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More Moondog—6

 

Released: 1956

1) Duet: Queen Elizabeth Whistle And Bamboo Pipe  2) Conversation And Music At 51st Street and 6th Avenue (New York City)  3) Hardshoe (7/4) Ray Malone  4) Tugboat Toccata  5) Autumn  6) Seven Beat Suite (3 Parts)  7) Oo Solo (6/4)  8) Rehearsal of Violetta's "Barefoot Dance"  9) Oo Solo (2/4)  10) Ostrich Feathers Played On Drum  11) Oboe Round  12) Chant  13) All Is Loneliness  14) Sextet (Oo)  15) Fiesta Piano Solo  16) Moondog Monologue 

 

Moondog’s second record, accurately titled “More Moondog,” is less accessible than his debut, but even more off the wall.  Here, Moondog almost completely abandons the strings and flutes that made his first album so charming, concentrating more on his percussion, piano, and avant-garde recorded noises.  While this album is inferior as a whole to his debut, it does possess two of Moondog’s most intriguing songs, and as the linear notes state, this is “world music from a world of Moondog’s own.”   

 

The opening “Duet: Queen Elizabeth Whistle And Bamboo Pipe” is exactly as it sounds…Moondog plays a bamboo pipe in harmony to an ocean liner’s horn.  While it isn’t really offensive, and is less than a minute, this “tune” is nothing but a fairly boring mood setter.  In 1956 it probably was ridiculously radical, but it doesn’t change that fact that it is pretty pointless from an entertainment point of view.  Conversation And Music at 51st Street & 6th Avenue (New York City)” sound similar to his previous album, but instead of strings or a recorder, Moondog sounds like he is playing the windpipes.  The melody is catchy and fascinating, but end too quickly to be fully appreciated. 

 

Unfortunately, a majority of songs on the rest of the album consist of mostly dull percussion experiments.  Hardshore (7/4) Ray Malone” is another tap dancing piece with Malone, similar to the first album, but much more agreeable.  It still isn’t anything remarkable, and in fact, just when Malone really starts to get into it, the track ends.  Seven Beat Suite (3 Parts)” is a two-minute drum solo broken into three distinct parts.  The second portion is by far the best with its urgent mood and pulsating pace.  Oo Solo (6/4)” follows the debut’s attempt to capture the strange sounds of Moondog’s homemade instrument.  This is much more melodic and effective than his first attempts…the melody is soothing, sounding like the flow of a stream, making this one of the better percussion pieces. 

 

Things don’t really pick up from there though as “Rehearsal of Violetta’s 'Barefoot Dance'" is a recording of Moondog playing tug-of-war with a dog over a piece of candy.  This isn’t really music, but is funny, and it is hard to tell, but I think Moondog looses.  Oo Solo (2/4)” is a second solo on the Oo, while “Ostrich Feathers Played On Drum” is exactly what it says it is, lasting only twenty-five seconds and sounding oddly like a bird flapping its wings.  The third Oo solo, entitled “Sextet (Oo),” is probably the best one of the three, but really, I can’t tell the difference between any of them and only picked this one as best cause it has sex in the title.

 

Continuing with the strange percussion pieces, “Chant” is a reproduction of a Native American chant, and “Oboe Round” features a few Eastern sounding oboes circling around one pounding deep blast from an oboe.  It reminds me of that part in “Dumb and Dumber” when Lloyd says, “You wanna hear the most annoying noise in the world?”  It isn’t quite that bad, but close.  If the album only included these kinds of tracks it would not be worth listening to, let alone buying, but thankfully, Moondog added some amazingly clever works, that expanded on the tracks heard on his debut.

 

Far creepier than anything on “Moondog,” “Tugboat Toccata” is a hastily pounded swirling piano that seems to go in and out of time, slowly building an off-putting aura, sandwiched between two eerie boat horns.  This is the kind of sound that would have been nice to hear over the length of the entire album; a melodic, challenging listen.  Autumn” follows suit and features various rattles acting as percussion with strange horns playing a beautiful melody.  It is a shame this track is just over two minutes as it really has a compelling and comforting feel.    

 

All Is Loneliness” is regrettably only fifty seven seconds long.  It features Moondog singing in a spiraling pattern about how “all there is loneliness here for me” and is sung in the Native chant style.  It is heartbreaking and so desperate that it simply rules.  Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin) later covered this on their debut album in 1967, but Moondog was never given any royalties.  Fiesta Piano Solo” is a great little runaround on the piano.  It could easily soundtrack a car chase seen in an old 1930s movie and is one of the better tracks here, just so bouncy and odd. 

 

Odd doesn’t even begin to describe the closing eight and a half minute epic “Moondog Monologue” though.  This tune is just Moondog speaking rhythmically overtop of his usual drumming and strange Oo percussion.  Neither the melody, nor Moondog’s voice change, causing a strange, hypnotic grab at your eardrums—you can’t not listen.  Some of the lines Moondog speaks are pure poetry, some are more political, and others are just wonderful little turns of a phrase:

 

I do not dress the way I do to attract attention,

I attract attention because I dress as I do. 

 

You the vandal, plunder the village as you will,

the earthworm will pillage you the vandal when you are under.

 

I would bow down before just one…

one who bows before none. 

I should know who that one might be who could do that to me…

I am that one and I bow down before me.

 

If on this rock I stand alone,

loneliness were turn heel as he turns to stone.

 

My tiny butterfly butters my bread,

my briny flutterby keeps me well fed. 

Why should I mutter?

 

This one wish is ever so near to my heart

but oh so far away from my tongue.

 

As a whole, “More Moondog” is an uneven album, nowhere near as charming as his debut, but I’d still recommend buying it for the sheer bizarre atmosphere.  Coming out in 1956, this had to be one of the strangest pieces of music marketed and, based on its dismal sales, it is amazing that Prestige recorded Moondog one last time the following year.  Still, no Moondog collection is complete without owning this unconventional, sometimes annoying, but ultimately unforgetable album.

 

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