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Clare And The Reasons And Van Dyke Parks In Studio At WNYC
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Van Dyke Parks: Cycling Back Around

Van Dyke Parks: Cycling Back Around

Clare And The Reasons And Van Dyke Parks In Studio At WNYC
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Van Dyke Parks has been shaping new possibilities of song since his 1960s collaborations with Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys, as well as his own landmark 1968 album Song Cycle. Having worked with everyone from Grace Kelly to Joanna Newsom during his long career, Parks is now on his first concert tour, performing together with the band Clare and the Reasons. Their tour brought them to New York City and WNYC, where this Spinning On Air session was recorded. You can watch video from the evening by visiting the Spinning On Air episode page.

Van Dyke Parks; credit: David Garland i

Van Dyke Parks, the man behind Brian Wilson's Smile, recently performed with Clare and the Reasons at WNYC. David Garland hide caption

toggle caption David Garland
Van Dyke Parks; credit: David Garland

Van Dyke Parks, the man behind Brian Wilson's Smile, recently performed with Clare and the Reasons at WNYC.

David Garland

For the 67-year-old Parks, this is not a comeback tour. Perhaps because his popularity never dramatically waxed, it's also never waned, and Parks has never ceased to build his distinct body of work as a composer, lyricist, producer, arranger and instrumentalist, with contributions to recordings by Rufus Wainwright, Laurie Anderson, Ry Cooder, Randy Newman and many others, plus his own occasional solo albums.

Parks' music isn't easily categorized. It's always been informed by American music history, yet shaped more by his own inner muse than by the trends of the moment. Even his old songs still sound new. For example, "The All Golden," first recorded in 1968 and performed solo in this session, is rich with distant shadows of Charles Ives and Hoagy Charmichael, but reaches forward to that elusive horizon where art and pop meet. That forward-thinking sense of history has particularly enhanced Parks' work with Brian Wilson, including the landmark album Smile (begun in 1967 and completed in 2004, and for which Parks was lyricist), Orange Crate Art (1995) and That Lucky Old Sun (2007).

Clare and the Reasons have already developed an audience for their own sparkling songs, which strike a nice balance between tunefulness and thoughtfulness and are illuminated by a dazzling range of instrumental color. Singer-guitarist Clare Manchon and her multi-instrumentalist husband Olivier Manchon are joined by bassist/clarinetist/keyboardist Bob Hart and cellist Jon Cottle, and all join in on vocal harmonies. In this session, they perform three songs on their own before being joined by Parks.

Clare Manchon; credit: David Garland

Clare Manchon of Clare and the Reasons recently sat in with Van Dyke Parks. David Garland hide caption

toggle caption David Garland

As they explain in this interview, chance initially brought Clare and the Reasons together with Parks, and it's not surprising that they all felt a musical affinity. The musicians clearly enjoy one another, and there was lots of wordplay and laughter as we set up for the session.

My first exposure to Parks' work came when I heard the Beach Boys song "Heroes and Villains" on the radio while a kid back in the summer of 1967. Parks wrote the lyrics for that song, and back then I knew it was exciting and different, but I probably didn't recognize that it was such an effective, natural blend of folk, pop and classical influences. With the chamber-music arrangement the song is given here, it shines anew.

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