Dillard & Clark “The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark”

The Fantastic Expedition of Dillard & Clark

Ya’ll said it couldn’t be done! Doug Dillard (left) and Gene Clark (right) 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, one of the world’s greatest country rock albums, slightly ahead of its time and seriously overlooked even today.

Out On The Side, the opener, has to be one of the finest produced tracks I’ve ever heard. The drums are barely there but echo away on the fills. Not easily accessible yet so perfect, it’s a real treasure. The coda to this song, around 2:45 with the off-time drum 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 on Don’t Come Rolling. The 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 confused 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.

Fantastic 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. Has anybody else fallen deep for this record?

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“Out On The Side”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Water | buy at cd universe ]
:) Original Vinyl | search ebay ]

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  • Should have seen this one coming after the last two reviews! Great stuff. The sum is greater than the parts.

  • ldp


    Wow, but it’s great to see actual, real music being promoted in a music blog. Stumbled here from The Hype Machine. What a surprise!

    The Dillards and Dillard and Clark are wholly underappreciated. The Dillards were much more than sometimes gueststar country bumpkins on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Lots of folks look to NGR as the sea-change in bluegrass, but they were able to take it just one more step farther than these guys, The Byrds or Burritos. It isn’t too far-fetched to say it took more than one band to make bluegrass into newgrass or psychograss or progressivegrass or whatever you want to call it.

  • Brendan

    ldp- thanks, we try to keep it real. glad you found us.

    it does always take more than one band. Bill Monroe may have ‘invented’ bluegrass, maybe innovated is the right word, but it took the Stanley Bros. KY Colonels, whoever else to make it a genre.

  • I just read this great book called “Hotel California” — a not-very-in-depth rock bio of the entire Laurel Canyon scene in the 60’s that led to the careers of the Byrds, CSNY, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne to the Eagles.

    The author mentioned this album which piqued my curiosity, so I ordered it. It has been playing NON-STOP in my car stereo ever since. It reminds me of early Grateful Dead with better musicianship. It rules. Thanks for posting on this!

  • Stranger

    I’d give this masterpiece 20 stars if possible. Simply a monumental work of perfection and my favorite country-rock album (along with Steve Young’s “Rock Salt and Nails” – hopefully there’ll be a post one that one soon…). Love “Why Not Your Baby” with Gene’s signature minor chords and tasteful baroque touches. The road weary “Lying Down the Middle” is another classic…hell, they’re all classics. Who else but Gene could breathe life into an Elvis song you’ve heard a gazillion times?…And you never notice the lack of drums on most of the songs…the sound is completely full and rocking…kind of like that Flatlanders album.

  • Brendan

    Damn Stranger, you got that right. So true about the drums. (and I had to send out mass emails to track down a copy of RS&N, how on earth could that record stay out of print!?)

    Laura, thanks for recommending that book. Richie Unterberger has some good books on the subject as well. I have flirted with this album on and off in the past but recently have become completely obsessed. it’s one of those.

  • David

    Amongst a vortex of minds coming off of the very very very stoned wavelengths at the close of the 60’s, Out On The Side was a sort of hymnal thing for beyond-the-beyonders.

  • Mark Peasley

    Without doubt the best and most ground breaking country rock/newgrass album of them all. Neither The Byrds “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” which preceded it nor The Flying Burrito Brothers’ “The Gilded Palace Of Sin” which followed compare in either quality or innovation despite receiving more renown and popular acclaim. My choice for its standout track, amongst a host of mastrepieces, is “The Radio Song” which is both bleak and beautiful in composition and execution. The follow up album “Through The Morning Through The Night” while not quite so worthy contains three great Gene Clark songs (the title track, Polly and Kansas City Southern) and many excellent covers.

  • Ripped on acid, kickin’ out in my old 49 Dodge panel with a woodburner in the back…back in the day, man, back in the day.

    WONDERFUL BLOG. Glad I wandered in.

