LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Gene Clark's post-Byrds solo career did not soar to the heights attained by bandmates Roger McGuinn, David Crosby or Gram Parsons. Yet, he was widely regarded as the heart and soul of the original Byrds and a songwriter of affecting minor- key melancholic ballads with dark, Dylanesque lyrics. He was the writer of I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" (covered by Tom Petty), Set You Free This Time" and She Don't Care About Time" as well as Train Leaves Here This Morning" with Bernie Leadon on the Eagles debut album. But by the mid-'80s, he had no career to speak of, yet he was writing some of his strongest material ever. Enter Texas-bred singer/songwriter Carla Olson who, along with her manager Saul Davis, approached him after a gig and proposed they make an album.
At that time, Gene's name didn't really mean much to the general record-buying public," recalls Olson. And I was a pretty much unknown singer from a cowpunk band in L.A. Saul was gently trying to convince Gene that people were not exactly knocking down doors to sign him. Yet the star thing never left him, bless him. He always held his head high and dressed to the nines."
Thus began the too-brief second phase of Clark's career, which included both collaborations with Olson. On October 30, 2007, Collectors' Choice Music will issue a collection of '80s and '90s music from Clark titled Gene Clark With Carla Olson: In Concert. The package contains two discs, the first of which is dominated by seven unreleased tracks from a Gene Clark solo concert for Mountain Stage, the live public radio broadcast which emanates from Charleston, WV. Fleshing out the first disc are the three live bonus tracks from Gene Clark and Carla Olson's studio album, So Rebellious a Lover, recorded in Los Angeles and issued in 1986 on Rhino Records. It is long out of print.
The second disc of the Collectors' Choice set contains the entire Clark and Olson February 3, 1990 performance at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, which was released overseas (but never in the U.S.) on Demon Records as Silhouetted in Light. Backing Clark and Olson were Duane Jarvis (Lucinda Williams, Peter Case, Dwight Yoakam) on guitar and David Provost (Textones, Dream Syndicate, Droogs) on bass. We weren't even aware that a tape of that performance existed," recalls Olson. It was several years later, after Gene passed away in 1991, that Duane mentioned to me that he had a tape. At the end of the evening, the person doing the recording asked Duane if he'd like a copy of the show. He said yes, put the tape in his guitar case, and forgot about it." That cassette became the live album.
According to album annotator John Einarson, author of Mr. Tambourine Man: The Life & Legacy of The Byrds' Gene Clark, rehearsals for the McCabe's show in Clark's Sherman Oaks home had become problematic with the singer coming off a three-day writing binge with no sleep. However, come the night of the show, Clark pulled himself together. Amidst the audience was a very intimate bunch of friends, a lot of people we both knew, so we had a really good time" Olson reflects. In some gigs, you just can't do that; the distance between you and the audience is too great. But this was a moment to take advantage of how human we are. You can feel all our vulnerabilities and how close to the edge we all are. Gene was never really a safe person. He had an edge. But even on the bad nights, he still sounded beautiful so I guess we were the only one who kind of knew the difference between tragic and beautiful."
Many of the McCabe's songs were intended for a follow-up studio album that was never to be. Although Clark and Olson would appear together at the Palomino in North Hollywood, and at the Cinegrill in Hollywood a month before his death, the McCabe's set stands testament to their short collaboration.
Olson concludes: He had a weathered sound in his voice but singing with Gene for me was always a joy and a pleasure. I'm proud of our performance on this album. I think Gene would be too."