Ken Nordine


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Originally released as Twink in 1967 (and changed because of the unrelated connotations the word has been saddled with since), Wink is not a typical Ken Nordine album. Instead of a word jazz album with poetry of his own design, Wink takes a series of pieces written by beat poet Robert Shure and sets them to music. Knowing that it's not Nordine-penned, it might be tempting to write this one off without even hearing it, but that would be a mistake; Shure originally wrote the poetry in 1957, about the same time that Nordine was getting his start with the Word Jazz series of albums, and both shared a surreal sense of humor and a love of wordplay. In fact, the concept almost sounds like it was custom-designed for Nordine. Two voices, both voiced by Nordine and both presumably different facets of the same character, face off against each other and have discussions about topics that are both mundane and absurd. In one piece, there's a warning about why you should be afraid of meatballs; elsewhere there's a discussion of gabardine potatoes; another piece details why people who like apple cider are idiots. It's not all about food, though: windshield wipers fall in love, the society that draws the cracks in sidewalks is revealed, and the lampshade-licking business is detailed. Like Colors, the previous album Nordine had recorded, none of the tracks here are too long -- all of them are under two minutes -- so while it never quite goes into the kind of depth Nordine is capable of in his own extended pieces, by the time you get tired of one of the motifs, he's already moved on to the next bit. (The one annoying bit is that because the pieces are so short, each is separated by the sound of various bells; it can get a bit annoying but it does have the side effect of making the beginning of each piece sound like a customer entering a store, with each piece a new transaction.) The musical backing here is varied, with a bit of rock and some sound effects, but many of the pieces have a jazzy style that Nordine fans will find comfortably familiar.

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