Song Cycle – Van Dyke Parks (1967)

Song Cycle is the debut album by American recording artist Van Dyke Parks, released in December 1967 by Warner Bros. Records. It mixes a number of genres, including bluegrass, ragtime, and show tunes – framing classical styles in the context of 1960s pop music. Upon its release, Song Cycle was largely acclaimed by critics despite lukewarm sales, and later gained status as a cult album. With the exception of three cover songs, Song Cycle was written and composed by Parks, while its production was credited to future Warner Bros. Records president Lenny Waronker. The album’s material explores unconventional song structures, and lyrically focuses on American history and culture. The subjects of many songs are Southern California locales, including Laurel Canyon Boulevard, Vine Street, Silver Lake Boulevard, and Palm Desert. The lyrics on Song Cycle also reflect Parks’ history working in both the film and music industries of Southern California. … Being an expensive album the producers were able to make early use of an eight-track professional reel-to-reel recorder, which was used to mix second generation four-track tape that had been transferred from another four-track recording for overdubs. This was during an era when most studios were still limited to four-track machines. Parks has added that the bulk of the album was done ‘before Sgt. Pepper reared its ugly head’, and that Randy Newman had written ‘Vine Street’ especially for him. Many Los Angeles recording facilities were used, not because of any particular sound preference, but to maximize studio time. Song Cycle contained experimental production and recording methods, including varispeed and regenerated tape delay. … In his column for Esquire, music critic Robert Christgau felt that Song Cycle does not ‘rock’ and had ‘serious reservations about [Parks’] precious, overwrought lyrics and the reedy way he sings them, but the music on this album is wonderful.’ Warner Bros. press sheets advertised Song Cycle as ‘the most important, creative and advanced pop recording since Sgt. Pepper.’ …”
Rolling Stone
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YouTube: “The All Golden” Track Commentary, “The All Golden” on WNYC’s Spinning On Air
YouTube: Song Cycle (1968) 32:52

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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