Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Kai Clark's Silver Raven: Track by Track

Last November, I posted an interview I did with Kai Clark about the then-imminent release of Silver Raven, a tribute to his father's music.
I'm delighted to say the album was released in April, and has received positive reviews from publications like Shindig! and Goldmine.

If you're cynical about tribute albums as a genre, or a wee-bit precious about the idea of anyone other than Gene performing his songs, all I can say is you will be pleasantly surprised with what Kai and co-producer/drummer Jim Moreland have created. This is a moving, energetic, powerful set of extremely well-chosen songs that tick all the appropriate boxes: The Byrds; staples from Gene Clark's touring days, and lesser-known favourites of hardcore fans.

On the whole, the production remains faithful to the sound and spirit of the original recordings, but make no mistake: there's much more going on here than simple replication.  The performances from Kai and his band are forceful and confident; the choices they've made in approach to the music are, in a word, inspired. Take "Polly," one of the standouts from Dillard and Clark's second album.  Kai's arrangement is augmented by stately Rickenbacker 12-string and emotive strains of pedal steel; it's a combination that lifts the tracks into an ethereal alternate universe, one that effectively posits a glimpse of what the 1969-era Byrds might've sounded like, had Gene remained. The juxtaposition of majesty and despair is breathtaking.

I've pretty much lived with this album for the last two months; it's been the soundtrack for this otherwise nightmarish Covid-19 period, but it has not been stigmatized by that association. If anything, it's helped me cope with doubt and fear in rapidly changing times. Listen to Kai's take on "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and you'll know what I mean.

Silver Raven: 

Track-by-track summary

1. I Found You (Gene Clark)
Originally released in February 1967 on Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, “I Found You” was also the b-side to the leadoff single “Echoes”. Kai and his band reignite the sensual groove that made this one of the standout tracks from his dad’s first solo outing.

2. Mr. Tambourine Man (Bob Dylan)
The Byrds’ signature track—the first of two #1’s they scored in 1965; and the vehicle by which the world (via Ed Sullivan) got its first glimpse of 21-year-old Gene Clark standing centre-stage, shaking the titular instrument—was of course written by Bob Dylan, a pivotal influence on Gene’s early songwriting efforts. Kai and his band provide a reverential yet driving interpretation of a bona fide American standard.

3. Train Leaves Here This Morning (Gene Clark, Bernie Leadon)
Kai's take on “Train” is an ingratiating remake of a song that became a staple of his father’s live shows (first released on 1968’s The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard and Clark); one that features an effortlessly tasteful contribution from a past member of Dillard and Clark, fiddler extraordinaire Byron Berline.

4. Here Without You (Gene Clark)
Gene Clark’s tenure in the Byrds may have been brief, but each song he gave them was a gem. Alongside the KC Band’s respectful homage to the Byrds’ shimmering arrangement, Kai offers a tender reading of his father’s timeless classic.

5. Silver Raven (Gene Clark)
Dark and mysterious, much like the songwriter himself, “Silver Raven” was originally released on Gene’s celebrated 1974 masterwork No Other. Kai takes things in a slightly heavier direction, leading the band into a hypnotic, swampy groove, sweetened by some tasty slide work, rich backing vocals (by Kai’s wife Amber, and Aubrey Littlefield, her niece), alongside Kai’s most nuanced vocal to date.

6. Kansas City Southern (Gene Clark)
First recorded as an upbeat country-rocker (on Dillard and Clark’s Through the Morning Through the Night), later recast as a swaggering rocker on 1977’s Two Sides to Every Story, Kai’s arrangement is based heavily on the latter, but the peppy harmonica work (contributed by legendary musician and photographer Henry Diltz) and sublime pedal steel remind us of the song’s country roots.

7. Gypsy Rider (Gene Clark)
A late-period gem, “Gypsy Rider” was originally released on Gene Clark and Carla Olson’s 1987 duet album, So Rebellious a Lover. Carla Olson reprises her role as duet partner, in an achingly beautiful remake of one of Gene’s most cinematic compositions, here given new depth with the addition of Byron Berline’s wistful fiddle.

8. Turn! Turn! Turn! (Pete Seeger)
The Byrds’ second #1 of 1965 is yet another track that is synonymous with Gene Clark’s era-defining tenure in the band. Kai’s fresh and inspiring take on the track, featuring the epochal tones of the 12-string Rickenbacker, is both a fond look back to those halcyon days, and a reminder of the song’s enduring relevance and wisdom during times of crisis.

9. Polly (Gene Clark)
A love song of aching beauty, “Polly” was introduced to a new generation of fans via the 2007 Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand. Kai’s updating of the song makes brilliant use of 12-string Rickenbacker and Kevin Post’s evocative use of pedal steel, both of which add elements of majesty and doom.

10. Your Fire Burning (Gene Clark)
Posthumously released on 1992’s Silhouetted in Light (a recording of a February 1990
performance at McCabe’s with Carla Olson) “Your Fire Burning” is perhaps the most poignant evidence we have that, at the time of his passing, Gene Clark’s music was hitting new heights
of artistic brilliance. While the song may not be as well-known as some of his father’s other material, Kai certainly appreciates its magnificence, and again enlists the help of Carla Olson as duet partner.

The results are both celebratory and elegiac.

11. Eight Miles Higher (bonus track) (Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby)
The album’s finale is a triumph for all concerned: The Byrds’ early psychedelic classic opens with a darkly compelling groove (courtesy of bassist/guitarist Don Segien and drummer/producer Jim Moreland), soon augmented by some extended lines from a down-and-dirty 12-string Rickenbacker and terrific ensemble vocals—all of which leads to a thrilling climax for both the song and album.


CD copies and download options: Kai Clark Music


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Update


Hello everyone,

I apologize for disappearing after only posting part one of my planned three-part series on "Your Fire Burning," but as I'm sure you can appreciate, things got very scary and very surreal for me—and very quickly—at the outset of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Parts two and three have been set aside for now, but I have every intention of finishing them later in the year.

During the lockdown, I have used the time to work on some pet projects that are near and dear to me, two of which are related to Gene Clark:

Bill Rinehart story
Above: Bill Rinehart (far left);  Gene Clark,
Joel Larson, and Chip Douglas
I've resumed work on my story about the late Bill Rinehart, who was a close associate of Gene's throughout the bulk of 1966, and played a pivotal role in the Sunset Strip scene, as a member of the Leaves, the Gene Clark Group and the Merry-Go-Round. Bill's is a wild, if ultimately sad, tale, but one I feel compelled to tell. During his peak years of 1965-1972, Bill partied with and performed alongside some of the biggest stars of the time, including Sonny and Cher, Dave Mason, Cass Elliott, Leon Russell, Rick Danko, the Wrecking Crew, and many more.
Bill Rinehart, 1968
What I've found most interesting about Bill's life and career is that time and again, there was really no situation so perfect, and so clearly demonstrative of fate's benevolent, intercessory hand seeking to ensure his stars were perfectly aligned for success—that he wouldn't go out of his way to scupper. I am not romanticizing Bill's propensity for self-sabotage, simply documenting it, while allowing those who best knew him to posit their theories.

Roadmastery (Echoes newsletter)

The fab graphic for Roadmastery created by Indigo Mariana

On a lighter note, I'm very excited about a new column I'm contributing to Echoes, the Gene Clark newsletter, published by Indigo Mariana aka Neon Brambles (Gene-Clark.com). I want to thank her for giving me the opportunity to indulge my fondness for researching the picayune pockets of Gene's recording career.

What is Roadmastery?
One of the first things you learn on the road to becoming a hardcore Gene Clark fan is that nothing, and I mean nothing, goes in a perfect, straight line. There is no logical flow to anything; no starting at A, heading to B.  Because heading down the road to B, just when you think you’ve got a firm grasp on the wheel and the destination in sight, another fact suddenly emerges to throw you off course.

If you’re truly committed to taking a deep dive into Gene’s recorded output, you’re guaranteed to find exceptions, anomalies and curiosities at every turn. This isn’t a “One Way Road”—it’s a fascinating, labyrinthine journey of a lifetime, replete with innumerable twists, turns, U-turns along the way—and, as we’ll see, some mysterious diversions akin to cozy cul-de-sacs.

So far I've contributed three columns, which I'd like to invite to read (you can also subscribe!)

Echoes March 2020 issue: 
The Trip from The American Dreamer (1971) to The Farmer (1977)

Echoes April 2020 issue:
Uncovering the covers: the circa ’85 demos

Echoes May 2020 issue: 
Seventh Avenue Train (aka Hula Bula Man, Hula Mula Man)

In memoriam: Kelly Eugene Clark (1971 - 2020)

Lastly, I want to dedicate this blog entry to the memory of Kelly Eugene Clark, Gene's eldest son, who passed away recently.
To Kai, Amber, Indy, and all members of the Clark family, I wish to extend my deepest condolences.

