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Discover America

Van Dyke Parks Audio CD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £12.99
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Songs Cycled - by Van Dyke Parks:
"This album is released 45 years from my debut album "Song Cycle" (when I was but 24). In both cases, there's a maverick on the loose, with a highly personal set of tunes and instrumentals. All of them reveal an iconoclast tilting at windmills, railing at tyrants, barking at masters of war, and celebrating a shameless commitment to the ... Read more in Amazon's Van Dyke Parks Store

Visit Amazon's Van Dyke Parks Store
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History Repeats Itself 12 July 2008
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
By 1972 there was a mood of deep pessimism within America, which was finally coming to terms with the fact that the war in Vietnam was a disaster, ill-conceived from the outset and immensely damaging to America's wider reputation as an advocate of democracy. The exposure of atrocities such as the My Lai massacre had brought home to the US public the reality of the price to be paid for America's attempt to impose its will uninvited on a foreign country in the way that it had done. Disdain for the war had become almost a prerequisite for rock music by then.

So 'Discover America' was at odds with the mainstream not only in rejecting (as Parks has always done) the sensibilities of rock but also lyrically; the calypsos here all reference America, and all are positive:

We were privileged to see the democratic
President of the great republic.
With his charm and his genial personality
And his wonderful urbanity
To stop war and atrocity
And make the world safe for democracy
The greatest event of the century
In the interest of suffering humanity

(FDR in Trinidad)

Contrary to what some believe (and the lately acquired songwriter credits claim) the calypsos here are all authentic, and Parks' love for the material is self-evident. The CD could have been mastered with more care though as it has acquired a rather odd EQ, and it is also plagued (as so many CDs are) with the curse of the 'bonus' track. But this record will reap rich rewards for the newcomer with a little patience; it is Parks' one great work in a rewarding but uneven catalogue.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost good 14 Jan 2006
Format:Audio CD
Like Song Cycle, this has some arcane concept at it's heart but it's a much more muddled affair, both lyrically and musically, so you're less bothered about working it out. On the one hand there's charming pastiches of 30's America and on the other a rather patronising exhortation to Trinidadian nationalism, complete with steel drums and unconvincing calypso. I don't see the connection myself but there you are. This hasn't got the same inventiveness as Song Cycle but it's got moments of startling production and a couple of memorable songs.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You gotta hear this album! 4 Jun 2002
By Shawn Sutherland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
While this is without a doubt one of the most bizarre albums of all time, it is also one of the best. Themes of 20th Century Americana (FDR, the Mills Brothers, Bela Lugosi, Mae West, Bing Crosby, etc.) rolled up in Trinidadian rhythms. Who could pass that up? You can't help but enjoy this one!

Recommendation: if you like "Discover America", be sure to check out the CD "Roosevelt In Trinidad: Calypsos of Events, Places and Personalities, 1933-1939" also available via Amazon. Aside from featuring the original versions of the title track and "The Four Mills Brothers", "Roosevelt in Trinidad" and "Bing Crosby", it contains some (older) calypsos you're liable to not hear anywhere else.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This album is a lost classic! 6 Jan 2000
By Michael Goodman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
This album is even harder to describe than most...simply, you must hear it! Not being familiar with anything other than his work with Brian Wilson, I can only say that Van Dyke Parks on THIS album delivered an amazing, exotic sonic experience. It's hard to peg the album down, a blend of beuatiful steel drums, real funky grooves, delirious string and horn arrangements, wild but never-intrusive-always-subtle production, great melodies delivered by what sounds to be a very amused and havin'-a-whole-lotta-fun Van Dyke Parks with three great back up female singers...it's like Van Dyke is your host for the album(and the singers flank his shoulders!) if that makes any sense! The whole thing is linked thematically in the lyrics (and music) through Trinadad and American history, culture and relationships with the rest of the world-not to mention just plain ole dancing and partying(there's a great cover of Lee Dorsey's Occapella and Lowell George's Sailing Shoes for a start) It all makes for a very distinct, kind of quirky, fun listening experience and though it may not be for everyone, there certainly is no other record like this in your collection! GAURANTEED!
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 17 Dec 2001
By Patrick Crain - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
While I dig "Song Cycle" quite a bit, I prefer "Discover America," Van Dyke's sprawling, tropical fever dream. What does it sound like? I liken it to giving a bunch of Disney characters lost in Trinidad with nothing but a bottle of booze and a bag of coke. I dunno. It's a whole hill of fun and a big kick in the rubber parts. Light the tiki torches, crank it up, and relax.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the second finest American pop album ever recorded. 6 July 1999
By synchro1 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Pet Sounds is the first. Having said that, I have been playing this record since it first came out decades ago and it continues to entertain and surprise me. The quality of the musicianship is first rate. The late Clarence White stands out. Listen to Occapella and enjoy the incredible bass line (particularly on the fade out). The stereo tricks in G-Man Hoover. But can anyone tell me what the meaning is of the reference "I don't see why we should be Miss Howard's cat" in Your Own Comes First?
It's time to go to the reverse....
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...they look nice from far, but they're far from nice! 2 Jun 2006
By Josh Z. Bonder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
After reading reviews for other Van Dyke Parks albums on this site, I'm amazed at how easily this one gets overlooked; Mr. Parks certainly has many strong albums which deserve heaping amounts of credit (Song Cycle and Jump! come to mind first), but to me this one is the perfect blend of the artistic sensibilities of "Song Cycle" and the listenability and pop/catchiness of "Clang of the Yankee Reaper" (The albums released just before and after "Discover America"). To my ears, this one has just the right combination of elements from both albums, and has proven to be the one I come back to listen to the most. Some people may gripe that there are a number of covers on this album (as another reviewer mentioned, "Roosevelt in Trinidad" contains a number of the original versions): But this is where Park's talent for instrumentation, arranging and personalizing material shines through. This album swells and swoons in all the right places; it is a funky feverish haze with exquisite instrumentation, arrangements, and just the right mix of artistic pretention and outright feelgood funkiness. A tropical cocktail that'll shake you!
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