by carl wilson

The Milk-Eyed Mender Meets the Yankee Reaper

Joanna Newsom, left, gets an assist from song-cycle maestro Van Dyke Parks.

Pitchfork brings the news (a month after it first surfaced over here) that Joanna Newsom's new album will feature arrangements by Van Dyke Parks. Which feels kinda like casually mentioning that Leonard Cohen's next album will be made into a film by Ingmar Bergman. In other words: Holy shit.

Newsom you mavens probably know - if not, see Zoilus posts past.

Parks, for the uninitiated, is probably most notorious as Brian Wilson's collaborator and lyricist on Smile, much to the displeasure of Mike Love and other Beach Boys. Yet there's far more to Parks than that. Now in his early 60s, Parks might be called the Jon Brion of his generation: He produced, arranged or played on records by Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Harry Nilsson, Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Little Feat, Mighty Sparrow and many more, most lately Fiona Apple and Rufus Wainwright. But Parks has also put out an underrated series of albums of his own, almost all eyepopping, folklore-based conceptual suites such as Song Cycle, Discover America and Clang of the Yankee Reaper. (In the Seventies, Warner Music was so outraged his records hadn't found an audience that it reportedly ran ads berating the public for its bad taste. Needless to say, it didn't help.) Parks falls in the lineage of great American sophisticated primitives, like Charles Ives or Aaron Copeland or Vachel Lindsay, but in a West Coast hep-cat key. He says he has a new solo album on the way - which would be his first in a decade, since 1995's Orange Crate Art - but he says in the Bandoppler interview:

"I'm very happy as an arranger ... it being my favorite musical job. I'm now arranging for harpist/vocalist, singer/songwriter Joanna Newsom, on her second CD. She's marvelous, and modest. I've never had a bigger challenge, or more joy in discovery."

Some fans may worry that orchestral manoeuvers in the Parks will strain the fragile bone structures of Newsom's harp-borne songs. But those fans don't know what she's been up to lately: She's been leaning toward 10-to-15-minute extended suites, making a song-cycle maestro such as Parks a pluperfect collaborator, especially since there's so much California in her own rolling, dappling lyrical journeys. You can hear live performances of this recent material here on the all-around remarkabubble Milky Moon fansite, which goes fathoms beyond Drag City's parsimonious and scarce-updated official vessel.

| Posted by zoilus on Wednesday, April 05 at 12:42 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (5)



Love the site. And mixtapes! Ha. What's the Flaming Lips cursing all the time, anyways? Necomb though, love her.

Posted by Jack Swagger on April 6, 2006 12:49 PM



"orchestral manoeuvers in the Parks..."

Why couldn't the CBC have pulled this quote instead?

Posted by Justin on April 5, 2006 3:27 PM



laurel canyon is one of my favourites of all time. can't say i've listened to parks' soundtrack for the company much though.
his son graduated from mcgill last year, and is an amazing musician too. played mandolin with the short-lived bluegrass band notre dame du grass.

Posted by sarahl on April 5, 2006 1:30 PM



my favourite Van Dyke Parks is this one, purchased on tape years ago out of a remainder bin, because it seemed just so strange that someone had made Uncle Remus into pop music:
that's stunning news.

Posted by Dixon on April 5, 2006 1:22 PM



There is a track on Madlib's new Beat Konducta album that is just a minute or two of "The All-Golden" from Song Cycle, chopped up a bit, though not enough to really make clear why it's there. Strange.

Posted by Nathan on April 5, 2006 1:10 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson