Legendary artist, composer and producer Van Dyke Parks is pleased to announce his first new album of material in over twenty years, Songs Cycled, set for release July 23rd on Bella Union. Following the success of his classic album reissues last year, Songs Cycled contains Parks' first new material since 1989, expanding even further Parks' pioneering, and still unique, handle on Americana with the crystal clarity of a 21st century recording. All this in Parks' 70th year, which makes Songs Cycled extremely special indeed in so many ways. Alongside new originals such as 'Dreaming of Paris', 'Wall Street' and 'Missin' Missippi', new collaborations such as 'Sassafras' and 'Money Is King', there are new cover versions and re-recordings of older tracks, and guest vocals from Gaby Moreno and Irana George.
Parks will be making a special appearance in support of Songs Cycled in New York on Sunday, May 19th as part of the Big Sur Brooklyn Bridge concert at Music Hall of Williamsburg with Philip Glass, and will be speaking on a panel as part of the Red Bull Music Academy music conference on Thursday, May 23rd.
In between touring with Fleet Foxes and a performance on NPR Mountain Stage, Parks released Arrangements Vol. 1 last year, a compilation of some of his greatest arrangements, with Pitchfork saying, "the songs selected on 'Arrangements' are uniformly fantastic (8.6 'Best New Reissue')." At the heart of some of the great albums of the last 50 years, Parks' accomplishments include Brian Wilson's 'lost' masterpiece Smile, Randy Newman and Ry Cooder's first recordings, and Joanna Newsom's critically acclaimed 2006 album YS. Read his interview with the LA Times as he discusses his recent endeavors and work with Grammy-nominated artist Skrillex.
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 very definition of 'Americana'. As I was in my brunette era, at age 70, I'm found looking through the glass darkly. These new songs show more than a hint of an eco-politic. In fact, there's nothing more precious than the song-form to revolutionize popular thoughts and practices that need a jolt of shock therapy. Yet, songwriters must work with a leger demain. A light hand and heart can draw more approval than a heavy-handed scold. My first aim is to entertain the ear with beautiful sounds. I try to do that as an arranger. These pieces reveal my best effort.I've drawn from a grab-bag of American roots music, from the 19th Century forward. (It was, after all, 'The American Century'). Yet this song-set goes beyond, and muses about '9/11' and other self-inflicted wounds ('Wall Street'). It explores the American bombing of Baghdad ('Dreaming of Paris'), the chicanery of Big-Oil ('Black Gold'). I insist that the song-form is the most potent political tool available. I learned as much from Woody Guthrie, Phil Ochs, and yes, Bob Dylan.
Still there's time for folderol. 'Sassafrass' captures all I love about the youth I spent in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. It's a roll in the grass. There's the renegade arranger in that, reflecting my obsession for studio technique, sound- effects with tuneful percussion that I first heard in 1948, in the music of Spike Jones.
I guess I am like that rusty nail that sticks out, just waiting to be hammered down by an intolerant bastard, with no room for what isn't rockin' or classically elite. In truth, I embrace both those worlds. Guilty as charged, I'm wrapped in the flag, looking through the glass, at the world beyond... informed yet optimistic, in my dream escape. It hangs together well, as we must, lest we all hang separately. I have so many contributing visual artists to thank, for coating it all so deliciously."
Van Dyke Parks - A Brief History In Music:
A musical prodigy and child actor, a session musician, composer, soundtrack writer, arranger, lyricist, and singer, Van Dyke Parks been a significant contributor to several decades' worth of classics, including a handful of unassailable masterpieces. He's perhaps still best known for penning the lyrics to The Beach Boys' legendary masterpiece 'Smile'. More recently, his arrangements helped turn Joanna Newsom's second album 'Ys' into an epic. But the true riches of Van Dyke Parks' legacy remain his first three solo albums: Song Cycle (1968), Discover America (1972) and Clang Of The Yankee Reaper (1975).
Other solo Parks albums are 1982's Jump (songs adapted from the stories of Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit), 1990's Tokyo Rose (the history of Japanese/U.S. relations from the 19th century) and 1997's Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove. There have been film scores and children's books, and scores for a dizzying array of talent, including Little Feat, Arlo Guthrie and Bonnie Raitt. In the 80s and 90s, Aaron Neville, Carly Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, Fiona Apple, Eliza Carthy and The Buena Vista Social Club were among the benefactors; more recently, Rufus Wainwright, Inara George, Silverchair and The Shortwave Set alongside Newsom.
'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.