Saturday, April 24, 2010

Curtain Call: Van Dyke Parks

Curtain Call is an occasional series where I present one of my favorite live albums.

I imagine most fans discovered Van Dyke Parks the same way I did. I'm a huge fan of the Beach Boys and, as a lad, I kept seeing his name pop up in relation to the 'SMiLE' sessions and in books about the band. It wasn't long before I gave his first album, 'Song Cycle' a try. I thought it was one of the strangest pieces of vinyl to hit my turntable. Several years passed before I tried any of his work again. In 1994, Demon Records released an import compilation called 'Idiosyncratic Path: The Best of Van Dyke Parks' that I immediately snatched up. I wish it would have been my introduction to his work because I really liked it. Now he's one of my favorites.

In 1995, I caught the film on Brian Wilson called 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times.' There was a short clip of Parks and Wilson working together on a new album. We were treated to a few seconds of Parks on piano while Wilson sang "Orange Crate Art." That got me pretty excited for the album of the same name that came out less than a year later. It was great to have these two geniuses working together again, and it is a relationship that has brought us several good songs on various albums since then, as well as the belated official release of 'SMiLE' in 2004.

Park's 'Moonlighting' is a Sept. 7, 1996 recording (released in 1998) from the Ash Grove in Los Angeles. The album title stems from the fact that Parks was spending most of his days scoring television shows and movies. Parks said at the time: "For me, playing live is, first and foremost, a chance to find the time and place for musicians to come together and enjoy themselves. It also gives me the opportunity to get out of the studio and off the sound stage, where I spent so much of my time and make music at close range, without the reliance on various technical enhancements, Finally, it's always fun to go up in the attic and pull old material out of the trunk."

It's an intimate show filled with old favorites and a few newer tunes from 'Orange Crate Art.' At the time of its release, I was most interested in those songs because I wanted to hear what they sounded like sans Wilson. I'll include a couple of those, plus the opener from his 1984 album 'Jump!'

Van Dyke Parks - Jump! (mp3)
Van Dyke Parks - Orange Crate Art (mp3)
Van Dyke Parks - Wings of a Dove (mp3)

Curtain Call: The Clash

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