As a member of the early Byrds lineup and as a solo artist who released a handful of brilliant albums, singer/songwriter Gene Clark had a hand in some of the most melodically rich, emotionally tender music of the '60s and early '70s. After his 1967 album, Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers, didn't sell, Clark found himself without a label. Later that year, he went into the studio with a few of the hundreds of songs he had written and cut a demo that bridged the gap between folk-rock, country-rock, and stoic psychedelic pop. The songs were pressed as an acetate titled Gene Clark Sings for You and sent around as a demo to labels, as well as other artists. This collection is the first time the eight songs have ever been made commercially available, and it's a treat to hear a small slice of Gene's prolific efforts. He's backed by a small, sympathetic group that treats his songs with care, while Clark brings them to life with his aching, heartfelt vocals. The songs he cut at the time found Clark in an introspective mood, seeking love in poetic words and mostly simple melodies, though a couple songs were less structured, like the mournfully meandering "Down on the Pier." A couple could have been Clark classics if done properly, the Chamberlin-driven lament "That's Alright by Me" and the chiming folk-rocker "On Her Own" being chief among them. By the time he went back into a studio to make an album in 1968, he had a new batch of songs ready to go, and none of the tracks from Gene Clark Sings for You ever made it onto a Gene Clark album proper.
Around the same time he cut Sings for You, Clark became friendly with a band of young guys, later known as the Rose Garden, who were crack hands at covering Byrds tunes, and he handed over a five-song demo of songs he recorded in 1966. They selected the minor-key ballad "A Long Time" to cover; the rest of the songs languished in the vaults. One of the members of the band held onto a copy of the acetate and Omnivore had a second ultra-rare find on their hands. The first three songs are solo acoustic ballads, with Clark in fine voice as always. The last two tracks are electric, one of them a grinding blues-rocker ("Big City Girl"), one of them a chiming slice of folk-rock melancholy ("Doctor Doctor") that the Rose Garden were fools to pass up. As a treat, Omnivore also added a demo recording of Clark's song "Till Today," which also made it onto the Rose Garden's lone album.
That the two rare acetates survived this long and sound as good as they do is nothing short of amazing. Omnivore has done Gene Clark fans a great service by releasing this collection, and it gives them a candid behind-the-scenes glimpse at one of the great songwriters and vocalists of his time. ~ Tim Sendra