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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Moondog - "Moondog" Vinyl LP, Album, white vinyl, reissue, 2017 (Columbia Masterworks)


A brilliant album that was recorded in 1969 and produced by James William Guercio, who also worked with Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears.  Thank god I didn't know that till I read the credits after listening to the album.  Which is incredible by the way.  There is nothing slick and phony about the production.  It's there to support Moondog's vision.  So in other words, he is just another fan.  The big theme here is Moondog's music arranged for a full orchestra.   What an odd narrative this Moondog fellow is.  Street performer in Manhattan in the early 1950s till the 60s, and friends to Leonard Bernstein to Charlie Parker.   And oddly enough, a roommate to Philip Glass.  Clearly,  Moondog is an influence or inspiration for Glass. I can hear the Moondog arrangement in Glass's work.  

The album starts off giving me goose-bumps all over my body.  The percussion kicks off, and the string section makes these tight notes that are hypnotic and then the melody kicks in.  It's called "Theme, make" and that is a proper title to such a hopeful and powerful piece of entrancing music.  The thing about Moondog's music is that it's very much an enjoyable experience. There's no cynicism in his approach making music that inspires to, as well as being touched by beauty.    There are the Bach like layers of sound that builds on top of each other.  He's a riff master!  

Even though it's a full orchestration, it sounds like a funky band, and how he does that is amazing.  A lot of the arrangements here are horn orientated with full strings behind it, and then there's the percussion which is in front and out of the mix.  "Lament 1" which is a tune he wrote for Charlie Parker, is really something.  Two saxes - one alto and the other baritone answering to each other's call, with the strings kicking in behind them.  A great piece of music.  Moondog's birthday is coming up next May (as I write it's April 30) and if alive he would be 100 years old.  A remarkable composer and performer.   May his recordings never fade.