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.