Record of the Day: Van Dyke Parks, "Moonlighting"

Record of the Day: Van Dyke Parks, “Moonlighting”

Van Dyke Parks
Moonlighting (Cd Warner Bros 9362-46533-2)

Beach Boys fans will remember Van Dyke Parks as Brian Wilson's principal collaborator on the ill-fated “Smil”e project, completed more than twenty years after its intended release. Others will prefer to compare his name to Randy Newman, with whom Parks has collaborated since his recording debut. Unfortunately, very few will mention his solo albums, which have gone almost unnoticed by the general American public (apart from a small and fierce circle of loyal fans) despite the fact that as an arranger the name of Van Dyke Parks has appeared alongside very popular names such as U2, Norah Jones, Frank Zappa, Ry Cooder, Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Tim Buckley and Little Feat.

Graduated in music in Pittsburgh, Parks retained his taste for the craft of writing throughout his life, patiently developing multicolored, complex and at the same time immediately accessible scores on the pentagram that hark back to a distant era, to the America of Ansel's photographs Adams, the paintings of Edward Hopper, the verses of Robert Frost.

Folk and blues mix with the great compositional tradition of authors such as Gerswhin and Porter, in a deliciously scented mélange that only Parks is able to create thanks to very elegant and ironically nostalgic arrangements often entrusted to the large orchestra, and where the imprint of the music rock is completely absent despite Parks' surfing history.
It is impossible to define what musical genre we are talking about; there are too many different influences and yet there is neither plagiarism nor simple stylistic recycling.

Given that his solo albums are profoundly different from each other, it is best to start getting to know this musician through “Moonlighting”, a live album recorded with a band of 17 musicians at the Ash Grove club in Los Angeles, with pages ranging from ragtime to Gottschalk, from polka to Lowell George's “Sailin' Shoes”, passing through gems like “Orange Crate Art”, “Chicken” and “Jump!”.

Far from rankings and fashions, Van Dyke Parks continues to paint slowly, in solitude, a vast fresco of music and
a memory that requires unhurried listening, rewarded with numerous wonders for the heart and mind.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.