Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#785 in the Series) is Doug Dillard & Gene Clark, The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark
They may have only recorded together for (roughly) eighteen months but in that short but productive period of time Dillard & Clark made some of the best music you’ll ever hear, two albums and a single which still sound fantastic all these years later. Best of the material though is undoubtedly this superb debut album from October 1968.
It’s an album which is a definitive document, and a cornerstone release, of the (then) burgeoning country-rock movement, an album which took the traditional forms of bluegrass, country and folk, gave them a shake, added electric instruments and forged ahead with a modern, progressive mindset. Prog Bluegrass! (Not really).
Gene Clark is a man who needs no introduction. A founder member of The Byrds, indisputably one of America’s greatest ever bands, he was actually their main songwriter in the early, most successful period of the band. He left in early 1966 with the intention of forging a solo career. After releasing a solo album and returning very briefly to The Byrds he teamed up with Doug Dillard and Bernie Leadon for this project.
Doug Dillard may not be a familiar name these days but he was a wonderful banjo player and well known back then, mainly for being an integral part of The Dillards who’d released three albums on Elektra Records and appeared as a fictitious band on The Andy Griffith Show.
Bernie Leadon had been in Hearts & Flowers, a band claimed by some as the very first country-rock band. Given how integral he is to this album, they really should have been called Dillard, Clark & Leadon to be honest. Out of eight original songs, he’s listed as co-writer on six of them, that’s two more than Dillard! Credit where it’s due.
The trio came together through a mix of friendship and circumstance and created some pretty special music together………………
While there’s nothing here that’s less than stellar there are a few stand outs which I’d like to highlight, the four or five songs which regularly crop up on Gene Clark compilations, they can never be left out as they are among the best of his recording career.
Starting us off is “Out On The Side” which is actually atypical, a brilliant song but misleading. It’s the nearest we get to “rock” , featuring a strong organ lead off reminiscent of The Band maybe, or even Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.”
Just when the listener thinks they have it pegged, in comes “She Darked The Sun,” a Clark/Leadon original which sounds like it had been written long before, an instant classic, it sticks in your head, seems like you’ve known it for years.
“Don’t Come Rollin’ ” is intro’d nicely with some harmonica, a jaunty banjo led number which never out stays it’s welcome.
If you’re familiar with anything here it will surely be “Train Leaves Here This Morning,” a wonderful mid-tempo gem which Leadon had a hand in writing and which he subsequently recorded with his next band, Eagles, on their debut album. You may have heard of them! A quick listen to both versions confirms that Gene Clark was a much better singer than his compadre, sorry Bernie! It’s a contender for best song here, that’s for sure.
“Radio Song” is the next classic, about a man travelling home to see his girl after far too long on the road with only a radio playing songs of lost love and heartbreak for company:
“I’ve listened to the radio, all the music that is on , but every song they’re playing is about a love that’s gone”
“Git It On Brother” is easily the most traditional sounding song here, hardly surprising as it’s a cover of a Lester Flatt tune, wisely they play it relatively straight. Sublime though, both musically and vocally.
That’s about it apart from a final gift, “Something’s Wrong,” wondrous. A total joy and a fitting end to one of the very best 60′s albums, scandalous to think it hardly even scraped the charts.
I said I’d mention four or five songs but I just checked and I’ve mentioned seven ! Believe me, the other two are almost as good. If you don’t know this one it’s just been re-released (yet again), it never seems to stay out of print for long. So you’ve no excuse now have you……………..
– Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland
- Out On the Side
- She Darked the Sun
- Don’t Come Rollin’
- Train Leaves Here This Mornin’
- With Care From Someone
- The Radio Song
- Git It On Brother (Git In Line Brother)
- In the Plan
- Something’s Wrong
- Gene Clark – guitar, harmonica, vocals
- Doug Dillard – banjo, fiddle, guitar
- Bernie Leadon – banjo, bass, guitar, vocals
- Chris Hillman – mandolin
- Sneaky Pete Kleinow – pedal steel guitar
- Jon Corneal – drums
- Michael Clarke – drums
- David Jackson – bass, piano, cello, vocals
- Byron Berline – fiddle
- Donna Washburn – guitar, tambourine, vocals
- Donald Beck – mandolin, fretted dobro
- Andy Belling – harpsichord