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The Story of Moondog—5

 

Released: 1957

1)  Up Broadway  2) Perpetual Motion  3) Gloving It  4) Improvisation  5) Ray Malone Softshoe  6) Two Quotations in Dialogue  7) 5/8 In Two Shades  8) Moondog's Theme  9) In A Doorway  10) Duet  11) Trimbas in Quarters  12) Wildwood  13) Trimbas in Eighths  14) Organ Rounds

 

The Story of Moondog” was Moondog’s third release in a little over a year.  It lacks the charm of his debut and the flashes of brilliance of his follow-up.  Instead this album feels like a been-there/done-that type of effort.  Most of the pieces are parallel percussion solos, with little or no purpose, and, aside from the opening and closing numbers, there is virtually nothing on this album that breaks any kind of new ground.  In fact, a majority of this album is worse than that…it is just downright boring.

 

That boredom though is nowhere to be found on the first track.  Supposedly capturing Moondog’s impressions as he passed Birdland, the Jazz corner of the world, “Up Broadway” was unlike anything Moondog had yet released.  The piece opens and closes with street noises and tribal beats, but somehow, in the middle, transforms into a swinging jazz rumbling: bouncing, hip, and the perfect stopped-at-a-stoplight song.  This is one of Moondog’s best overall efforts and a great, upbeat, cooler than words tune.  Perpetual Motion” follows, and sort of kills the vibe, by bringing back the windpipe sound of “More Moondog.” What are you supposed to say about a track like this?  It literally sounds exactly the same as about five other Oo songs on his other records.  Gloving It,” by contrast, is a series of percussion solos, simplistic, but actually very grooving.  It is so much better than the other instrumentals, mainly because it represents a new sound that Moondog has not overused. 

 

Improvisation” is another very attractive song.  It is a four-minute, solo, haunting, piano piece, which could easily have been featured in an old horror flick.  In fact, it seems as if this section of music would perfectly mark the period of time right before the killer is going to strike.  There is an off-putting, beautiful feel to the song as well though…like the killer is about to murder a member of his own family.  The eerie atmosphere is a welcomed highlight on an album severely lacking in them.  Demonstrating his lack of material, Moondog has guest Ray Malone perform a “duet” with his tap-shoes on “Ray Malone Softshoe.”  This is the third consecutive album that the pair had attempted this collaboration, and while the first time was cute, by the third, it is more than tiresome.  Two Quotations in Dialogue” is a peculiar thirty-second conversation between Moondog and two other people about having no answers for anything, while the similar in length, “5/8 In Two Shades” is Moondog soloing with another of his invented instruments called a Tuji.  It sounds similar to all his other strange soloings, too crazy to be catchy, but all about creating his usual odd aura. 

 

The subsequent, “Moondog’s Theme” features a howling wolf, moaning overtop of Moondog’s normal pattern of Oo and trimbas.  The backbeat is all too familiar, but the wolf makes things slightly disturbing, at least adding a little variety to the standard Moondog percussion piece.  Like “Up Broadway,” “In A Doorway” is another track featuring street sounds, lasting over five minutes.  Unlike the opening though, this is just another wandering percussion solo…eh.  One minute is one thing, but five minutes is more than a little unreasonable.  There are about seven false endings and each time makes me more and more upset that it isn’t actually over. 

 

Duet” sounds almost exactly like “Drum Suite” from “Moondog,” even featuring the same guest musician Sam Ulano on Japanese drums.  Again, who needs it?  If you heard one, you don’t really need to hear another.  Trimbas in Quarters” and “Trimbas in Eighths” are both about the same sort of boring drum pieces, that I can’t tell apart…enough is enough already man.  Wildwood” is an Indian chant, sounding authentic, with Moondog yelping, and adding some delicate recorder fills.  It is scary, in a lunatic type way, but at least it breaks the monotony of those same sounding, endless percussion offerings.  “”Organ Rounds” closes out the album with a great organ piece, sounding like the ending of “Super Mario Brothers.”  Needless to say, it rules and acts as foreshadowing to Moondog’s later work.

 

If this is your first purchase from the man, it won’t seem as dry, but this feels like a worse version of “More Moondog.”  It seems that Moondog was out of ideas, so he just retraced his steps, sounding boring and just threading water.  Aside from the opening number, any of these songs could be found on either of his first two albums, and if fact, they might very well have been, they sound that familiar.  It is a shame that it took a dozen years for Moondog to release another album after this recording, but the time off really gave him time to develop.  While it isn’t terrible on its own, “The Story of Moondog” is the worst record of Moondog’s career.

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