aus / from: Crescendo and Jazz Music 29 Issue 1 (1992) p. 22

Rattenbury, Ken: Album review: 'More Moondog' and 'The Story of Moondog'

CD: Prestige CDJZD 006

Thirty tracks (some simply brief fragments), all somewhat obliquely titled.

Moondog was an eccentric, in appearance closely modelled on the style of Rasputin, a character who was wont to perform, for his bread-and-butter, as a musician in the streets of New York. This CD, which brings together the contents of two LPs recorded and issued during 1956/7, offers a confusing mish-mash of odds and ends of percussion, monologues, dialogues, street sounds, tap-dancing, just a smidgeon of conventional jazz-horn playing, a spot of organ, dogbarks, hand-drumming; so, you dream up anything a mite off-beat and you'll surely meet it here. Moondog plays almost everything; talks quite a lot too.

Now, I don't want to completely and dismissively brush off this collection as being more of novelty than musical value: there are acres of polyrhythmic drumming in all sorts of time signatures - 5/3, 7/4, 5/4, 5/8. all perfectly executed. There is one item, 'Up Broadway' which does feature a normal sax section against Moondog's obsessively driving drum continuo; another which employs French horn and a reed pipe against much the same sort of rhythmic support; then some introspective piano, and a trace of neatly contrapuntal meandering on organ, in 'Organ Sound'. But after those excursions, the tenuous connection with convention fairly fractures, Moondog has invented at least four of the instruments featured: the 'Oo', a triangular stringed instrument struck with a clave; the 'trimba', a triangular drum; the 'Yukh', a suspended log hit with rubber mallets, and the 'Tuji', a series of mounted sticks of graduated lenghts.

Therefore, all percussion-slanted, and, overall, there is a distinctly Middle-Eastern/Oriental flavour to many of the items. Incidentally, many of these are of quite risible brevity, lasting just a few seconds only. So you see, there is little opportunity to really settle into this sort of non-development. The best track, to my mind, is 'Monologue', a lenghty, discursive slab of philosophising by Moondog which I found quite moving in its depth of thought and sincerity of delivery. Just let me quote from the liner notes: 'It is thus as a fusionist that Moondog often achieves his most rewarding results. He is not restricted solely to the matching of disorganised sounds (he does, for example, essay a 'duet' with the Queen Elizabeth's siren, in nearby New York harbour!) and the organised sounds of music. 'Moondog', way back then, had achieved some cult acceptance. But frankly, I'm baffled, smockraffled, uncharacteristically gobsmacked by it all. I pass.