Former child actor Van Dyke Parks had reinvented himself as a songwriter, arranger, raconteur, and budding conceptualist when Warner Bros. bankrolled this brave, baroque 1968 debut, which has achieved true notoriety in the annals of '60s California pop. More heard-of than heard, Song Cycle sailed against the tide of guitar-driven, blues-drenched rock to bet on the orchestral ambitions of Sgt. Pepper, weaving a conceptual tapestry from folk, Tin Pan Alley, and classical strands. In place of generational anthems or confessional love songs, Parks's coy, modest tenor offered intricate, impressionistic wordplay ripe with puns, multiple-entendres, and geopolitical allusions far beyond the pale of countercultural rock. On songs such as "The All Golden," "Palm Desert," and "Laurel Canyon Blvd.," you'll hear poetic links to Brian Wilson's most convoluted, internalized soundscapes, as well as a wily musical intelligence that will either intoxicate or infuriate you. Not unlike a brattier, Californian cousin to Stephen Sondheim, Parks revels in musical and thematic puzzles, and Song Cycle offers his most seductive and challenging ones.