1) Pigmy Pig 2) High On A Rocky Ledge 3) Choo Choo Lullaby
4) I'm Just A Hop Head 5) Here's To John Wesley Hardin 6) I'm In The World 7)
Do Your Thing! 8) Enough About Human Rights 9) I'm This, I'm That 10) Aska
A year after
the thoroughly gloomy “Moondog in Europe,” Moondog released the jovial “H’art
Songs;” his first LP not to bear his name in the title, and the record that forever proved his genius. This collection of piano pop songs made his stunningly eclectic discography even more
chaotic musically, but also featured some of his most mesmerizing wordplay ever recorded.
Although not actually written as haikus, the lyrics have that same sort of feel and manage to tell tales that can be
seen as metaphors for living life. Sometimes political, sometimes autobiographical,
sometimes nature loving, they are always intriguingly poetic and help push this effort to the very top of all Moondog’s
While the lyrics
are made that much more compelling by Moondog’s grandfatherly, sage-worthy voice, the quirky music, as always, is the
real force behind the brilliance of the album. Each song features Fritz Storfinger
on piano with Moondog on percussion, and the two really mesh together well, creating a warped, childlike innocence within
each track. The entire record reminds me of that trippy “Elephants
on Parade” section in Dumbo. Okay it is a cartoon, okay it
is supposed to be uncomplicated…but there is a sincere, frightening semblance of reality that makes it all so eerily
The mood is perfectly set
with the opening “Pigmy Pig,” featuring terrifying pig-squealing Deliverance noises in the background,
and carnival piano chords played with a start-stop melody. Moondog’s voice
sounds barking mad and the entire track is slightly disturbing in an Umpa Lumpa way.
The lyrics seem to state that killing a plant is no different from killing an animal, but might actually be about nothing
at all… regardless, the closing piano solo is absolutely killer and the tune is loony enough to really enjoy in a perverse
As normal as
the previous track was weird, “High On A Rocky Ledge” is musically as traditional a song as Moondog ever
recorded. In fact, the very first time you hear it, you’re positive you’ve
heard those catchy chords before…the melody is that memorable. The tune
is as beautiful and timeless as a slow and boring song can possibly be, but the Romeo-Juliet dual suicide lyrics make the
song that much more creepy and effective. “Choo-Choo Lullaby”
follows and is another instantly memorable melody with its pulsating, jolly piano. The
verse and chorus are pleasant and easy going, but the middle eighth and coda feature a demented, pounding organ that sounds
exactly like a train chugging down the tracks, which doesn’t really fit in with the tune and manages to be more than
a little unsettling. At six minutes, this is far too long overall, but the aura
fits in so nicely with the slightly batty mood of the record, that you barely seem to notice the length.
For better or
worse, Moondog’s noteworthy strange percussion returns on “I’m Just A Hop Head.” This is much more similar to the sound of his rounds on “Moondog 2,” with
all the charm of that entire album, and some of the most grooving piano fills you’ll ever hear. This time the lyrics deal with the age-old lesson that too much of a good thing can kill you, but in Moondog’s
world, that too-much-enjoyed-thing is…hopping. The dark and stylish “Here’s
To John Wesley Hardin” is Moondog’s seven-minute tribute to his infamous, Wild West, gun-slinging ascendant. His voice is deeper here, and double-tracked to the point that he sounds exactly like
those Winkie guards that protect the castle of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.
The lyrics are strangely phrased, similar to how a foreigner uses English…you get the point, but the wording
is slightly off in a colorful way that makes you appreciate language that much more.
The second side opens with
the music-hallish “I’m In The World.” Like “Eclipse”
from “Dark Side of the Moon,” this tune is a role call of world problems and predicaments, but
although the lyrics are cute, this isn’t one of the better offerings on the record.
Conversely, “Do Your Thing!” is the highlight of the album and probably Moondog’s most agreeable
poppy tune. The lyrics are just so positive…Moondog sharing his wonderful
Franklinisms with the world: “Don’t regret! What might have been,
you might as well forget. Learn to wait.
And while your waiting, learn to concentrate. Make your mark! If need be, even make it in the dark.” With a bouncy
piano backbeat and Moondog’s most polished singing, this is easily one of his best overall songs.
“Enough About Human Rights” is a funny, foreboding, Old World piano offering, dealing with the rest of
the living world and its rights—slug rights, bug rights, whale rights, snail rights, bass rights, ass rights, worm rights,
germ rights, seal rights, eel rights, etc… The tune is bleak and baffling,
but poignant. “I’m This, I’m That” is a back
and forth, inspirational guide to tolerance. Although nothing mind-blowing in
the lyrics or the melody, and a shade too long, this is still catchy, charming, and a pleasant enough ditty, with the closing
“I’m I, I’m U” particularly gripping.
Me” is more opera sounding than the rest of the album, but rivals “Do Your Thing!” as the
best song. It deals with the purchase of Alaska by the United States from Russia,
including the infamous “Seward’s Folly,” and includes accurate dates and places. Unsurprisingly, Moondog sides with the Tlingits and their culture (the tribe of Indigenous People, probably
most greatly effected by the change of ownership). This is one of his all time
best efforts with perfectly placed handclaps and panting dogs, and featuring an insanely amazing coda.
Songs” is one of those albums that takes a while to really grow on you.
At first glance, the lyrics seem basic, but they are actually some of the most curiously resonant I’ve heard
from any artist and add a touch of insight into Moondog’s character, making this album far more personal than his previous
efforts. The melodies too, seem so simple, but Storfinger’s piano is so
inviting that it also helps aid in the intimacy. More than any of Moondog’s
catalog, this album fits his image of sage-hobo…a homeless, starving artist with just his songs and poems for comfort. And it is a true testament to his perseverance, diverse tastes, and amazing songs
that a blind man that lived for thirty years without a home could make a listener feel so welcome.