CD Dannyland [Danny Cohen] (CD 348296),
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Dannyland [Danny Cohen]
1. Devil and Danny Cohen, The
2. Realm of Fantasy
3. Motel Sex
4. Enlightened Despondency (E.D.)
5. Nio, El
6. Still Alive
7. Lucy Lucifer
10. Alamo Line
12. False Spring
13. Eye of the Beholder
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): 86711
Danny Cohen; Mike "Snake" Howe; Joe Hammonds; Ralph Carney; Dave Hurst
Personnel: Danny Cohen (vocals, guitar, organ, Mellotron, omnichord, drums); Jennifer West (vocals); John LaPado (guitar, lap steel guitar, harmonica); Ralph Carney (lap steel guitar, horns, keyboards, percussion); Dave Hurst (accordion, keyboards); Charles Mohnike (drums).
Authors: Kathleen Brennan; Tom Waits.
Arranger: Danny Cohen.
Dannyland is California musical savant Danny Cohen's first true album of nonarchival material and his third overall. Epitaph's subsidiary Anti once again shows its stripes and puts its money where its mouth is in signing Cohen to a record deal -- and giving him a decent budget to record with. Musically and creatively, Dannyland is a wonder. For all the ink and self-perpetuated myth (not a bad thing at all in rock & roll) of being an outsider artist, he's far from inaccessible and far more so than some of the folks he usually gets lumped in with, who shall remain nameless. Cohen understands pop music very well; and while his use of textures and dissonances can be attention-grabbing, it is never harsh. Its orchestral approach is almost Baroque. Cohen's melodies and harmonies are wondrously full of old R&B, bubblegum pop, lounge textures, noir-ish '50s TV theme jazz, and a loopy, lush psychedelia that Van Dyke Parks doesn't have the imagination to conceive, let alone articulate. His sense of humor is deadpan and downright funny, and his musical accompaniment is full of mysterious layers and exotic soundscapes. His band includes sax wizard Ralph Carney, bassists Snake Howe and Christine LaPado, lap steel and lead guitarist Jon LaPado, keyboardist Dave Hurst, and drummer Jimmy Fay, among others. Cohen plays everything from chime and mellotrons to organs, guitars, drums, and bass. In other words, whatever it takes.
Cohen's themes are, even in their darkest moments, saturated with tenderness and vulnerability. His anger and sense of wicked irony are turned inward much of the time and express the multi-dimensional nature of his musical personality such as on the opener -- and only jarring tune on the set -- "The Devil and Daniel Cohen." Here, keyboards, horns, and lap steel create a swirling momentum around the singer, who goes from low to lower in range, and offers a narrative worthy of Jack Kerouac's Doctor Sax. But on "Realm of Fantasy," with vocal help from Jennifer West, the true dreaminess of Cohen's music comes home to roost. Airy and nocturnal keyboards and chimes waft in the background, West's voice intones in its alto as if from a dream, and Cohen joins her in a wistful prayer of impossibility. The gritty, souled-out pop of "Motel Sex" tells a hard-luck tale with a blank acceptance of circumstance and still drenches it in beauty. "El Nio" offers a tale of the storm's aftermath from the point of view of the San Francisco city streets, news headlines, pop culture, and busted lives, all entwined by its havoc with droning, sawing violins that lilt and shimmer the melody through its winding narrative. But on "Still Alive," Cohen's heart opens entirely in a gorgeously moving and poetic tribute to the memory of John Lennon and other heroes with a piano that echoes "Imagine," and a melody that is both elegiac and seductive. The album closes with the avant-carnival roil of "Eye of the Beholder," a ride through the dark underbelly of Cohen's "favorite twilight zone." His view of the world is harrowing, but recognizable and funny, and in its own way stunningly beautiful. Dannyland exists in a time-honored tradition, perhaps, but marks its own aesthetic, where the absurd, the ugly, and the embarrassing are celebrated as integral and honored parts of the human experience, and are juxtaposed not as nether sides but in concert with all that is pleasing to the senses, as well. And all of it is set to a soundtrack that is singular in its utterance and vision. ~ Thom Jurek
Uncut (p.91) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Cohen's arranging hand is steady and his ear finely tuned."
The Wire (p.49) - "His lyrics are extraordinary..."
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Anti (USA) 86711
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