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16.4.09

Dave Van Ronk




Dave Van Ronk - Going Back to Brooklyn - 1985 - Reckless

Mojo (Publisher) (p.132) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Sometimes tender, sometimes bawdy, frequently hilarious but always honest, Van Ronk was the very embodiment of the best in American folk."

The late Dave Van Ronk is not a household name to many folk or blues devotees, but from the late fifties through the early seventies, he was a major influence on many great musicians/singer songwriters including Dylan, and Joni Mitchell. If Dave was alive today, he would be marking 50 years of his recording career. Dave was not a prolific songwriter. Of his 30 plus albums, "Going Back to Brooklyn", was the only one devoted exclusively to his original songs. While he may not have written much, the songs here are a testament to Dave's great talents as a guitarist and songwriter. He was not primarily noted as a blues artist, and during the early sixties' folk revival period in areas like NYC's Greenwich Village, he would have been associated more with American and European folk balladic music. Joni Mitchell has said that his cover of her "Both Sides Now" was the finest version ever. During his long career, he was eclectic in the music he played. Jazz, swing, country, and ragtime tunes were always part of his musical repertoire. He was very strongly involved with radical left-wing political causes, and some of the songs on " Going Back to Brooklyn" reflect some of his political ideals. Listen to "Luang Prabang", which he sings in an English medieval type balladic style. Serious songs, yes, but also well written and enjoyable tunes, and not all without humour. Listen to the humorous and bawdy lyrics of "The Whores Of San Pedro". Try and find his 1988 "Hesitation Blues", and his 1982 "Your Basic Dave Van Ronk" albums.

TRACKS

01. Losers
02. Blood Red Moon
03. Honey Hair
04. Head Inspector
05. Luang Prabang
06. Antelope Rag
07. Tantric Mantra
08. Gaslight Rag
09. Last Call
10. Garden State Stomp
11. Zen Koans Gonna Rise Again
12. The Whores Of San Pedro
13. Left Bank Blues
14. Another Time And Place

All songs composed and played by Dave Van Ronk

REVIEWS

With his first recording for Folkways in 1959, Dave Van Ronk entered into the American folk lexicon like a kind old grizzly. His influence was massive. Everyone, from Dylan on down, recognizes him as an influence. His passion and knowledge were boundless. His interpretations of country blues, blues, and jazz literally reconfigured the whole folk boom of the early 60's. Artists today may only recognize the people he mentored, but the roots, as they always do, trace back. Believe it or not, this reissue of a limited 1991 release is the only recording Dave Van Ronk made consisting entirely of originals. And original they are. Would anyone else have the balls to record the anti-war Luang Prabang ('I came back from Luang Prabang / with nothing where the balls used to hang … now I'm a f***ing hero')? I doubt it. With that booming, gnarled gargle of a voice, Van Ronk serves up Last Call (a sad and humorous look at drunkenness written after a drunken all-nighter with Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell). Garden State Rag takes a good many of those improbable Jersey town names (Cheesequake, anyone?) and makes a song out of them. Gaslight Rag is a tribute to you-know where. All hail the musical mayor of MacDougal Street! © Mike Jurkovic, [A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange] , ©
2006, Peterborough Folk Music Society, www.acousticmusic.com/fame/p03875.htm

"The role of singer/songwriter has never much appealed to me," writes Dave Van Ronk in the liner notes to this album, and it may seem like an odd remark for a performer who had a lot to do with promoting the careers of such singer/songwriters as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. But what Van Ronk means is that he has never been much interested in taking on the role of singer/songwriter for himself. Although he is usually mentioned in sentences that include the names of Dylan, Mitchell, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, and other Greenwich Village folksingers of the 1960s, Van Ronk is primarily an interpretive singer with a repertoire of traditional folk-blues songs along with covers of the songs of his peers. Still, he has penned the odd song on occasion, and Going Back to Brooklyn is the first album he's made that is devoted entirely to his own compositions. (As it turned out, he would never make another one.) As might be expected, he did not sit down and pen a whole new batch of material; many of these songs are ones he wrote years and even decades previously, and some of them he has recorded before. (For example, "Zen Koans Gonna Rise Again" first appeared on No Dirty Names in 1966, and "Last Call" was on Songs for Aging Children in 1973.) And in several cases, these are not so much full-fledged songs as little novelty ditties (the a cappella "Tantric Mantra" and "The Whores of San Pedro" clock in at little over half a minute each, and the similarly unaccompanied antiwar harangue "Luang Prabang" runs 1:36) or guitar instrumentals ("Antelope Rag," "Left Bank Blues"). These are the kinds of pieces an itinerant musician might come up with while waiting for a gig to start, and Van Ronk indicates that that's just what happened in some cases. Even when he writes a well-developed original, he basically adapts one of his favorite folk-blues fingerpicking patterns to accompany a lyric idea, the most outlandish of which must be "Garden State Stomp," which is nothing more or less than a recitation of unusual town names in New Jersey. To the extent that his original lyrics are personally revealing, they speak of drinking and folksinging, sometimes in a touching way, notably "Gaslight Rag," a tribute to a Greenwich Village bar and its folksinging patrons, and "Last Call." Van Ronk uses his raspy, expressive voice, which contrasts with the sweetness of his guitar playing, to get across harsh, bitter feelings in such songs as the self-lacerating "Losers" and "Luang Prabang," but only at the end, in the heartbreaking "Another Time and Place," to expose love and regret. Going Back to Brooklyn is unique among Dave Van Ronk albums for the portrait it provides of the artist, even if on the surface it sounds like many of this other records. © William Ruhlmann, allmusic.com

