The Viking Of Sixth Avenue Wallet Sleeve
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Previously licensed to Astralwerks in the U.S., now re-released on its original label, Honest Jon's, with new and improved gatefold card wallet sleeve packaging. Poet, composer, street musician and cosmologist Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin, 1916-1999) learned rhythm from American Indians and counterpoint from J.S. Bach. Many of his recordings feature instruments he built himself: trimba, yukh, tuji, oo. Sometimes you can hear in the background the streets of New York, where Moondog often slept. In addition, he was blind, due to an accident when he was 15. Sometime in the 1950s, fed up with being mistaken on the street for Christ (his regular busking spot was uptown on Sixth) Moondog put on a Viking costume, with spear and horned helmet; and he dressed like this until the late 1970s (by which time he was working with orchestras in Germany). Moondog's renown was extensive: Igor Stravinsky lobbied a judge on Moondog's behalf. Charlie Parker wanted to play with him, Julie Andrews DID play with him, and he was feted by the likes of Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, and Steve Reich. Andy Warhol's mother designed one of his covers, and Weegee took photographs of him (included in the booklet). Janis Joplin covered him, Mr. Scruff owes him badly, and Antony and the Johnsons covers his songs. This is the first retrospective of Moondog's music -- 36 tracks from 1949-1995, most of them exceptionally rare, all of them miraculous.
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I won't attempt a detailed review, but suffice to say there is a great variety of sounds and moods, including accessible, warm jazz sounds, and more primal beats. There also seems to be a lot of music for your buck - so plenty to get in to. Love it! And looking forward to my next Moondog purchase.
The work here consists mostly of miniatures from a musician who began life as a percussionist and it shows: his sense of rhythm is fantastic. I've heard it said that Moondog's work prefigures the minimalism of Terry Riley or Steve Reich, but it's less formally rigorous and much more playful: a sudden burst of melody, great counterpoint (his debt to Bach is even more obvious on some of the other discs available), eccentric use of voice, and even traditional songs.
The music is odd and familiar at the same time. It deserves to be more widely known.