Grace of peace come over us.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Recorded 30 years ago today...The Top of the Mountain: 'Your Fire Burning' (Part 1)

My look at "Your Fire Burning" will be divided into three parts:
Part 1: The Top of the Mountain: Introduction and Background
Part 2: Despair's Chains Unbroken: analysis
Part 3: Extant versions

Gene Clark & Carla Olson — "Your Fire Burning" from Silhouetted in Light
Recorded February 3rd, 1990, at McCabe's, Santa Monica, CA
Released February 1992

The Top of the Mountain 

In 2014, I began a seemingly endless series of posts that counted down my TOP 50 Gene Clark songs.  Almost six years on, I will now confide that I had mixed emotions about that whole series of posts—mainly because I'd knowingly put myself in the position of adopting a lazy, modern style that reflects the fast-food side of journalism: the dreaded listicle. 

At the time, I felt that this approach would not only allow me to cover a lot of Gene's best moments in a shorter span of time (now I'm inclined to think, what was the hurry?) but it would also provide the perfect opportunity to spotlight  Gene's often-ignored accomplishments from the 1980s forward.

And so looking back at the TOP 50 posts, I can laugh at some of the ridiculousness of the exercise: upon what basis did I decide that 'Polly' (#26) rated more highly than 'No Other' (#38)? And what of 'After the Storm' at #48, which barely made it on the list at all—yet I can remember commuting to work one day and having a sudden urge to hear that specific song over any other, and becoming frustrated when I realized I hadn't thought to sync it to my iPod.
And so while I freely admit the exercise was largely a sham, I did put a lot of thought into the top 20 songs, and especially the top 5, posted below (with embedded links to my corresponding blogpost for each):

1. Your Fire Burning
2. My Marie                        
4. Strength Of Strings          
5. Echoes

As you can see from the links, there's posts on this blog specifically devoted to each song—except the number 1 song. Even in the TOP 50 countdown, I limited my thoughts to a few words:

To my knowledge, there are only four extant versions of this song.  The first is a sketch demo, just over two minutes long.  It is included on the fan-created 7-disc "box set".  The second is a rather echo-ey demo featured on Gypsy Angel; the third was recorded during Gene's tragic "last stand" at the Cinegrill from April 1991; it gives us a glimpse as to how the song might've sounded when fleshed out by a full band. 
The fourth, recorded with Carla Olson at McCabe's in 1990, the one I've chosen as my number 1 Gene Clark song, is the closest we'll ever have to a definitive version.  Though rough in places it, like 'My Marie', stands as a testament to Gene's extraordinary ability to turn what might've been just another let's-just-play-get-the-money-and-go-get-a-drink gig into a one-of-a-kind, life-changing experience. 
At the end of the song, Carla Olson says only: "Gene Clark."   
Because nothing more needed to be said. 
Committed, passionate, dignified, blessed by the angels, this is, quite simply, as good as it gets. Here it is, folks, the top of the mountain.

Up until now I've avoided sharing my feelings about "Your Fire Burning." Oh, sure, I've trumpeted its brilliance at every opportunity; I went out of my way to spotlight it in my first story for Shindig!; over the years I've rhapsodized about it on numerous music sites and web groups, told friends about it, etc. But I've never talked about it at length. 

Why? 

Well, perhaps it's because the song holds great personal importance to me; it looms large in my own personal mythology. It is inextricably tied to specific people, places and situations in my life. 
My reticence comes from the feeling that I'm too close to it; that I'm incapable of anything resembling objective assessment. The greatest fear, however, is that I won't do it justice, or capably explain its lasting significance to Gene's legacy.

Upon its release in 1992, the year after his death, it had the distinction of being the first previously unreleased song of Gene's that I'd heard from his latter-day output (the Echoes compilation, released in September 1991, featured previously unreleased material from the 1960s). Recorded on February 3, 1990—and released two years to the month later on Silhouetted in Light, in February 1992—it was recent enough to feel new and fresh to me...even as it signalled the beginning of Gene's remaining 15 months with us. 

And so the poignancy was built-in, unavoidable. For me, the song resembled something akin to sacred music: impervious to the slings and arrows of critical assessment. It could never be anything other than the top of the mountain; the finest, most distinguished of accomplishments.

Time has not dimmed this view. 

The mourned provides solace for those in mourning

In 1992, I had a roommate who worked in a record store.  To the best of my recollection, it was he who brought news of the imminent release of Silhouetted in Light. I seem to recall placing a special order for the album, so that I could get it as soon as it was released.

