Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Jim O'Rourke's Simple Songs LP/CD on the Drag City label has somehow turned into one of my favourite recordings of 2015. I have never claimed fandom for the O'Rourke cause, but then again, nor have I dragged his name through the mud. I have admired his work from afar, yet never taken his music close to my heart. His series of solo albums he released on Drag City many moons ago floated within my orbit at the time, and yes, I heard them all a number of times. The memories are pleasant, but they remain memories. I procured myself a promotional copy of this LP mid-year when I was in a deep funk - as indeed I had been in a deep funk all year. And that's not the kind of funk you can dance to. The worst of it is over now, but as it can be on such occasions: music was a great friend and provided some solace. This album hit me hard at the right time. Recorded in Japan with local musicians - the land where O'Rourke resides - it has a beautiful sense of isolation and despair. It's a lonely middle-aged man's recording, by and for. I like to refer to it as egghead yacht-rock. Musically it's very much in a '70s singer-songwriter vein: some Randy Newman, a dab of Jackson Browne, some of his beloved Van Dyke Parks in the strings and orchestration, Spector-period Dion, the musicianly dynamics of primo Steely Dan, and you could possibly throw in a dozen or so obscure/underloved/failures from the period whom O'Rourke rates highly but just have me scratching my head (I read a recent O'Rourke piece where he was spruiking the works of Rupert Holmes...). Simple Songs only has 8 songs, but they flesh out to make a wondrous whole. For a 'musical journeyman' (sorry...) w/ many a notch in his belt, it strikes me as a statement. It won't set the world on fire nor get the kids dancing, but for me right now it feels right.

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