Are Ringing 2) Voices of Spring 3) What's The Most Exciting Thing
4) All Is Loneliness 5) My Tiny Butterfly 6) Why Spend A Dark Night With Me
7) Coffee Beans 8) Down Is Up 9) Be A Hobo 10) Remember
11) I Love You 12) Nero's Expedition 13) No, The Wheel Was
Never Invented 14) With My Wealth 15) This Student Of Life 16) Some Trust All
17) Wine, Women and Song 18) Sadness 19) Maybe 20) Each Today Is Yesterday's
Tomorrow 21) Imagine 22) You The Vandal 23) Trees Against
The Sky 24) Behold 25) Sparrow 26) Pastoral
beautifully orchestrated, enchanting, self-titled masterpiece, Moondog had a huge decision to make: just how did he intend
to follow it up? After all, this choice could make or break him. ”Moondog” was the only one of his albums that you had a fair chance of finding
in a good record store…the album that gave him his small amount of critical praise…the album that could, conceivably,
launch his career… So did he put out a record of similar compositions,
riding his little wave of popularity in an attempt to make a niche? Did he go
back and demonstrate his street sounds and that strange percussion of his first three albums in the Fifties? Nah, for “Moondog 2,” the wannabe Viking released a collection of twenty-five
rounds, each lasting less than two-minutes, most sung as duets with his teenaged daughter June Hardin.
Now, if you are anything
like me, you have no clue what a musical round actually is, so here’s Webster’s take: “A round is a composition for two or more voices in which each voice enters at a different time with
the same melody, sometimes known as a perpetual canon.” Uh…alright,
that sounds simple enough, and apparently rounds are supposed to be simple pieces of music, swirling around an uncomplicated
original vocal pattern, with equally simplistic music as background melody. “Three
Blind Mice,” and “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat” are examples.
But this album is so much more than that…
2” is magical. Not in a cut someone in half, or a card trick’s
way, but in a Jack and the Bean Stock, glass slipper, talking animal way. These
rounds sound like they came from the Renaissance, or were field recordings made of the Whos from Whoville just before some
festival. Only old time acoustic instruments are used: piano, harp, recorder,
guitar, viola, and most frequently the harpsichord. But the main melody maker
is how Moondog and his daughter’s voices blend together, repeating hooks, somehow tugging on emotional strings you thought
you severed when you became an adult. Yes, the album does get tedious, and even
a little maddening as listening to these simple little ditties, no matter how clever, can be exhausting. But still, this album is unlike any other out there, and has some sort of ethereal lure.
From the opening
Christmas jaunt, “Bells Are Ringing” to the more sinister, Stereolab like “Voices of Spring,”
to the caffeinated “Coffee Beans, to the off-putting hip-hop beat of “Remember,” there
are just so many little variations and themes with each track. A case in point
is “What’s The Most Exciting Thing.” Musically, with
its high-pitched recorder, it could serve as the ending theme to a Super Mario Brothers game, but the vocal melody sounds
like the Smurfs on their way home from Gargamel’s. It’s almost as
if each of these songs was the basis for some fantasy cartoon or another, and I swear “Why Spend A Dark Night With
Me,” “Sadness,” and “Each Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow” are actual
Umpa Lumpa tracks.
There is even
a remake of one of Moondog’s greatest, and surely his most well known composition, “All Is Loneliness.” This version is more whimsical and better recorded, but the version found on “More
Moondog” is far more haunting. The lyrics to the subsequent track
“My Tiny Butterfly” were also recycled from the other gem on “More Moondog,”
“Moondog Monologue.” Here, sung by June, they match the
delicate guitar picking ideally, and fit in snuggly with the rest of this castle in the sky album.
include “Down Is Up,” as it is as dark as the album gets, slightly terrifying in a wicked witch type
way, with pulsating percussion and a hint of doom in the singing. “I
Love You” has more of a tribal, Native American beat, with the background guitar being both minimalist and forceful. By contrast, “Nero’s Expedition” as its title suggests,
is a little more daring, with cymbals acting as sound effects in the background, and Moondog’s far deeper, and thus
creepier delivery. “Some Trust All” uses the piano absolutely
brilliantly, and possesses equally brilliant lyrics, making it one of my favorites on the album: “Some trust all, some
trust some, some trust one, I trust none, not even myself.” “You
The Vandal” has music that is similar to the soundtrack of “Braveheart,” and depressing vocal melodies
as well, much more dismal than the rest of the album.
absolutely rules, with its plucked viola and frank lyrics: “Maybe someday I’ll be recognized for what I am before
I’m dead and gone.” It is gripping, gorgeous, honestly just perfect,
and Moondog’s has a cute little drum solo at the end, breaking the round repetitiveness.
“Trees Against The Sky” is another winner, being the happiest sounding tune on an album full of
them, with that high piano really sounding jovial. “Behold”
is another high point, with the music box background and Druid lyrics: "Behold the willow bows
before me / But not the oak, I'm uprooting / remarked the wind."
closes out the rounds for the album and has the most elegant vocal melody on the record, catchy and just tree-swaying cool. The closing, “Pastoral” is the only non-round on the album, but
it is the most impressive, heartwarming, and just downright gorgeous track here. It
features only Gillian Stevens playing the harp, but it is easily one of the most beautiful instrumentals I’ve ever heard,
literally brining me to tears. If I ever do get married, this would be the song
I’d want my wife to walk down the aisle to…it is that complete, delicate, and true. I was so enamored with it that I actually wrote words to go along with the music. This might just be Moondog’s best single piece of music.
In fact, this whole album might just be Moondog’s
best. True, it is repetitive…yes, a lot of the songs sound similar, but
the mood they convey seems to be impossible to duplicate in today’s day and age.
The only other album that can match the elfin romanticism heard here is Tyrannosaurus Rex’s “Unicorn,”
but that was still a rock and roll album…this is something more archaic and thus, even more spellbinding. The CD reissue squeezes Moondog’s previous album, and “Moondog 2” on
to one disk, making it an essential purchase and an ideal starting point for beginning your Moondog collection. Enjoy, but by no means is this the only Moondog you need.