SIGIHT (Song I’m Glad I Heard Today): Clear Light “Black Roses”

With yesterday’s passing of drummer Dallas Taylor, I thought back to the group that few remember he was in, if anyone remembers at all: Clear Light.

clearlight
Album cover also used as coasters at Elektra boardroom meetings from 1968-1971

Dallas Taylor, of course, is best known for his stint as drummer of Crosby Stills and Nash (and Young, who couldn’t stand his playing). Taylor, in fact, was one of the very few people not named Stephen Stills who contributed instrumentation to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s 1969 debut album. Outside of a little acoustic and rhythm guitar from Crosby and Nash, everything was played by Stills, with the exception of Dallas Taylor’s drums. He would even get “undercard” billing with bassist Greg Reeves on the follow-up “Deja Vu,” before being replaced by former Turtles drummer (and future Jefferson Starship member) John Barbata.

Taylor would continue to work with Stills during his solo career, contributing to his albums through 1975. Most importantly, he was an important cog in the machine that was Stills’ extraordinary group Manassas, co-producing the album with Stills and Chris Hillman.  Sadly, with the recent passing of percussionist Joe Lala and now Taylor, that Manassas reunion I was quietly hoping for can never happen.

Anyway, back to Clear Light. I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of these guys.  If you were born during the Carter administration as I was, you’d pretty much have to be a record geek to stumble across this short-lived Los Angeles band who recorded one album for Elektra. I discovered them mostly because of their Doors connection: bassist Douglas Lubahn was perhaps better known as a studio session guy on albums like “Strange Days,” “Waiting For the Sun” and “The Soft Parade.” Keyboardist Ralph Schuckett also spent time in Clear Light, whose name pops up on enduring albums like Carole King’s “Tapestry,” James Taylor’s “Walking Man,” and as a member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia in their proggier days. Taylor was one of two drummers in this group, which was fronted by vocalist Clif DeYoung, who would find moderate success as a stage and screen actor in the 1970s.

I threw on a few tunes from the “Clear Light” album today while enjoying a day off. This was not a mind-blowingly remarkable band, but they did create some interesting psychedelic tunes. For me, their bold statement was album-opener and single “Black Roses,” a short, sweet, punchy number that at least deserves to be in the same conversation as period pieces like Love’s “7 and 7 Is” and perhaps The Nazz’s “Open My Eyes.”

If you dig the “Nuggets” box set(s), you’ll dig this. (Why weren’t these guys on “Nuggets” anyway?)

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