Review Summary: Folk rock, country, and gospel meets Dark Side of Moon.
For quite long time, Gene Clark was marginalised great author. He made some great LPs, but somehow none was commercially success. But he had it all: distinctive voice, great songs, he even anticipated trends in rock music. He was the most prolific songsmith of all the Byrds. His talent was evident on the Byrds debut: right behind their No. 1 single, "Mr. Tambourine Man", there was his signature tune, "Feel A Whole Lot Better", now regarded as classic. He co-wrote Byrds' most progressive single, "Eight Miles High", or to be more precise, it was mostly his baby. And countless of other lost gems from this period, those songs saw light of the day but then none blinked an eye but critics and diehard fans. All those years, from 1965 to 1973, sales were zero, and reputation high.
In 1973, Byrds released reunion album. Everyone but him contributed second rate material, but anyway LP cracked in TOP 20. Having heard his songs, David Geffen offered him a deal on Asylum Records. Geffen coughed up 100 000 dollars for recording. And result was... "No Other".
Basically "No Other"'s content are folk songs, very heavily produced or they can be considered as sequel to "Eight Miles High": very unworldly, confused, paranoid, and from record label called Asylum. Clark's voice sounded like he was coming from telephone. Gospel singers added some exqiusite harmonies. L.A. top session men (Butch Trucks, Chris Hillman, Jesse Ed Davis, Joe Lala, Tim Schmit, Lee Sklar among others) gave their best playing. All in all, sound is hazy, neurotic, psychedelic, epic and powerful. Cosmic American Music in its purest. It can easily be dismissed as space rock extravaganza, or for indulgence, but Gene Clark knew what was he doing.
The album's duration is 43 minutes, which doesn't seem long but there's only eight songs. However it is far from boredom. First three songs (about five minutes each) literally hypnotize you, and as jazzy "Stregth of Strings" begins, you are already in the parallel universe, especially if you pay attention those cryptic lyrics. Then comes a chill out, "From A Silver Phial", and then goes eight minutes long "Some Misunderstanding", then another accessible country rock "The True One". Album concludes with "Lady of the North", another six plus minute epic with some avant garde hooks. Don't try to take substances while listening to "No Other", I had some beer, and it destroyed me.
30 years on, "No Other" still has no other peer. Its echoes can be heard in Mercury Rev's "Deserter's Songs" and "All Is Dream", in The Flaming Lips' "Yoshimi Battles Pink Robots". I can see similarity between "No Other" and "Hotel California" or "Rumours", but "Hotel California", in terms of focus, energy, danger and risk taking is still "No Other" super ultra lights.
Initially, "No Other" was panned by the critics, and sold poorly. Gene Clark refused to promote record. David Geffen didn't want to invest more money for promotion. So, it is a miracle how this album have resurrected, especially given the fact that until late 2003 it wasn't available on CD.
Gene Clark never again had such vision, or energy, or balls, to record again something like that. After "No Other" he approached more low fi and conventionally. His demons (fears, depression, paranoia, various addictions) are all over this epic 1974 masterpiece, but he managed to control them for a little while. Seventeen years later they took him away forever. On his graveyard there are words: "Gene Clark, no other".