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4.8 out of 5 stars
White Light
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88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
on 22 July 2002
If there's any justice in the world, Gene Clark would be held with as much delight and in as high an esteem as Bob Dylan. However, such is the cruel and unjust nature of the music world that, until this long-overdue re-release of his second solo album, very few will have had the chance to sample this man's immeasurable (and now sadly departed) talent.
Luck and Gene Clark never really went hand-in-hand. He left the Byrds just as their furtive creativity peaked (see Younger Than Yesterday and Notorious Byrd Brothers for evidence), and apart from poor album sales, his solo material has rarely been given the praise it deserves.
Well, let's redress the balance. For "White Light" showcases a man who, as well as having a voice that would melt the hardest of hearts, could write songs of great emotion and beauty. In the style of all great songwriters past and present (specifically Dylan, Reed, Drake and Wilson), here is a man who has no fear of weaving his own song tapestry from self-extracted fibres of the psyche. The sparse instrumentation and dream-like vocal style only help to emphasise the fact - here is the sound of a man alone, isolated, and yet free.
Musically, Clark's solo work draws its main inspiration from the twin pillars of country and folk. Whilst this is hardly surprising considering his Byrds lineage (indeed, one can hear the influence of Dylan throughout, a fact blatantly conveyed by his cover of "Tears Of Rage"), his sound clearly tries to break away from the folk-rock of his mid-60s incarnation. Here, Clark is the touch-bearing troubadour, the soothsayer and the lovesick teenager that bedsit ennui spend most of their lives aspiring to.
The music that lies within "White Light" is, naturally, haunting, emotive and beautiful. Whilst the album does have its more up-tempo moments ("White Light" itself), for the most part Clark is content to sing with merely a guitar to back him. It's here his style is most effective - witness "With Tomorrow" and "For A Spanish Guitar" for evidence that the human voice can reduce a grown man to tears. And, even for someone who loathes C&W, you can't help but love the likes of "The Virgin" - storytelling that even Dylan would be envious of.
To listen to this album in its entirity is, to be frank, a somewhat unsettling experience. Clark takes you through a real emotional rollercoaster - lost love, anger, isolation are all addressed and, with the album's instrumentation, you're almost compelled to join him on his journey. People who do shouldn't worry about shedding a tear or two - it's almost as if your meant to.
All in all, "White Light" is a very welcome re-release. Bonus tracks aside, the album has aged somewhat, but represents perhaps the best example of what might be considered as a lost period of musical history - the post-hippy American singer-songwriter movement. Byrds fans (especially those of Clark-era albums such as Mr Tambourine Man and Turn, Turn, Turn) may be in for a surprise, but for the rest of us "White Light" is the best window into the stark yet enchanting world of Gene Clark. That is, until they re-release his magnum opus, "No Other"...
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 20 November 2004
To listen to Gene Clark is to escape completely from everyday drudgery and fly to a place of warmth and beauty perfectly encapsulated in voice of terrifying tenderness. Listening to these original nine songs offers the chance to relive an era long since departed. His wavering, shuddering voice unsettles yet at the same time soothes the soul in a rare and sublime sense. His unique interpretation of country and folk drips with a feeling of agitation and sorrow that caresses the listener into a stupor. The music and sparse accompaniment is startling but it is his voice which stays in the memory
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Gene Clark's voice never sounded as intimate and relaxed as on this album. This is one of those albums that creep up on you - gently easing into your mind further on each play, I guess you could call it a 'grower'. One of the bonus tracks is an almost 'campfire' rendition of Lieber & Stoller's 'Stand By Me', with Gene sounding like he's digesting fried chicken with a nice cold beer under a starry sky with absolutely no hang-ups in waiting. And his harmonica playing reveals enormous character. A lovely collection.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1971's 'Gene Clark' (known more commonly as 'White Light', though an artwork mishap lost the title)is one of Clark's frequent post-Byrds masterpieces alongside ...with the Gosdin Brothers (1967), Echoes (1967/8, released 1991), The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark (1968), the underrated Roadmaster (1972), and career-high and contender for greatest LP ever, 1974's No Other. Of all his LPs, No Other appears to get the best reception- though I don't understand in these times when Gram Parsons' is lionised and Sweetheart of the Rodeo is seen as The Byrds' greatest work, why Clark's equally revolutionary music in the folk/country-rock/cosmic american music realm is so passed over!
Clark had become a bit lost, with a series of commercial flops and the obligatory hedonism- the latter would sadly contribute to his too early death in the early 1990s. The Byrds had come back into vogue with Untitled and the original Byrds attempted reunions- One in a Hundred here is a re-recorded version of a 1970 single with Clarke,Crosby, Hillman & McGuinn- this is featured on the classic Clark-compilation Flying High. Clark holed up in Medocino, California and in his own time wrote much of this LP- perhaps his own Basement Tapes/Big Pink (the cover of Tears of Rage I think nods to that, as well as the debt The Byrds owed Dylan. The version of Tears...doesn't top the Big Pink version, but is nice & Dylan was rather enamoured with Clark himself, particularly Spanish Guitar- which I'd love to hear Dylan sing!).