When it arrived, I quickly scanned the back cover to check out the songs Gene and Carla has performed that evening. "Your Fire Burning" made an impression on me before I'd even heard it.  For starters, it struck me as odd that Gene and Carla opened the show with a brand-new song (assuming the track list was kept intact); secondly, I was intrigued by the time of 6:41. (Note: I would not hear the No Other album until 1993, so the idea of a six-minutes-plus Gene Clark song was foreign to me.)  I quickly assumed that the excessive length would be due to introductions, on-stage banter, tuning, etc.

And it was under this assumption that I hit play on the CD and started to leave the room to get something, only to be stopped in my tracks by Gene's voice.

"'Your Fire Burning' in two..."

They were going right into the song? I turned around, sat down.  I listened.

The top of the mountain was within view.

The year of 1992 was among the roughest of my life. Apart from the fact that I—The Only Living Gene Clark Fanboy in London, Ontario—was still grieving Gene's death in a solitary vacuum, I was also besieged by a series of losses and disappointments that left me reeling. The arrival of 'Your Fire Burning' into my life felt like a posthumous gift from the spirit of Gene Clark himself, as though he were somehow capable of sensing my despair, and sending me solace in song. And while that was merely a fanciful thought to comfort myself in a time of distress, the reality of how the Silhouetted in Light album came to be recorded and ultimately released, is enough to make one believe in the abiding power of angels.

Scratched and nicotine-stained,
my personal copy of Silhouetted in Light
 betrays the extent to which I
turned to it duringin difficult times. 

The Butterfly Effect: how one small act gave us Silhouetted in Light

The Butterfly Effect: In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state. —Wikipedia

There are times when I marvel at the various ways in which a simple, seemingly inconsequential, choice can spark a chain of events that can create a huge impact further on up the road. Such is the case with the McCabe's version of 'Your Fire Burning', a song that was not captured in a polished studio recording before Gene's death. All extant versions are treasured, of course (and will be duly discussed in Part 2), but it is this version that first captured my heart and remains, to this day, the closest I've heard to a definitive recording of by Gene Clark. But the chain of events that led to its existence are a perfect example of the a positive manifestation of the Butterfly Effect.
In Timeless Flight Revisited, author Johnny Rogan asked Saul Davis, Carla Olson's husband and Gene's erstwhile manager, about the circumstances under which the tape was made:
"At the end of the night, the sound person tapped guitarist Duane Jarvis on the shoulder and said, 'Would you like a tape?," Davis recalls. "He gave it to Duane and we we didn't even know about it. After Gene passed away, Duane called me and said, 'By the way, I have a tape from McCabe's.' I said, 'I can't believe it.' It was primitive but perfect as far as being a representation of that night and allowing us to put out something that people want to hear."
Was it a sudden impulse? Usual practice? Whatever the reason, had the sound person not had the presence of mind to throw a cassette into the soundboard, I would have never heard these precious six minutes and forty-one seconds of 'Your Fire Burning,' let alone the other performances captured on that distant evening, 30 years ago today.

And for that I am forever grateful.

******************************************

This post is dedicated with love to my dear friend Taslim, who has helped me immensely in recent months. 

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Coming in January 2020, Despair’s chains unbroken: Your Fire Burning

January 2020 will see the arrival of the first instalment in a projected 3-part discussion of ‘Your Fire Burning’—a song that is of such massive personal significance to me that I’ve been hesitant write about it at length.

Until now.

Happy New Year!
Tom


















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Saturday, 23 November 2019

Review: Farm Team - Grooves & Ruts (2019 release)

This is a slight diversion from my usual Gene Clark-related content. I'd like to post an album review I wrote about a recently released album entitled Grooves & Ruts, recorded by a Vancouver collective called Farm Team.

I wrote the review because I was deeply moved by the material.  I'm posting it here because I feel that it deserves a wider audience.

Farm Team is a vehicle for singer-songwriter Simon Paradis, a musician I first met in London, Ontario in the late 1980s. Simon & I played in a band together for approximately two years in a band called Month of Sundays.
Simon Paradis (far left) with
Month of Sundays, December 30, 1989
at Call the Office in London, ON
Apart from being an extraordinary guitarist, he was sharp, quick-witted and funny as hell. His guitar playing had an immediately recognizable, unique style, and yet it was also well-rounded, with blues, jazz, rock chops to burn.  Simon could play it all, and what's more had the scholarly knowledge to back it up. He was no bullshitter, he was the real deal.  In those days, there were lots of hapless musician wannabes in London (of which I was one) but Simon was a guy that emanated that undefinable star quality that few possess, and which he, to his credit, seemed blissfully unaware.

