Gary Usher had been a prolific and successful producer of countless energetic (and somewhat formulaic) surf and hot rod records in the mid-'60s, and when that fad passed, he did masterful production jobs on some classic albums, including Younger Than Yesterday, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, and Sweetheart of the Rodeo by the Byrds. But he longed for more creative input in the studio, and he undertook the Beyond a Shadow of Doubt project, enlisting singer and writer Dick Campbell and fellow West Coast producer Curt Boettcher to assist him. A concept album of sorts, Beyond a Shadow of Doubt was never really finished, and this Japanese import is essentially made up of preproduction demo recordings. Not that you'd know it, since Usher's demo work was as polished as most people's finished product, and this release has a lovely, hazy sonic quality. Unfortunately, the writing has that same trait, and haziness is the key word here, as rainbows, sunbeams, and crystal lights pop up time and time again in the lyrics, which seem to drift along according to some vaguely new age logic, and while the concept seems to be somebody on a journey, the journey is mostly an inner one, and those are always the hardest to chart. As long as you don't expect a whole lot of narrative sense from these tracks, but accept them as pure moods or the musings of a mind caught up in the rarefied atmosphere of late-'60s California, Beyond a Shadow of Doubt holds together pretty well, and individual songs like "Everything Turns Out Right," "Slippin'," and "Go Rocket Go" (which sounds like some great lost song the Byrds never got around to recording) have wonderful melodies and are delicately done. Edited, this could be one heck of a sunshine country-pop record. Casual listeners will no doubt feel that this CD drifts by in a bright-sounding but ultimately meaningless ennui, while fans of Usher's work (and there are many of those, thankfully) will conversely find it wise, brilliant, and essential. The truth, as it does in most things, falls to the middle.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett