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Song Cycle

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Van Dyke Parks

Song Cycle

12" LP

Availability: In stock


Quick Overview

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.


Van Dyke Parks moved on from the Beach Boys' abortive SMiLE sessions to record his own solo debut, Song Cycle, an audacious and occasionally brilliant attempt to mount a fully orchestrated, classically minded work within the context of contemporary pop. As indicated by its title, Song Cycle is a thematically coherent work, one which attempts to embrace the breadth of American popular music; bluegrass, ragtime, show tunes -- nothing escapes Parks' radar, and the sheer eclecticism and individualism of his work is remarkable. Opening with "Vine Street," authored by Randy Newman (another pop composer with serious classical aspirations), the album is both forward-thinking and backward-minded, a collision of bygone musical styles with the progressive sensibilities of the late '60s; while occasionally overambitious and at times insufferably coy, it's nevertheless a one-of-a-kind record, the product of true inspiration.

Additional Information

Artist Van Dyke Parks
Track Listing 1 Vine Street - 3:40 2 Palm Desert - 3:07 3 Widow's Walk - 3:13 4 Laurel Canyon Blvd - :28 5 The All Golden - 3:46 6 Van Dyke Parks - :57 7 Public Domain - 2:34 8 Donovan's Colours - 3:38 9 The Attic - 2:56 10 Laurel Canyon Blvd - 1:19 11 By the People - 5:53 12 Pot Pourri - 1:08

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