Those impressions are all written in past tense, but as I recently told Simon, time and circumstance have only served to reinforce this belief. I hope you enjoy the review and the music it describes.

It is important that we support independent artists.

Farm Team — Grooves & Ruts

(Simon Paradis)

(Canada Council for the Arts)

Although nominally credited to Farm Team (a loose collective of seasoned Vancouver musicians), Grooves & Ruts is, at its core, another impressive offering from singer/songwriter Simon Paradis.  And for Paradis—a veteran session player/producer for over 30 years who has, in recent years, amassed a formidable back catalogue, both as a solo artist and half of Stanton/Paradis—this 14-song, 52-minute work stands as a uniquely compelling personal statement about the resilience of the human spirit.

Paradis’ extraordinary creative run is welcome, not only because he is a gifted, insightful musician and songwriter, but because it represents a miraculous comeback in the aftermath of a near-fatal, life-altering 2007 workplace accident (the harrowing details of which are chronicled in this CBC article from 2018). After reading about myriad impediments he (and wife/writing partner Kara Stanley) faced during his recovery one cannot help but view the album as the ultimate manifestation of Paradis’ passion for music, both as a force for renewal and reclamation of one’s self.
Musically, Grooves & Ruts ‘14 3rd Ave’ begins with an exquisitely hazy wash of pedal steel, courtesy of Paul Rigby (Neko Case, A.C. Newman); it opens the album like eastern-facing curtains on a bright summer morning.  Shortly thereafter it’s joined by acoustic guitar, brushed drums, tasteful bass and Paradis’ folksy vocals, and melts into a warm, inviting mid-tempo vibe that is largely reflective of the album’s overall approach.  While certain influences are obvious—The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Neil Young, to name but three—they are never aped gratuitously; merely offered a respectful tip of the hat in Paradis’ pursuit of his own vision and sound. One also feels less overt influences at play, as if the DNA of innumerable blues, jazz, country—even pop—masters were commingling inside the bones of the songs.

Paradis’ voice, like the material itself, possesses a disarming vulnerability: there are moments when it shakes and quivers—but never does it falter.  And when he needs to, Paradis digs deep, summoning both ghosts of pain and angels of mercy, in the soaring choruses of ‘Boats’ and ‘Night is Here’.  Where the former might be taken as an allusion to his post-accident recovery period (“I’m leanin’ hard into the wind,” he sings in a world-weary voice), the latter offers love and reassurance during one’s darkest hour. Sung in plaintive tones, augmented by glorious backing vocals that reinforce the concepts of support and selflessness at the song’s core, “Night is Here” is a stunning testament to the power of love as a healing force.

But Paradis knows it’s not as simple as saying love conquers all.  The album is rife with disillusionment, disappointment, pain, suffering, and the bittersweet remembrance of how things were before—all of which is made excruciatingly clear in one of the album’s most poignant moments, “Save Me”.  “This one is a study in juxtaposed realities,” Paradis said in an October 2019 interview. “Right after my accident, while in rehab, I realized that my ‘dreaming self’ hadn't made the same adjustment my physical self had. I had been a fully able-bodied person for 38 years of my life, so when I went to bed, I was able to stand, walk, run in all of my dreams, only to wake in the morning to find the (wheel)chair at the foot of my bed.”

Juxtapositions like this suffuse the entire album: there are befores and afters, gains and losses, pains and pleasures, highs and lows, darkness and light, rockers (the searing 'Mr. Hopeful', with Paradis wailing "Love, love, an elemental force!") and ballads ('Sweet Melinda'), questions and answers.  So it seems like more than a coincidence that such juxtaposition carries over to the song titles themselves. And it is here that one finds the most satisfying takeaway from Grooves & Ruts: sung by a man who nearly died in a tragic jobsite accident, and who subsequently faced a long, arduous convalescence, “I’ve Been Better” sounds like the wryest of answers to one of life’s most innocuous questions: how are you?  Tellingly, the album-ending track, “I’ve Been Worse,” a reprise of the former, might very well be Paradis’ equally wry response to the same innocuous question—except this time from a more hopeful perspective: that of a man who nearly lost everything, but now celebrates the reclamation of his life in song.

Grooves & Ruts is available from CD Baby.