Members/ex-members of The Burritos (Clark almost replaced Parsons, then thought what was the point!), the Steve Miller Band & Taj Mahal back Clark here and it flips from acoustic-country-folk to a more otherworldly realm, gorgeous spiritual tracks like Because of You, 1975 and the title track are moving towards the mindblowing domain of No Other. The Nine-track original LP offering up a wealth of joys- the sublime country-soul of The Virgin (pre-Blood on the Tracks, should appeal to those who love that LP), the hushed With Tomorrow (covered by This Mortal Coil and I think an influence on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here)& one of Clark's greatest moments, For a Spanish Guitar. If you don't like this song, or at don't think it's the greatest song ever...check for a pulse/soul etc!!!!
This remastered/reissue (with nice sleevenotes from Long Ryder Sid Griffin) comes with five bonus tracks- a curio cover of Ben E.King's Stand By Me (a definite outtake), an alternate take of Because of You, and the previously unreleased Ship of the Lord (which makes me think of late period Velvets). The final two bonus cuts are the brilliant outtakes Opening Day and Winter In (how didn't these make the LP proper?)- though why this 2002 reissue lists them as 'previously unreleased/rare track' when both appeared on A&M's in-print 1998 Flying High compilation is beyond me!
White Light is a great LP and proof that Clark is an artist of greater richness than Gram Parsons, whose slim back-catalogue and mythology doesn't top Clark's truly revolutionary, neglected works post-Byrds...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2010
Clark announces his arrival into the 70's scene with White Light. A rustic sounding album it comes across as though Gene was enjoying life and being out of the limelight was suiting him just fine. The album starts with 2 awesome songs, The Virgin and With Tomorrow, with Gene's lyrics and voice almost celestial. The influence With Tomorrow had on Pink Floyd when writing Wish You Were Here is patently obvious. I do think the songs carry less of a punch towards the middle of the album but this is a minor hitch as the album should be listened to in its entirety.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2005
Of all the members that belonged to the Byrds at various stages, Gene was without doubt the most talented when it came to songwriting. He was essentially the creative force in the early Byrds, even though Roger McGuinn got the limelight for being the "Leader" of the group.
I cannot understand how this album did not make it big time when it was originaly released. It is equal to anything put out by Dylan, Neil Young, Lennon or Lou Reed. The truth is that many of us realised what a great artist Gene was, only after his untimely demise. Of course some of us were not even born when this came out!
It is a joy to listen to this masterpiece lying down in bed with the headphones on, so that the rest of world is put to one side for one moment. You listen to the voice, the acoustic guitars, harmonica, and you are taken on a musical journey that will blow your mind away. Apparently David Gilmour & Roger Waters took the opening sequence from With Tomorrow and adapted it for Wish you Were Here. Spanish Guitar would easily make it to my top ten of all tracks ever composed, alongside Lennon's Imagine, Lou Reed & John Cale's Sunday Morning, or Neil Young's Harvest.
For Byrds Fans who have never listened to Gene's solo offerings, this is the one to begin with. Buy it and let it broaden your horizons to prepare you for other masterpieces such as No Other.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Some Gene Clark fans would prefer No Other and to be honest I can't decide which is his greatest.
This is low key, understated & a powerful album which has class written all over it.
On this form he can easily be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Jackson Browne.
Stand out tracks, well all of them really, but a special mention for Ship Of The Lord.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 3 April 2014
Beautiful songs lovingly sung, from a man with one of the most haunting voices in music.
Along with No Other and Roadmaster - both utterly gorgeous, in their different ways - this makes a trio of sublime albums from the sadly late sometime Byrd and sporadic solo artist.
These songs were made to live with all your life, return to often, turn to when you need to hear something tinged with a bittersweet melancholia.
There are no highlights, only light. Gene Clark`s muse was blessed by the gods, and it`s a tragedy he died so young, though a miracle we have so much of his music to play and hear with hearts as open as his.
The extra tracks are a welcome boon, with four precious songs not on the original LP, including a touching (not to mention unexpected) rendition of Stand By Me.
With a voice echoing canyons, prairies, cliffs, seaspray, highways & backroads - Gene loved the open air - as well as warm rooms on winter days, this is one disc I`d definitely save from the proverbial fire.
What we need now is a deluxe box set of everything the startlingly talented Gene Clark recorded, including his Byrdsongs, with a nice fat booklet.

Meanwhile, here`s something essential, something beautiful.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2011
This album is gorgeous. Gene's voice must surely melt the hardest of hearts. I lend it out to whoever I can. The word must be spread
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on 13 February 2014
In the Gene Clark canon, this album is at the opposite end of the production spectrum from the (rightly) acclaimed 'No Other'. It's low key and understated, where No Other is expansive and ambitious. But it shows Gene at the very top of his game, in terms of songwriting and singing. The story of his life and work is told in a new documentary, 'The Byrd Who Flew Alone', which is available from Four Suns Productions.
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