Thursday 3 January 2019

Van Dyke Parks, Birthday Boy

Another birthday to make you feel old – Van Dyke Parks, musician, songwriter, arranger, producer, genius to some, turned 76 today. In the Sixties, he headed West to California to escape the influence of John Cage, 'the abstractions, the music you can't remember, the highbrow angst'. He worked with everybody who was anybody in the West Coast music scene, most famously with Brian Wilson on the legendary (but ultimately disappointing) Smile album. Most of his solo work I found easier to admire than to enjoy – those inspissated, endlessly layered textures, those strange sounds and incoherent lyrics were too much for me. However, I did enjoy his more accessible work, especially the Discover America album that he made with the Esso Trinidad Steel Band. I have hazy memories of listening to that one many a time... Here's one of the tracks – just the thing for a cold grey winter's day –

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