Sunday, 10 November 2019

Raven 'bout Gene: Kai Clark talks about his new tribute album, Silver Raven


Roughly coinciding with 4AD's mammoth reevaluation of Gene Clark's 1974 masterpiece No Other (released last week) and what would have been Gene's 75th birthday on November 17th, son Kai Clark is poised to release Silver Raven, an 11-song tribute album that traces his father's career in music. Suffice it to say each of the handpicked tracks—popular classics, Byrds-era favourites, under-heard gems—hold special significance for Kai. With guest performances from his dad's former colleagues Carla Olson and Byron Berline, and spirited backing from the members of the Kai Clark Band, the album is both a loving celebration of his dad's accomplishments and a welcome opportunity to introduce Gene Clark's music to a new generation of fans.

(More info on the Silver Raven album)


It's been over five years since Kai Clark last chatted with The Clarkophile; in that time, much has changed, in terms of his father's legacy. Kickstarted in part by the dual successes of Paul Kendall's wonderful documentary, The Byrd Who Flew Alone and Beach House and Co.'s magnanimous one-off tour of the No Other album, it's apparent that we are witnessing a significant reassessment of Gene Clark's entire oeuvre and his place in rock's pantheon. To wit, a steady stream of archival releases, enough to please any Clarkoisseur (The Lost Studio Sessions; Back Street Mirror E.P.Gene Clark Sings for You; Here Tonight: The White Light Demoshas rather convincingly demonstrated the value of material that remained unreleased during Clark's lifetime.

These releases constitute much more than play-once-and-file-away curios for Boomer diehards. They are evidence of a long-overdue re-evaluation of Clark's importance as a serious artist.
It is evident that both fans and cognoscenti have finally conferred upon Gene the kind of respect and attention he was rarely afforded in his lifetime. In many ways, not the least of which is its enormity (both in size and cost), 4AD's lavish box-set treatment of No Other is the final piece of evidence needed to make a rock-solid case: Gene Clark can no longer be regarded as a "cult artist."

Clearly, for those of us who love Gene Clark, this is an epochal moment, if not a universally acknowledged seismic shift in the foundation of rock's hierarchy. Gene's message has been heard.

And so it was my great pleasure to spend an afternoon in October talking with Kai about his new project. But I also wanted to dig a little deeper and find out about Kai as an individual, as opposed to Gene Clark's son, who is also the public face of the Gene Clark Estate (brother Kelly eschews the spotlight).  Kai and I ended up talking about everything from chopping wood (from which he'd just taken a temporary break) to his childhood, his wife, Amber; their children, and their plans to leave California for Nashville to pursue his solo career in earnest. And, of course, we also discussed Gene Clark's transformation from cult hero to acknowledged songwriting genius.

Kai is gracious and affable; always consummate gentleman.  He spoke with great affection for his father's music, and provided details about the songs selected for the project.  Unfortunately, I'm not at liberty to reveal the full track list of Silver Raven just yet, but I will say that Kai selected wisely: there is something here for anyone who has ever been touched by Gene Clark's vast body of work.


Q: While we know quite a bit about your dad, I'm not sure everyone out there knows a lot about you. So I was wondering if you could tell the readers of the blog a little bit about your family?

Kai Clark: I think a lot of people didn't really know that my father had two sons. I mean, it's not like he really spoke about it much. Only the people that were close to him really knew that he had a family. And I think part of that was probably due to, you know, the bitter separation between my mom and him. It was devastating for him, I'm sure, them splitting and my mom leaving with us kids. And so I think that life was kind of separate from my father.

I was born in Mendocino and I lived there until I graduated high school.  I lived with my mom and then I would visit my dad in summers, often. Some summers we wouldn't do that, maybe 'cause he was on the road or this or that. So we would visit in the summer months when we were off of school and then we would be with my mom for the rest of the time. But often my mom and my dad didn't talk. So I actually have a funny story where my mom sent me on a Greyhound bus to stay with him in the late '80s and didn't tell my dad. I called my dad from the Greyhound bus station in downtown LA, which was like one in the morning—not a place you really want to be at. I called and my dad answered and said, "Hey, how's it going? Why are you calling so late?" And I said, "Well, are you gonna pick me up? I'm here at the bus station."  He says, "What do you mean you're at the bus station?" I said, "Well, I'm here at the bus station." He says, "Where?" And I said, "Downtown LA." And he didn't have a clue that I was even coming down. So yeah, it was pretty funny. I don't think he was very prepared, as a family man, you know, with the lifestyle he had.

When I graduated high school, I went to Lake Tahoe, where my mom was in a recovery program for her drug addiction, so I stayed with her for a while. I fell in love with Lake Tahoe. I loved the mountains up there. It's a beautiful place.

I've always pursued music, but to pay the bills, I've always had to work odd jobs. So I've been a waiter, worked in construction—I've done pretty much everything. Since I had been in the restaurant industry most of my life, I went to culinary school and graduated in 2004 from the Cordon Bleu in San Francisco.

Q. When did you meet (wife) Amber?
Kai Clark with wife Amber and children,
Taylor, Ava and Kaynon.

KC: I met Amber in 2007, here in Northern California. We had both had bad relationships.  She had gone through a bad marriage, and so we weren't really looking for anything too serious.  But we quickly realized how much we had in common and how good it was with each other. So we spent several years just enjoying life and traveling around.

She's amazing...she did choir for many years before she met me. When she started singing with me, I realized she had this great ability to harmonize. So it's very enjoyable to have a wife who's musically inclined. And after 13 years of singing with me, she definitely knows my style.

We had our first boy Taylor in 2010, and then we had our daughter Ava in 2012. Kaynon, our second boy, was born in 2015. And we've bought 20 acres up here, near the Sierra mountains. It's been a joy.

But I think as the kids get older, we're ready to move off the mountain. I've kind of burned out on the whole California music scene. I just don't feel like it's what it used to be. LA was a very hard music scene, I think. Northern California has a better music scene, but with my style of playing and everything else, I feel like California has kind of become this TV/American Idol kind of pop culture thing. It's not really the roots of music that I enjoy. So that's why we're considering moving out to the Nashville area next year.

Q. I want to talk about the new album. What was your and the band's attitude going into the studio? Was is intimidating to take on these legendary songs, or was it a relaxed atmosphere?

KC: Well, I think we had been playing enough of the material live for long enough—you know, I've been working with Jim Moreland, my drummer for close to 20 years now. I think we went into the studio knowing that this was something that we had wanted to do for a long time. Me, especially; I've had this kind of on my mind for years, but I never felt like I had the band or the opportunity—or maybe the knowledge and the experience—to do the album justice. I think the most intimidating thing about going in to record an album of my father's songs or songs he performed with, say the Byrds, was the amount of material that there is to look at.

Obviously, people are going to say, "Hey, why didn't you record this song"—because there's just so much, you know?  I felt like a lot of the song choices were not only because we played them live, or they were in our heart, but also songs that I thought really deserved more recognition than they had gotten on the original release. So there was a lot of factors that went into it. I don't feel like we were really intimidated at all. I felt like we were actually excited to go in and, and start recording an album of my father's songs...but I'm very critical of my own musical performances. Obviously living up to my father's performances is very intimidating in a sense, because his vocals were so unique and distinctive and he was just such an amazing vocalist and songwriter.

 Gene Clark's former duet partner Carla Olson
makes a guest appearance on Kai's new album,
Silver Raven.
But people are always going to relate it to the artists that did the songs originally. So obviously they're going to relate it my father, his performance on the original songs. And so that's—that's a little intimidating.

But we really enjoyed making the album and I think it was just the perfect time. And you know, I think it was just fate that it's coming up on my what would've been my father's 75th birthday.  Much of the stuff that's coming out, like the 4AD release of No Other, we didn't even know about that when we started this project.

Q. Right. I mean it just seems to be falling into place all at once.

KC: Yeah, for sure. And I love seeing the recognition. If you look at Gram Parsons, just as an example, I mean the recognition he gets is amazing, you know what I mean? And of course, with due respect, he was a great songwriter and another pioneer of combining different kinds of music. But I think Gene, my father, definitely deserves that respect in music history and also in music songwriting and creation of new music by blending different genres. You know, he was definitely pioneering some stuff.  With the No Other album, you look at that and—nobody was doing anything like that at the time. So I think that he was definitely always thinking ahead.

Q. The lavish box-set treatment being given to [No Other], to me this would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, 20 years ago.  This would not have been done. And to me this just feels like kind of sweet vindication for his work.

KC: Well, there's always the people that are going to critique it— there's definitely people that'll be like, you know—it's almost like they don't want Gene Clark to be a mainstream name because they are attracted to the mystical aspects of his career as a cultish underground genius: this unknown (other than the Byrds) master of songwriting. So I think there is an aspect of my father that is very appealing; that his career with wasn't bigger than it was.

Q. Are you saying some fans romanticize the fact that his career wasn't more successful?

KC: I just mean that because of his obscurity some people believe it makes him more attractive as an artist in their view. They may believe that commercializing him will take away from the beauty of his work.  And yes, they believe it makes it more romantic in a sense.

But I think my father was looking inside of himself for the songs, but he also was looking outside for the recognition that he wanted. I think he wanted people saying "You wrote a masterpiece"; you know, the pat on the back. And I don't think he really got that in his lifetime. It's sad, but at the same time, many artists pass away long before they got the recognition they deserve. And that's the way it works sometimes. So I'm definitely excited to see [his music] going out to a new generation; seeing my father get a lot of the recognition that he deserved for so long.

Q. Yes, I mean, how can that possibly be a bad thing? I mean, to me, this is just like finally reaching the top of the mountain. I mean, Gene Clark goes mainstream. That's really cool to me.

KC:  I think what it does is open the door for people to discover more of his music because there's so much.

Q. But really, fame is a bit of a double-edged sword, in terms of how it affects you, because the more popular your father's work becomes, the more it draws nasty comments.

KC: Well, I think you've got to take the good with the bad.  The world is both a wonderful and beautiful place and also a very nasty place, especially in the public eye. There's two sides to every story, no pun intended.  But I mean I love the stories I hear. I often get contacted by people who say, "I got to meet your dad after a show and he took the time to like sign my"—this or that. And then you hear the other stories of, you know, he was a total a-hole. And that may have been due to alcohol or whatever situation he was in. I mean, you've gotta take the good with the bad and definitely, tragedy makes good headlines.

He definitely had qualities that I don't think people ever got to see because all they saw was what was either written in a magazine or in an article, or what the public's view of him was. So I got to see a lot of my father that people didn't get to see, which is special. And I think that people should know that he was very funny. He had a great sense of humour, he was always joking and laughing.  And he was very kind to people that normally people of his stature just kind of shun, because they get it get it all the time. You get the guy going, "Hey, sign this!" or people following you around.  It's gotta be a little annoying at times, but at my father was very good about that.

Q. Of the songs included set for inclusion on Silver Raven, do you have a personal favourite?

KC: Well, 'Silver Raven' is special to me, not just because it's off the No Other album, but it was probably the very first song in my father's that I ever learned to play, partly because it's three chords. [laughs] But the magic of my father's music is you could have three chords, but the vocals could take you on this journey.

For me it was special because I was going through a hard time in high school.  My mom was using drugs and my dad was not in my life very much. And I used to go over to this guy's house who had guitars all over, all around. And it was kind of like a little escape for me; I could play all these guitars he had. There was an old cowboy guy named Chuck, who used to be a pro rodeo rider—good old cowboy guy. He would always tell me, "Hey, you gotta play that song 'Silver Raven.'" And every time I'd go over there and pick up a guitar, I had to play the song for Chuck.  It became special, you know, because of that.  It was like this song that had this history with me, that always stuck with me.

Sincere thanks to Kai Clark
For more information on Kai Clark and the Silver Raven project, click here.

If you've enjoyed this article, please consider a small donation at my Ko-fi page.


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Wanna meet me for Ko-fi?

Hello, fellow Clarkophiles

As you may have noticed, I've introduced something new to the blog: a Ko-fi account.

Ko-fi is a service that will accept small donations (roughly the amount of a coffee—hence the name) on behalf of content-creators like me. It's not a paywall, a scam, or anything other than an inexpensive way to let me know in tangible terms that you care about this blog.

Now, I have mixed emotions about this, since it was never my intention to personally profit off of Gene's work. Over the years, however, as my posts have become more research-heavy and time-consuming, it has become harder to justify the time spent researching and writing posts for The Clarkophile when that time and effort might conceivably be spent taking on paid freelancing opportunities (over and above those in which I'm currently involved).

But I love this blog dearly; in many ways it's a living testament to, and open manifestation of, my love of Gene Clark. I want to keep it going for as long as possible.

As unlikely as it sounds, I've never met another Gene Clark fan in the flesh, face-to-face, and yet I'm delighted to report that, as of today, this blog has had nearly 350,000 page views. I am humbled by that, and I want to thank everyone who has ever clicked on a post.

And so, if you have ever read one of my posts and enjoyed it, maybe learned something new, or came to think of Gene's work in a new way, I would invite you to use the button below to take me out for a virtual cup of coffee.

Thank you.

Tom (The Clarkophile)