Van Dyke Parks - Songs Cycled

Persuasive polymath comes round again

To describe Parks’ approach to
popular song as “leftfield”
barely scratches the surface of
the 70-year-old’s dizzying
musical CV. His writing with
Brian Wilson on The Beach
Boys’ Smile has been well
documented, but it takes
a brave pair of ears to rush
headlong into the obtuse,
contrary and wrong-footing
world of records that feature
Parks’ name on the sleeve.

While in theory a new
album, Song Cycled teasingly
takes the listener on journeys
back in time (the title alludes
to his 1967 debut solo release,
Song Cycle). The All Golden is
revisited from that debut,
a curious mash-up of Far East
motifs and American ragtime,
while Hold Back Time is
a reworking of the cowboy-tinged
track first heard on the
1995 Wilson collaboration
Orange Crate Art.

Among the newer
inclusions, Dreaming Of Paris
and Wall Street take
government and big business
to task, couched in melodic
intricacies more usually
associated with, say, Aaron
Copeland or George
Gershwin. It’s dense stuff at
times, but ultimately
rewarding, with Parks
describing himself as “an
iconoclast tilting at windmills,
railing at tyrants, barking at masters of war”. Inimitable,
occasionally impenetrable,
but never less than
intriguing.  

3 stars 3 stars 3 stars

Bella Union | tbc

Reviewed by Terry Staunton
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