Moondog
Moondog


5.0
classic

Review

by bnelso55 USER (30 Reviews)
October 2nd, 2015 | 35 replies


Release Date: 1969 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Machines were mice and men were lions once upon a time…

For 30 years, many simply considered Louis Thomas Hardin, Jr. to be one of the more eccentric vagrants that line Manhattan’s walkways. Few New Yorkers knew that when they flipped their spare change to the spear-toting, horn-capped, wispy-bearded “Viking of Sixth Avenue” they were giving to a man who had transcended insurmountable conditions, acquired blindness and homelessness, to become one of the 20th century’s most gifted and under-recognized musicians.

By 1969, the Kansas-born composer, who wandered into New York City and adopted the moniker “Moondog” in the late 1940s, had almost a half-dozen recordings to his name. That same year, after a 12-year recording hiatus, he reentered the studio at the invitation of producer James William Guercio to commit a new album to tape for Columbia Records. The result, simply titled Moondog, would feature compositions Moondog had been constructing for more than a decade, including two canons, two "minisyms" (short symphonic-styled pieces for miniature orchestras), three symphonic works, a chaconne memorializing the legendary saxophonist Charlie Parker (“Bird’s Lament”), and ballet music written with modern dance pioneer Martha Graham in mind ("Witch of Endor"). The collection would come to be known as a singular entry in the catalog of Third Stream music and possibly Moondog’s finest hour.

The music here could be described as minimalist; however, with its composer taking cues from the shrill car horns and rumbling subways of the Big Apple, it is by no means lacking power. Not unlike Borges and his fiction, Moondog encapsulates in six minutes or less the intrigue and magnificence of a larger-than-life symphony. The whirling “Minisym #1” bursts at the seams with menace and drive despite its stunted runtime, and the melodies woven throughout “Symphonique #3 (Ode to Venus)” boast a poignancy that could rival Elgar’s famed Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85. Jazz elements are just as prevalent and at their most in apparent in pieces like “Symphonique #6”, where clarinets croon with big band flair in apt tribute to the “King of Swing” himself.

Moondog’s disdain for convention and his knack for genre fusion are intoxicating, but the album’s standout is his flawless integration of unusual percussion and odd meter, or what he called snaketime, into his distinct amalgam of modern classical elements and jazz leanings. Instruments of Moondog’s own design punctuate the record’s introductory “Theme” with peculiar rhythms before seguing into the equally serpentine snare and timpani work of “Stamping Ground”. It’s a fitting opening statement for a man who would “not die in 4/4 time”.

Quirks notwithstanding, this collection is arguably less "experimental" than some of Moondog's other works. The music is surprisingly accessible given its origins, yet its ambitiousness and creativity is none the worse for wear. The Viking may have been blind, but his vision was crystalline. Moondog is a career highlight of an unlikely hero, who amidst the clatter of a busy street corner forged a path all his own. For someone who had the stones to criticize J.S. Bach for his counterpoint “mistakes”, it must have seemed like the only way to go.



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user ratings (118)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Wholeheartedly recommended. You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLbqacGNdpw

You could probably write 10 reviews just fleshing out this guy’s backstory. There is nothing else like it, and I really only touched the surface here.

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yep! There can only be one. No one else could stand on a street corner for 8 hours a day wearing a velvet hood and cloak and sipping from a hollow moose hoof quite like he could.

Alastor
October 2nd 2015


1982 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great artist. Found out about him because Stamping Ground was on The Big Lebowski soundtrack.

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2015


18531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

fuckin yes

Digging: Jason Molina - Pyramid Electric Co.

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Ha! I didn't know that appeared on that soundtrack. I'll have to revisit the movie. Don't know how I missed that.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2015


11542 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Major props for reviewing this one.

Digging: Praying Mantis - Forever in Time

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cheers, manosg! I felt like more people needed to hear this. What's your take on this guy/album?

Friday13th
October 2nd 2015


6670 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

moondog...nice!

Digging: Darkwater - Human

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Yeah Friday! Glad to see there's a few others out there that dig this music!

Friday13th
October 2nd 2015


6670 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

My only major criticism of the album is the third track "Symphonique #3" is essentially "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

You know, that's a sound criticism. I hadn't thought of that, but after relistening to it I can definitely hear the connection between the two. I think it's those large interval jumps in the main theme.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 2nd 2015


24317 Comments


really interesting, informative, and well-written review. definitely gonna have to check this guy out!

Digging: Madison Cunningham - For the Sake of the Rhyme

Cygnatti
October 2nd 2015


32757 Comments


major props [3] :]

Ryus
October 2nd 2015


17151 Comments


haven't heard this in foreva

linguist2011
Contributing Reviewer
October 2nd 2015


2587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome review, you've done this underrated artist and album justice. This record is short but very, very sweet to my ears.

Digging: Acathexis - Acathexis

squaaab
October 2nd 2015


553 Comments


pos

AnimalsAsSummit
October 2nd 2015


3768 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Beautiful as well as groovy

Digging: Makai - Millennium

Confucius
October 2nd 2015


498 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

beautiful album, must give it another spin

pissbore
October 2nd 2015


12739 Comments


Fuck yeah hail moondog

bnelso55
October 2nd 2015


1323 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks all for the feedback! @ linguist. I agree. This record is short but very, very sweet to my ears. [2]

@ Atari - I think ths one's well worth your time!





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