Clear Light “Clear Light”

Clear Light

Clear Light was a folk-rock/psych-rock group from LA that released one LP off Elektra in 1967, famously known for including two drummers, one of them being Dallas Taylor of CSNY and Manassas fame. Paul Rothchild produced the LP, which explains why the recording sessions were fraught with tension and negativity. The group was masterminded by guitarist/vocalist Bob Seal, bass player Doug Lubahn, and lead vocalist Cliff De Young. Prior to Clear Light the band had been known as the Brain Train. Seal felt a name change was appropriate to coincide with the release of a newly recorded debut single, “Black Roses.” Seal decided on Clear Light, a concept he had come across in his readings of Eastern philosophy, a name also shared by a potent brand of LSD.

“Black Roses,” written by Wolfgang Dios, was released in September of 1967. It was a great hard charging folk-rock single with an acid tinged guitar solo that deserved to sell much better than it did. Black Roses appeared on the group’s only full length platter, released in late 1967. Many psych fans are divided when it comes to the Clear Light LP but I think it’s a good one. Maybe not a true classic on par with Love’s Forever Changes or Moby Grape’s debut but still a very good LP without any weak tracks. The band tries nearly everything within a 2 to 3 minute pop song context, loading the songs with good quirky ideas and great guitar solos (check out “Think Again”). Some tracks like “They Who Have Nothing” and the baroque “Ballad of Freddie & Larry” bear a strong Doors and Love influence, but this makes sense considering these were all Elektra groups. Other songs like the outstanding fuzz guitar psychedelia of “Sand” and the trippy “Night Sounds Loud” are more original and hinted at a strong future for the group. The former track features some great organ and spiraling acid guitar interplay. The album’s most famous track, a cover of Tom Paxton‘s “Mr. Blue,” sounds dated today with its spoken word dialogue, although, even this song is oddly appealing in its own way and definitely still considered a highlight.

Rothchild’s iron fist policy coupled with the lack of commercial success led to Clear Light’s demise, shortly after the release of this solid album. Not everyone will like this record because of its eccentric nature but it really is a crime that Clear Light was unable to release a followup to this debut. A very worthy release from a talented, accomplished California group.

mp3: Think Again
mp3: Sand

:) Vinyl Reissue | Sundazed | buy from sundazed ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Vogue | search @ ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]

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  • Sensational blog. I have a 60s garage band that gets together every important birthday (next-my 50th) Love the detailed information on 60s acts that I’ve heard of but never really heard. This is what I’ve been looking for.

    I had seen Love’s Forever Changes on numerous Greatest Albums of All Time-type lists and so snapped up the CD next time I saw it at a reasonable price. I think it stinks. I was expecting something of the standard of Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or The Byrds 5-D. Have you encountered others who feel this way? What is the response of Love admirers to criticism?

    I’m a big Rolling Stones fan who recognises their many flaws.

  • Brendan

    Hey there Lad, glad you found us. Say, what was the name of your band? Did you put out a record?

    As for Forever Changes. What can I tell you? It’s a total classic, loved by many. You don’t HAVE to like it but I would just say give it time.

  • Jason

    Forever Changes throws some listeners off but I think it lives up to the hype. Some feel the folk influence is a little too much but the lyrics are full of detail and imagery and the arrangements seem flawless. I like Surrealistic Pillow myself, those were the Marty Balin days though Bathing at Baxters is a personal favorite – perhaps their most experimental record.

  • Thanks for the heads up Brendan & Jason. I’ll give Forever Changes the benefit of the doubt and put it on high rotation. Which is how I developed an appreciation of Led Zeppelin III all those years ago!

    No recorded output for the garage band: 60s covers at parties & pubs. On a good night we were probably just okay but a few people said we kicked arse with the Animals It’s My Life and Manfred Mann’s Fox On The Run.

    Love the Airplane and will put Clear Light and the Moby Grape debut on my shopping list.

    Congrats on a great blog.

  • Gray Newell

    Just got to point out that Bud Mathis wasn’t responsible for Black Roses, it was actually written by Wolfgang Dios, who worked for Bud’s Little Giant publishing company. Bud did co-write with Doug Lubahn “Me,” the flip side of the Brain Train 45 though.

  • heyday2day

    I’m wearing out the comments but I’m coming across a bunch of stuff that I have recently bought and can’t resist. kind of like the early pangs of a relationship!

    Anyway, as for lad’s comment about Love’s “Forever Changes” being a stinker….. Well, I bought the Sundazed vinyl reissue awhile back and my first impressions were’nt that strong either. In the past, that has tended to be a good thing and it was no different with Love. On the first few listens, nothing really grabbed me but slowly I started to hear little things, good lyric couplets until eventually I was under it’s spell. Led me to go out and pick up the self titled debut, Da Capo and Four Sail, all of which have their own charms. I digress..

    Clear Light. Interesting record. Nothing here that is really bad and (so far I think) nothing that is exceptional. Nice musicianship, good, clear production. ‘Black Roses’ and ‘Mr. Blue’ are the two tracks that stood out the most upon first listens.

  • pigling

    Sand is really good. The Rest ok but dated. Some good musicionship (is that a word.)

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