The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

The Fantastic Expedition is one of the world’s greatest country rock albums, ahead of its time and seriously overlooked even today. I would take it over Sweetheart of the Rodeo any day, as it’s my favorite piece of magic from the Byrds’ best songwriter, Gene Clark.

Doug Dillard and Gene Clark, after leaving their respective acts (Dillards and Byrds), teamed up with Bernie Leadon (Hearts&Flowers/Flying Burrito Bros/Eagles), Sneaky Pete, and Chris Hillman for the Expedition. Out On The Side,” the album’s opener, was an underground hymn in its time, and must be one of the finest produced tracks I’ve ever heard. Not easily accessible yet so perfect, it’s an understated masterpiece. The lush sound, the drums that seem barely there but echo away on the fills; the coda to this song, around 2:45 with the off-time fill, has to be one of rock’s most inspired moments. And while “On The Side” is worthy of intense dissection, the rest of Expedition continues to represent. A lush and laid-back bluegrass troupe owns it on “She Darked The Sun,” setting the tone firmly, nailed down by the straight-up Dillards feel and Clark’s soulful harp on “Don’t Come Rolling.” The mystical Gene Clark sound takes it back for the next few songs: a triumvirate of gems molding the sweet spot of the record and providing all the proof we need to declare this a legendary match-up. I love the lazy swing to “Train Leaves Here This Mornin‘” with the suggestive lyric to its chorus.

What follows has become a newgrass standard, printed in bluegrass songbooks and covered by the New Grass Revival. “With Care From Someone” is probably one of the first real progressive bluegrass numbers, and still one of the best. All of these songs are Clark originals excluding the well-delivered spiritual “Git It On Brother” (usually “Get In Line Brother“) and a bonus take on the Elvis number, “Don’t Be Cruel.” “Something’s Wrong,” the album’s closer, is brilliant perfect Gene Clark.

The Expedition grows better and better, undoubtedly, with each listen. It is pure joy, pure beauty, a one of a kind favorite and sort of a miracle for the genres of both rock and country. words/ b mcgrath

MP3: Dillard & Clark :: Out On The Side
MP3: Dillard & Clark :: Why Not Your Baby

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19 thoughts on “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

  1. Out on The Side is one of my favorite songs, it always reminds me of Calvary Cross. I haven’t listened to this album in awhile, great to see it getting some much deserved coverage. Truly a lost gem.

  2. Totally agree with the sentiments expressed. One of my favorite albums – never tire of it. Gene Clark’s finest moment – and there were a few to choose from.

  3. Hadn’t heard of this before and I loved both of the songs – so glad the player is working for me again! Will definitely purchase this record.

  4. I’d only heard the Velvet Crush’s cover of “Why Not Your Baby” before now. Had never heard the original and, of course, it’s amazing. Love Gene.

  5. Gene was the most talented byrd, by far.
    The cover of that album is hilarious actually. If you look closely, you could see that they are sharing a joint.

  6. This sounds really good….
    I’m a big Gene fan but I’ve never heard this album. I’ll start looking for it….
    Does anyone know if it has been issued on CD?

  7. Love it, too bad the follow up i sonly saved by an amazing version of Don’t let me down. But Expediton is chalk full of the best.

  8. that’s one of my favorites, and a mastepiece of one of my favorite genres. but it also cuts across the genre line in a way that very few records really do. this is a great description of it.

  9. Tremendous stuff. I’m a huge Byrds fan and have slowly been acquiring some Gene Clark stuff but had only read about this rekkid. Now I wish’t I’d had it for years! Thanks tons!

  10. yes! th best. hard not t judge th second record so harshly in th shadow of this record. but, i guess that’s a problem they created for themselves by making a record this fuckin great. i love th burrito bros, but THIS is th record that should be pointed to. …and fuck th eagles.

  11. “Why Not Your Baby”… probably my favourite Gene Clark song of them all. And bearing in mind that he was my favourite Byrd (and they produced some milestone records), that’s high praise.

  12. I bought the Fantastic Expedition in 1994 and although I’ve long since stopped listening to LPs, I still include a good few songs from it on my “car compilation” CDs I make up for myself. I’m not a country fan, but that’s the whole point about this – it isn’t stale country or bland country rock. It is a strange mix of loads of different styles that comes out sounding fresh even now because it still sounds so different and exciting.

    Clark was a great songwriter, and Dillard’s banjo is totally inspired. Add to that brilliant backing from Bernie Leadon, Chris Hillman (superb Mandolin) and a few others and you have an album that is treasured by so many of the few that have listened to it.

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