Van Dyke Parks is like one of those lovable a-holes who goes to a party with the goal of sneaking himself into the background of every single picture taken there. Actually, due to his adorable-grandpappy-with-mustache-and-bowtie look these days, he might just be twice as lovable as even the most lovable of lovable a-holes… either way! Back to my simile: the reason it’s like he’s in every cool picture taken at a great party is that he seems to have popped up in the credits of almost every kick-ass album of the last half-century. He’s kicked it with Brian Wilson, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder; hell, even Joanna Newsom’s sprawling 2006 epic, Ys. As a composer and arranger, the dude is basically unparalleled, but he hasn’t released any new studio music of his own in over 15 years. Though I’m pretty sure even his mustache has at least three Grammys.
Happily, not only is Parks back in action, but he’s taking a pretty classy and 21st century-approved approach to releasing his new tracks. Namely, he’s announced that he will be releasing a series of 7-inch vinyl singles on his own label, Bananastan (to be distributed by City Hall/Runt worldwide). How cool is that? The singles, which will be released one at a time starting this August, will each be illustrated by a different (rather-famous) American contemporary artist and will be available at record stores, online, and at his live shows. Man, even Panda Bear didn’t think of that one.
Featured artists include Frank Holmes (who created the sleeve art for the lost Smile album back in the day), Charles Ray, Art Spiegelman, Ed Ruscha, Billy Edd Wheeler, and Sally Parks. The first two singles slated for release are the Ed Ruscha-illustrated “Dreaming of Paris” / “Wedding in Madagascar” and the Art Spiegelman-illustrated “Wall Street” / “Money Is King.” “They are from highly different genres, each of them,” Parks said while caressing that fantastic mustache of his. “They don’t cohere. They belong somewhere. But the emphasis on the visual art is a big, big deal. These are the pre-eminent American artists of our time. We’re calling it ‘Nouveau Niche.’” Are you kidding me?? VAN DYKE PARKS, CAN WE PLEASE HANG OUT SOME TIME AND PRETEND LIKE WE’RE GRANDPA and GRANDSON?!?
(Oh, P.S., Parks will also release a compilation album of some of his greatest arrangements on September 20. Titled Arrangements by Van Dyke Parks, the set will contain 15 songs by a bunch of no-name, no-talent singers/acts such as Arlo Guthrie, Ry Cooder, Little Feat, Sal Valentino, Mojo Men, Bonnie Raitt, Dino Martin, Lowell George, and Van Dyke Parks himself. That’s my grandpa!)
Upcoming VDP shows:
05.15.11 - Dublin, Ireland - Button Factory
05.16.11 - London, UK - Union Chapel