on 12 July 2008
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.
on 14 January 2006
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.