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Irk the purists
on 17 December 2004
The reputation of this recording rests solely upon it's cult status - a bit like 'Smile' really. However, since the proper release of 'Smile', the realisation that it's quite good, its subsequent elevation to THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE by the music press and those prepared to fork out £60 to be in a room with a confused former genius, we all need something 'culty' to cling on to, don't we? Well, in this case, no.
Brian's still functional, Arthur Lee goes from strength to strength and even Sky Saxon does the odd gig. All three men have a body of important work to back up their reputations. Van Dyke Parks is perhaps more famous for his collaborations - lyrics, production and creative input to 'Pet Sounds','Smile' and the criminally neglected Beach Boys lp 'Surf's Up' - better than both of the above.
Van Dyke's lyrics are, at best, cryptic. At worst, they're meaningless. This usually escapes the listener to Beach Boys albums who are usually knocked out by the harmonies - who cares about the words when you've got the middle eight of 'Til I die?'
Unfortunately, with Wilson's melodic and harmonic savvy absent, this collection - pretentious title notwithstanding - does little for Parks's cause as a lyricist or song writer. The cover photo of a studious looking Parks is a prelude to a baffling saunter through the man's mind. Melodies struggle to find their way out of the arrangements. The musicians sound like they're struggling to find their way out of the studio.
I played my copy to a friend recently provoking the reaction: 'Is this a joke? This is a joke isn't it?'
I have to confess, I have never listened to this all the way through because of the sneaking suspicion that it might well be a joke after all. 'If you can remember the 60s, you weren't really there' - or so goes the saying. This collection of songs explains why.
(If you want a genuinely neglected 'culty' album so you can feel special, buy 'American Gothic' by David Ackles instead.)