Wednesday, December 5, 2012

40 Year Itch: Wonderful Urbanity

In the video below, frequent Beach Boys/Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks doesn't really have a hell of a lot to say about his 1972 classic Discover America. So I'll try to fill in the blanks just a bit. Don't get thrown by the title. This is an album that will help you discover Trinidad. Especially the quaint , reportorial kind of folk songs made famous by calypso kings like Wilmoth Houdini and Attila the Hun. Songs like "Bing Crosby" and  "FDR in Trinidad" ( recorded on this album with the help of Little Feat) have lyrics that read like editorials in small town newspapers: 

We are privileged to see the democratic president of the great republic 
 With his charming and genial personality and his wonderful urbanity 
 We were struck by his modest style 
and we were intrigued by the famous Roosevelt smile

Discover America isn't all calypso and steel drums. There are covers of two Allen Toussaint songs and one by Little Feat. "John Jones" has hints of reggae. Would a major label ever distribute anything like this in 2012? Probably not. But I agree with AllMusic's decree that this is an "eclectic masterpiece of multi-cultural Americana.


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