Van Dyke Parks' first new material in almost 20 years shows his kooky-genius orchestral Americana (see his work on Brian Wilson's Smile and Joanna Newsom's Ys) to be as inspired as ever. A companion to his 1968 head-turner, Song Cycle, conceived as a set of seven-inch singles, the LP shows his ear remains a melting pot: Opening with a Malagasy folk song, he sings of France with musette bagpipes ("Dreaming of Paris") and arranges Saint-Saëns for Trinidadian steel band. "Wall Street" conjures 9/11 with piercing images. Parks even makes "Amazing Grace" fresh. With his theatrical steez, one hopes for a musical someday. If anyone could nail a dystopian Oklahoma!, this guy could.
From The Archives Issue 1189: August 15, 2013