Release date (re-release): 18 June 2012
One thing about legendary eccentric Van Dyke Parks is that his catalogue has, for a long time, been so difficult to obtain. Well it looks like Bella Union are looking to change things up in that respect, and have managed to secure the rights to a couple of his finest albums. ‘Discover America’ was Parks’ sophomore record and arrived in 1972, coming after the ill fated (but critically revered) ‘Song Cycle’. Far from wishing to repeat himself, the psychedelic folk moves explored on his debut are totally wiped out on ‘Discover America’, replaced by (really) a new found love of calypso music. After blowing a reported $35,000 on the recording of his debut (at that time the most expensive recording album in history) I suppose Parks wished to get back to basics with ‘Discover America’ and travelled to the West Indies for some influence. What he discovered was the lighthearted calypso of Trinidad and Tobago, and these songs (which even at the time were public domain) are re-interpreted by Parks in his signature style, landing on a sound that is almost unclassifiable. It is still one hundred percent Parks, but the infectious Caribbean backbone can’t be ignored, and where other artists have tried and failed with similar source material, Parks made it his own with a level of panache most never even graze. ‘Discover America’ is a confounding record, but one which keeps on giving long after it has drawn to a close. Highly recommended.