A sprawling seven-disc set (eight, including the bonus interview), this Gene Clark box set, believe it or not, barely scratches the surface of his unreleased material and underlines the fact that he remains one of the most prolific, underrated, and talented singer/songwriters to come out of the 1960s. To this end, several collectors that are active on the Gene Clark website (http://www.geneclark.com) and a related listserv have pooled their resources to collect this set of previously unreleased and rare material. The first two discs contain nearly 30 previously unreleased studio recordings, most of them from the 1980s. Some are solo acoustic versions, but most are collaborations with fellow ex-Byrd John York and/or Pat Robinson, who, along with Clark, recorded under the name CRY. Some of the highlights include the fascinating and beautiful "I Am Without You," which was originally written for Clark's unreleased 1967 solo album. Clark had such a huge and impressive catalog of original material to draw on that it's surprising he recorded and performed so many covers, but discs three and four are dedicated to just these songs, and they are particularly enlightening. Several selections predictably draw upon his country roots, like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Long Black Veil." While these are wonderful, it's the Beatles and Dylan covers that command the most attention. Clark's readings of "I Shall Be Released" and, especially, "Gates of Eden" get to the heart of the matter and are quite possibly the finest versions of these classic songs, next to Dylan's originals. Discs five and six consist of 40 ultra-rare and alternate studio and live versions of songs that either were never released or somehow slipped through the cracks. The acoustic demos of "In a Misty Morning" and "Gypsy Rider" will take your breath away with their stark vulnerability. There are several exquisite examples of Clark's collaboration with Carla Olsen, particularly their duet on Phil Ochs' "Changes," from the True Voices album, and "Day for Night," from the Textones' Through the Canyon album. The import-only (U.K.) live album Three Byrds in London is well-represented by two of Clark's hardest rockers ever, "Denver or Wherever" and "Hula Bula Man," which come across like Johnny Cash fronting the Rolling Stones in the early '70s. The sound quality, frankly, is wildly inconsistent, and ranges from fair to excellent. The songs and performances, however, are the main reason for picking it up.
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