April 02, 1984 12:00 PM

Van Dyke Parks

Over the last years Parks has worked—as composer, producer and backup musician—with the Beach Boys, Judy Collins, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, Harry Nilsson, Little Feat, Paul Revere and the Raiders and the Boston Shakespeare Company, among other American cultural institutions. His three previous solo albums, the last of which appeared in 1975, have received critical acclaim but ended up in the uncharted commercial wastelands. This one is the original score of a musical comedy—or what would have turned out to be a musical comedy if a book had ever been written for it and it had been produced. It is based on Joel Chandler Harris’ wise and funny Uncle Remus tales about Br’er Rabbit and his nemeses, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. The idea is marvelous, and Parks’ lyrics, written with Martin Fyodr Kibbee and Terry Gilkyson, are charming and jaunty. Allusions to Ray Charles songs, High Noon and Robert Frost’s poetry pop up. So does such gracefully turned, down-home language as “Off the wall wallflower/Now the dance has begun/It’s our shining hour ’til all our dancin’ is done,” in Hominy Grove. (Parks was born in Hattiesburg, Miss, in 1943.) It would be most unfortunate if someone didn’t figure out a way to fit a show around such enchanting music. Until then, anybody who listens to this album can have a terrific time creating and casting the play in his own mind. (Warner Bros.)

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