Gene Clark’s 1971 platter, with its stark black cover featuring his silhouette illuminated by the sun, was dubbed White Light — though the words never appear on the cover — and if ever a title fit a record, it’s this one. Over its nine original tracks, it has established itself as one of the greatest singer/songwriter albums ever made. After leaving the Byrds in 1966, recording with the Gosdin Brothers, and breaking up the Dillard & Clark group that was a pioneering country-rock outfit, Clark took time to hone his songwriting to its barest essentials. The focus on these tracks is intense, they are taut and reflect his growing obsession with country music. Produced by the late guitarist Jesse Ed Davis (who also worked with Taj Mahal, Leon Russell, Link Wray, and poet John Trudell, among others), Clark took his songs to his new label with confidence and they supported him. The band is comprised of Flying Burrito Brothers’ bassist Chris Ethridge, the then-Steve Miller Band-pianist (and future jazz great) Ben Sidran, organist Michael Utley, and drummer Gary Mallaber. Clark’s writing, as evidenced on “The Virgin,” the title cut, “For a Spanish Guitar,” “One in a Hundred,” and “With Tomorrow,” reveals a stark kind of simplicity in his lines. Using melodies mutated out of country, and revealing that he was the original poet and architect of the Byrds’ sound on White Light, Clark created a wide open set of tracks that are at once full of space, a rugged gentility, and are harrowingly intimate in places. His reading of Bob Dylan’s “Tears of Rage,” towards the end of the record rivals, if not eclipses, the Band’s. Less wrecked and ravaged, Clark’s song is more a bewildered tome of resignation to a present and future in the abyss. Now this is classic rock.
Gene Clark, record business equals bad news. Case in point, this album. Or masterpiece, you could say. After two brilliant Dillard & Clark albums, A&M signed Clark to a solo deal. Okay, fair enough — so far. In 1972, he delivered perhaps the finest album of his career, Gene Clark, (also known as White Light). Excellent reviews in all the top magazines, including Rolling Stone. Guess what? Almost zero sales. Now, here’s the follow up, almost — if not more — brilliant. Released only in Holland. Aside from containing some of Clark’s finest tracks like “In a Misty Morning” and “Full Circle Song,” this record contains two gems recorded with the willing participation of the other original Byrds. “One in a Hundred” and “She’s the Kind of Girl” are so good that they would have easily stood out on The Byrds box set, had McGuinn elected to include them. Oh well, the music is still here — an example of an artist who couldn’t quite get in on with commerce. What a disaster. The man should be mentioned in the same breath as Neil Young. Roadmaster is one of the many reasons why.
-Thom Jurek, Matthew Greenwald, allmusic.com