Van Dyke Parks

Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove

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Since Van Dyke Parks has never released a greatest hits album (okay, he's never had any hits) in the U.S., this long-overdue concert album, which draws on material from his studio recordings dating back to 1968's Song Cycle, is a welcome sampler of his stunning, if small, body of work from "The All Golden" (Song Cycle) to "Orange Crate Art" (the title track from his duet album with Brian Wilson). The melodic invention and masterful mixing of styles confirm Parks's hidden status as one of the great American composers, a status that has gone unremarked only because of his reclusiveness and tendency to operate only on the margins of the Los Angeles pop scene. He is a miniaturist, to be sure, and nothing if not quirky. His heavily -- and not always coherently -- edited stage remarks call to mind Truman Capote, and his reedy, earnest singing is only adequate. But the music is both steeped in tradition and wholly original, and it's a delight to listen to.

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