Monday, August 14, 2006

Chuck Perrin :44 of Love

“I think that there’s something about the character of California and the West Coast that has encouraged people with new and different ways of looking at stuff. Obviously, it’s not the only place where that kind of innovation takes place, but it does seem to be conducive to people who have a different way of looking at things."

Tony Asher (lyricist who collaborated with Brian Wilson on the 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds. Quotation taken from the book Smile: The Story of Brian Wilson’s Lost Masterpiece by Domenic Priore.)

In shadow of this, maintaining one’s original visions can be an ardent ordeal in an area where creativity, happenstance and improvisation seems frequently contrived, calibrated and tied to a cost. Fortunately, between and beyond the congested Southern California-land of unnecessary push and content providers, an untold number of iconoclastic artists continue to work along the peripheries to actualize their original conceptions in an authentic spirit and tradition of pioneering exploration. However endangered, these artists keep forging beyond the convenient paths of least resistance and make their own subterranean sidetracks. Throughout his lifelong involvement in music, Chuck Perrin has remained true to his muse and moods and come to exemplify a California dreamer who has been a continual source of providing something better. From his formative days in the Illinois heartland to now, Perrin has offered others welcoming physical spaces and ameliorating sounds where music can transcend the pettiness and weariness for all those who gravitate towards such natural notions.

These same enlightened concepts can be found in his latest words, sounds and vision on :44 of Love. However, the opening song “I Gotta Have You” seems a little too close to the overwrought dentist office soft rock of Don Henley, Mark Cohn and Bruce Hornsby & the Range for my tastes (which have been largely informed by Rod McKuen when it comes to a symbiosis of poetry and music). Also, the drum machine abates a level of warmness needed for a welcoming song. This adult contemporary album then gets on digital track with the low-key rendering of Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low” capped off by a tenor saxophone solo. His treatment of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” resonates with solid masculine tenderness, ascending vocals and a direct come-on not heard on the original. The song then stretches out on blankets of sound furnished by a slew of guest musicians with a Moog melding with a Hammond B-3 that provides the most abundance of warmth and comfort. These opening songs display both Perrin’s pronounced interests in soulful-R&B along with his exposure and openness to a wide assortment of sounds that come with him being a prime-mover behind the all-ages performance space of Dizzy’s in San Diego.

Next, Perrin translates a Jacques Prévert poem and transforms a serene still life into passionate fauvism in the song “Alicante.” The song is also a nod to his influential ramblings in 1966 France (while his bandmates/classmates in the Shaggs were shaking down the thunder at Notre Dame and laying down tracks in Chicago that would comprise the rarified and highly-sought garage/frat-rock/folk-rock long-player Wink). “Balance” is an appropriate title of a song that sooths with its pedal steel guitar stretching out over the shifting sands of the Mohave Desert, while the coinciding lyrics express the graceful sweep & beauty of a lover’s back. Through songs like this, Perrin emanates balance in a world that has seemingly long knocked itself out of balance (if a glance at the continual conflict and strife projected by the internet news is any kind of indication). His cosmopolitan leanings float to the surface on “A Letter Home” with its soft afternoon jazz-chorded bossa nova bounce awash in light and sunny resonance. Perrin still appreciates, expresses and reminds us presence of California’ s indigenous golden light and inextinguishable inspiration that still has the possibilities to surmount the real and imagined blockades of workaday life.

Perrin then proves more nimble than a 1978 Kurt Thomas and the album deftly pulls a maneuver from ‘70s soul-ish R&B to the ‘60s-based crystalline folk that seeks and sometimes finds the confluence between earthly matters and the celestial. In “Time Fades Away,” Perrin is able to convey a wide-eye wonder and awe that harkens back to the hallowed collaborative efforts (with his sister Mary) of yore (that have been recently restored and reissued by Rev-ola under the titles The Last Word and Life is a Stream). Also, in “Time Fades Away” Perrin sings with the authority of a man who has remained a steadfast romantic and artist in a world time that has seem to have figuratively turned over the message of Robert Indiana’s Love sculptures and have regulated reflection to Folgers Coffee commercials. (Incidentally, underneath this song’s delightful flute intro and fade, it sounds like someone tapping the fire-button of the classic video game Galaga to approximate the singing of early birds.)

When Perrin wanders back to his troubadour roots is when the musical alchemy takes place and time moves into timelessness and matter transcends to spirit. His inclinations towards the metaphysical, the transcendental and other destinations unknown surfaces in the concluding song “Minor Blue Surcease.” Here Perrin searches for the essences of life and sweeps through both inner-depths of consciousness and the outer reaches of thought like Mel Fisher once hunted for shipwrecked treasures. It also continues one of Perrin’s ongoing themes of the heightened awareness gained by leaving the familiar behind as a suspending pedal steel guitar vanishes out into the vast Pacific skies. When all is said and done, :44 of Love is Perrin’s latest foray in building artistic monuments that maps his continual unfolding explorations through the interior frontiers of the soul and the connected paths leading to new vistas of love.

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