At Long Last: the Music of Jeffrey Clark (and An Odd Political Twist)

I recently got the news that my old friend, the Austin musician Jeff Clark, was finally going to release a solo album. Granted, it's about 40 years after the glory days of Clark's iconic band Too Smooth, which was, in my opinion, the best rock act ever out of Texas. (Think about the implications of that statement. Yet I remain steadfast. Texas has had more per capita, excellent, and homegrown bands than probably any other state in the union, but TS was just outstanding and, regrettably, never "made it.")

In any event: yes, Jeffrey will in the next few months put out a collection of material spanning his career and including recently written material. There will be selected and re-recorded Too Smooth songs as well as highlights from Clark's subsequent group, 14K. I look forward to hearing a few gems from his wonderful but unreleased rock opera, Man of Fortune, and it should be fun to hear how his Muse is working all these years later on the brand new songs.

The first single is called "We Can Make It," and it'll be available for download from CD Baby on Wednesday, August 22. It's an instantly anthemic tune of artistic conviction from the 14K years, written when Clark was nobly rallying from the aforementioned and crushing disappointments in Major Label Land.

"We Can Make It" represents a poppier, more polished period in Clark's career. While Too Smooth was the Texas equivalent of an intricately arranged, twin-guitar prog/hard rock band, Clark's 14K material was more than competitive with acts like Toto and Journey.

"We Can Make It" kicks off with a staccato synth line and a floating, hot-air-balloon-race of a chorus affirming the conviction that, yes, 14K could still find music biz success. The driving verses, with Clark's tenor melodically exhorting the powers of positive thinking, were downright exhilarating way back in the day — and, if you're a fan of so called Classic Rock radio, you'll hear "We Can Make It" and probably scratch your head over why it wasn't in heavy rotation back in the '80s. Or, for that matter, on those same stations today.

The pristine new recording — which includes many of Clark's bandmates from Too Smooth — presents Clark sounding ridiculously young and inspired. Thirty years on, that's a beautiful thing.

Here's an odd twist. There was nothing political about the original song when Jeff wrote it. But: a video using the music from"We Can Make It" apparently has been or will soon be submitted to the Republican National Committee as a theme song for the Romney/Ryan ticket. Far be it from me to politicize in this space — and I'm not particularly aware of Jeff Clark's thoughts on the upcoming election — but it's definitely unique to hear a favorite tune from all those years ago in this context. (In the interest of fairness, here is a clip with no music but that nonetheless advocates President Obama.)

And, in a self-serving personal context to further clarify the whole political issue, check out this video Peter Huoppi and I made in another election year. I find it hard to believe that folks can be persuaded to vote one way or another based on a sign in someone's yard or one of those cookie-cutter candidate ads where the candidate poses with his family in one scene and wears a hardhat and shakes hands with factory workers in another scene.

Okay. With the caveats out of the way, I'm back to the original point: what's cool to me is that, one way or another, Jeff Clark's music is reaching a larger audience. He deserved it years ago and he deserves it now.

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