BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Gene Clark’s departure from the Byrds at the very height of their success didn’t seem like the most fortuitous move at the time, especially in light of the fact that as the band’s primary singer, songwriter, front man and unabashed heartthrob, he appeared to have the most to lose. Yet, it was a move he felt he had to make; paralysed by his fear of flying and his aversion to the Hollywood star-making machine, he had a desperate desire to escape the consequences of fame, and strike out on his own.
Following a pair LPs with Bluegrass band The Dillards and an earlier outing with the Gosdin Brothers, he retreated up the California coast and wrote the songs that would form the essence of his first solo album, the ravishingly beautiful White Light. Here for the first time are those songs in primal form, Clark’s original demos as sketched on guitar, vocals and harmonica, free of any embellishment. In the interest of full disclosure it should be said that those familiar with the finished recordings will find little difference between these versions and what eventually emerged in the sessions helmed by producer Jesse Ed Davis. In fact, Davis wisely chose to keep the same stripped down feel Clark originally intentioned, making White Light the most emotionally honest entry of Clark’s entire canon.
Nevertheless, hearing such heart-rending songs as “White Light,” “For a Spanish Guitar” and “Where My Love Lies Asleep” as they were first cast from the womb is as stirring now as it was when the album was originally unveiled some 40-plus years ago. Admittedly, it’s easy to see why a pair of these tracks — “Please Mr. Freud” and “Jimmy Christ” — didn’t make the cut, but as novelties they’re bound to appeal to Clark completists. Indeed, even in this formative state, White Light never shone brighter.
DOWNLOAD: “White Light,” “For a Spanish Guitar,” “Where My Love Lies Asleep”