Spin - p.82
"[I]t's a hodgepodge: Bonnie Raitt sings calypso, Dean Martin's son sings a psychedelic reggae ballad, Arlo Guthrie sings an Appalachian hymn as glam-country."
The Wire - p.60
"[T]he collection displays Parks's affection for and deep understanding of the orchestral palette to great advantage."
Liner Note Author: Van Dyke Parks.
Arranger: Van Dyke Parks.
During the Golden Age of Record Making in the 1960s and '70s, some acts would simply roll into the studio and record, but most were accompanied by hands-on producers who would partner them with musicians and arrangers who could help them create a unique and compelling sound with greater skill and efficiency than if left to their own devices, and a few musicians of the era created some of their best and most enduring work for other people. Van Dyke Parks helped Brian Wilson write the songs for SMiLE and recorded a handful of fine and critically acclaimed albums in the 1960s and '70s, but he earned his bread and butter as a producer and arranger, creating striking musical backdrops for other artists. Arrangements, Vol. 1 is a collection compiled by Parks himself that features 15 tracks he arranged; five were released under Parks' moniker, but the rest found him working for the likes of Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, and Sal Valentino during his tenure as a staff producer at Warner Bros. Records. Most of these tracks reflect the same grand, outsized personality that Parks brought to his solo work; Parks is a man in love with musical Americana, but he's even more fond of the way other cultures stretch and shape American ideas, and his dandified vision, full of snappy and textural percussion, playful keyboard fixtures, bold horns and woodwinds, and strings that dance and sway with the melodies, truly defines each of these selections, even more than the folks who sing them. And while the tone of this collection is consistent, Parks can also mold his style to a variety of contexts, from the streetwise funk of Little Feat's "Spanish Moon," the mariachi guitars of Lowell George's "Cheek to Cheek," and the bawdy calypso of Bonnie Raitt's "Wha' She Go' Do" to the swampy Cajun pop of Sal Valentino's "Alligator Man," the psych-influenced sunshine pop of the Mojo Men's "Sit Down, I Think I Love You," and the very theatrical grandeur of Parks' cover of Joseph Spence's "Out on the Rolling Sea Where Jesus Spoke to Me." Parks' greatest legacy is in his albums Song Cycle, Discover America, and Jump, but Arrangements, Vol. 1 reveals that even doing work for hire, he had a sound and vision that set him apart, and the joyous eccentricity of this music is truly a delight. ~ Mark Deming