  • Johnny Livewire

    I think both of the Dillard and Clark albums are essential listening. Everything Gene Clark touched (pretty much) is great and I think he deserves to be revered in the same way that Gram Parsons is (if not more).

  • Len Liechti

    I’ts spooky how Dillard & Clark’s experience parallelled that of the Flying Burrito Brothers. Both acts produced an absolutely sublime first album; both albums bombed completely at the record store; both albums are today hailed – rightly – as absolute classics: arguably the best two albums in a sparkling genre offering many other gems. Both acts produced a rather less than perfect follow-up, displaying traces of ennui and falling-off of inspiration, and then, soon after, each lost its star performer. I agree with J Livewire above; if Gram is the god of country rock, then Gene is its holy spirit. They’re simply THE two men. Fascinating also to trace the cross-pollination of musicians between the two bands as well: Leadon, Kleinow, Berline, Michael Clarke, Corneal et al. Add in Country Gazette and you’ve got the definitive stew. I’ve been listening to popular music since about 1960 and in all those years the most fascinating period and environment for me has been the LA country rock scene, 1968-1972. Wonderful.

  • Johnny Livewire

    Len – with the cross-pollination of musicians, I think Chris Hillman deserves a special mention. I was born about 20 years too late, so I missed experiencing it first hand (I would have loved to have though). It is interesting to me (and maybe sad for the musicians themselves) that some of the best music of that era wasn’t that popular at the time.

  • Len Liechti

    Quite right, Johnny. Actually Chris Hillman changed his name from “al” around 1967. No, seriously, I’ve been a Hillman admirer throughout his career from Byrds onwards, through Burritos, Manassas, SHF, McGuinn/Clark/Hillman, Desert Rose Band and just about everything else he got involved in. Great multi-instrumentalist and a really influential muso.

  • Johnny Livewire

    Oh good I’m glad Hillman gets the thumbs up (god forbid we discuss Gene/Gram without him).

    Getting back to Dillard & Clark, I think ‘Through the Morning, Through the Night’ is fine album (certainly better than ‘Burrito Deluxe’ if we are making the comparison – I mean how many classic Gram songs are on that album?). It has two of Gene’s best songs on it (I know he has many great songs). Some of the covers are pretty good too (‘So Sad’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ spring to mind).

  • Howie Appell

    The Fantastic Expedition was one of four albums I bought in late ’68-early-’69 that would forever change my musical taste, identity and direction. No more John Mayall British pseudo blues. No more Clapton or even Stones. It’s been 40-plus years of rootsy stuff, the whole spectrum, going back and back.
    The other three?
    The Band, Sweetheart and Gilded Palace.
    But if I could own only one, it would be The Fantastic Expedition.
    Possibly the number one album of all time.

  • Johnny Livewire

    There’s a great picture of the FBBs and Dillard & Clark together at:


    So much talent in one room (look at Gram’s hands)!

  • brian from fort worth

    I still listen to this album (listening now as I write this). The production is perfect, you can hear each instrument clearly.

  • Karl Lewis

    Understated and darn near perfect. Your review is spot on. I encourage any fan of any genre even distantly related to let this album sink in.

  • Len Liechti

    Johnny Livewire’s link just above has some great rare then-and-now pix of Byrds alumni and related musos, including Skip Battin whose “lost” second album I’ve just reviewed for TRS. One question: there’s a really fine monochrome pic of Messrs Stills, Hillman, Leadon and Perkins further down that page – the one that looks as if it’s in a studio, with a superb Gibson doubleneck leaning on an amp. Can anyone shed some light on when it might have been taken, and what if anything resulted from the session? Stills, Hillman and Perkins were all in Manassass but I don’t recall Leadon being involved in that project.

  • Craig McTaggart

    Dillard and Clark and Gene Clark in particular became the sound track of my life from the late eighties onwards.Other artists come and go but Gene remains.

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