The Clang of the Yankee Reaper

The Clang of the Yankee Reaper

The 1970s found Van Dyke Parks pursuing his longtime interest in Caribbean musical styles. On Clang of the Yankee Reaper (1975), the singer/songwriter downplays his own composing talents in favor of boisterous (and often inventive) treatments of Trinidadian calypso tunes. He frames these tracks with the title song, a sea chantey-like original with lyrics commenting upon (in quirky Parksian fashion) American economic imperialism. From there, he and arranger Trevor Lawrence plunge into a festive island travelogue, powered by bubbling steel drums, flanged guitars and punchy horn lines. Amidst the frothy rhythms, there’s much lyric wit and wisdom to be heard in songs like “City On The Hill,” "Pass That Stage” and “Iron Man.” Stepping into the spotlight, Parks applies his small but elegant voice to an intimate rendition of “You’re A Real Sweetheart.” The album closes with a bold arrangement of Pachelbel’s “Canon In D,” transforming this beloved hymn into a brassy calypso-cum-marching-band number. As usual with a Parks album, Clang of the Yankee Reaper hides conceptual nuances beneath its shimmering surface. Dig for them if you care to — or just enjoy the bounce and whoosh of its music.

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