actually, perfect. There's wah wah guitar, backup singers, crazy piano licks. The best of L.A.'s session musicians were hired to play at the recording and they play the hell out of these songs, adding gravity to what was already great. The other thing that makes this album killer is that there is a theme and a thread that works its way through each of the songs and connects them, so as you listen closely to the album over and over again, it all becomes more and more clear and transporting.

Sometimes I will forget totally about No Other, maybe even for a year or so, but it always, always winds its way back in my mind.

I am almost done reading the bio of Gene, Mr. Tambourine Man by John Einarson, and I will have much more to say about Gene Clark at that point, plus a review of that book, hence the two part aspect of this blog entry. [Part 2 is right here.] If you've never heard his solo work before, you should maybe pick up No Other in the meantime. And some headphones.

Be On My Side, I'll Be On Your Side - Neil Young: Live @ Massey Hall

Posted by Miss Ess, April 3, 2007 10:35pm | Post a Comment

You might as well know this early on my postings: there is no music I like better than Neil Young's music.

Like any good Rustie, I already had some of the bootlegs from his solo acoustic 1971 tour, and have practically worn out the tapes and vinyl over the years.  This tour in 1971 came at a particularly prolific moment in Young's life. He had released After the Goldrush, one of his very best, and was done writing Harvest, widely regarded as his career best. (Although to me that's a debatable call.) Since at the time it had not been released, the songs from Harvest were completely new to the audience during the performance. As someone who has been listening to Harvest for 27 years, this is both difficult and also very exciting to imagine.

So, a few weeks ago on March 13, again like any good Rustie, I got ahold of the official release of Live at Massey Hall (the special version of course, including the dvd) as quickly as I could.

It rules.

The dvd is mostly footage from the show at Massey Hall, but it also includes vintage super 8 footage of Neil on his then newly-purchased ranch in Woodside with his dogs, fences and dappled light. The images only enhance the warm quality the music already exudes.

I'm not really one to use the word peaceful. I don't
own a yoga mat. But this footage, this voice,
these songs, made me feel just that-- peacefully at home. I guess that's in large part because I grew up with Neil Young's music, was taught to sing harmony by my mom to his songs, was quizzed while a child as to who was guesting on his albums and where they were recorded. I remember our green station wagon and those long family drives to Yosemite, rocking the Neil all the way, dad drumming along on the steering wheel.

So the other night, sitting for just over an hour, watching one dude onstage with a guitar, piano, mic and his songs...I was left thinking: does anyone else do this anymore to such an effect? Or maybe these songs can reach me this way, tap into something so deep, because of the length of time I have been listening to them, the memories and nostalgia attached to them? 

The (perhaps oversimplified) conclusion I have come to is that whether you are listening for the first time of the billionth, the songs stand up. Although I am sure I will bring his music up again sometime here, I don't know really what's left to say about Neil that hasn't already been said at this point. 

The songs stand up.