The Song Cycles of (Possible Genius) Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke Parks, rendered.Charles Ray

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Van Dyke Parks
Songs Cycled

Bella Union

Boasting a lengthy résumé spanning nearly a half-century, Van Dyke Parks has written and recorded with Brian Wilson; played, produced, or arranged for everyone from The Byrds and Harry Nilsson to Rufus Wainwright and Joanna Newsom; and written music for film and TV. But his greatest achievement may be his determinedly noncommercial solo albums.

Even in the anything-goes 1960s, when he released his first LP, Song Cycle, the Mississippi-born Parks was too out-there to command a large following, thanks to his eccentric stew of old-timey parlor music, classical strains (Aaron Copland et al.), Caribbean spice and all-around genial oddness.

Songs Cycled, his first solo release in 15 years, finds Parks’ magic undimmed. His sprightly voice suggesting a loopy Southern aristocrat, Parks ponders injustice (“Money Is King”), revisits a shimmering gem from his debut (“The All Golden”) and offers a hallucinatory steel drum interlude that could be “The Nutcracker” by way of Trinidad. However strange he may seem at first, Parks’ uniquely offbeat sounds quickly cast their own satisfying spell. Don’t miss out on this true original, who may just be a genius.

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