When Dave Van Ronk defined urban folk music in the late-'50s/early-'60s, songwriting wasn't much of an option; one sang the folk and blues standards of the time and tried to invest them with some originality. It wasn't until people like Bob Dylan and Eric Andersen came along that original material found its way into the folk boom. Thus, others wrote the majority of material in Van Ronk's esteemed catalogue. On this 1991 recording, though, he looks back at his small-but-powerful cache of original songs written over the course of his long career. Though some of the songs were written many years earlier, the older Van Ronk invests them with an added level of emotion and subtlety. From the humorous existentialism of "Losers" to the ominous, surreal blues "Head Inspector," Van Ronk proves as talented at composition as he is at performance--no small task. © 1996 - 2009 CD Universe

ABOUT DAVE VAN RONK

Guitarist, singer, songwriter and native New Yorker Dave Van Ronk has inspired, aided and promoted the careers of numerous singer/songwriters who came up in the blues tradition. Most notable of the many musicians he's helped over the years is Bob Dylan, whom Van Ronk got to know shortly after Dylan moved to New York in 1961 to pursue a life as a folk/blues singer. Van Ronk's recorded output over the years is healthy, but he's never been as prolific a songwriter as some of his friends from that era, like Dylan or Tom Paxton. Instead, the genius of what Van Ronk does lies in his flawless execution and rearranging of classic acoustic blues tunes. Born June 30, 1936, in Brooklyn and raised there, Van Ronk never completed high school, and left home for Greenwich Village, a few miles away, in stages as a late teenager. Van Ronk's recording career began in 1959 with Ballads, Blues and a Spiritual on the Moses Asch's Folkways label. He took his inspiration from Odetta, who encouraged the then-merchant seaman to play the classic jazz music that he was so keenly interested in. Van Ronk, an expert finger picker, was influenced as a vocalist by Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong. Although he had a short-lived folk rock band called the Hudson Dusters in the mid-'60s, the bulk of Van Ronk's recordings are solo acoustic affairs. His 1967 album for Verve Forecast, Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters, is worthy of reissue on compact disc for it's sound qualities and for the statements it makes about American society in the 1960s. Often regarded as the grand uncle of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene, the self-effacing Van Ronk, an engaging intellectual and voracious reader, would be the first to tell you that there were others, like blues and folk singer Odetta, who were around Greenwich Village before him. As the blues and folk boom bloomed into the 1960s, Van Ronk became part of an inner circle of musicians who then lived in Greenwich Village, including then up and coming performers like Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and Joni Mitchell. Van Ronk's reputation wasn't solid, however, until he began recording for the Prestige label in the first half of the 1960s. These recordings allowed him to tour throughout the U.S. and perform at major folk festivals like Newport. Different recordings of Van Ronk's serve different purposes: to check out Van Ronk the songwriter, pick up Going Back to Brooklyn (Gazell Productions, 1985), which was his first all-original album, containing only his own songs; for students of Van Ronk's complex guitar technique, pick up Dave Van Ronk, a compact disc reissue of two earlier Prestige albums, Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger and Inside Dave Van Ronk. Another compilation, The Folkways Years, 1959-1961, is available from Smithsonian/Folkways in Washington, D.C. Van Ronk continued to record throughout the '90s and beyond,with theAlcazar Records label releasing From...Another Time and Place in 1995 and Justin Time issuing Sweet and Lowdown in 2001. He died, unexpectedly, while undergoing post-operative treatment for colon cancer on February 10, 2002. A CD of his last concert, from October 2001 in Takoma Park, Maryland, was released by Smithsonian Folkways in 2004 as ...And the Tin Pan Bended and the Story Ended. © Richard Skelly, All Music Guide



BIO (Wikipedia)

Dave Van Ronk (June 30, 1936 – February 10, 2002) was a folk singer born in Brooklyn, New York, who settled in Greenwich Village, New York City, and was nicknamed the "Mayor of MacDougal Street." He was best known as an important figure in New York City during the acoustic folk revival of the 1960s, but his work ranged from old English ballads to Bertolt Brecht, rock, New Orleans jazz, and swing. He is often associated with blues but he pointed out at concerts that he actually had only a limited number in his repertoire. He became known for performing instrumental ragtime guitar music, and he was an early friend and supporter of Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs and Joni Mitchell, among many others. Van Ronk died of cardio-pulmonary failure while undergoing post-operative treatment for colon cancer in a New York hospital. Van Ronk moved from Brooklyn to Queens in 1951 and began attending Holy Child Catholic High School (Queens, New York). He had been performing in a barbershop quartet since 1949, but left before finishing high school, and spent the next few years bumming around lower Manhattan, except for shipping out twice with the Merchant Marine. His first professional gigs were with various traditional jazz bands around the New York area, of which he later observed: "We wanted to play traditional jazz in the worst way...and we did!" The jazz revival didn't take off though, and Van Ronk turned to performing blues music he'd stumbled across and enjoyed years earlier, by artists like Furry Lewis and Mississippi John Hurt. Van Ronk was not the first white musician to perform African-American blues, but became noted for his interpretation of it in its original context. By about 1958 he was firmly committed to the folk-blues style, accompanying himself with his own acoustic guitar. He performed blues, jazz and folk music, occasionally writing his own songs but generally arranging the work of earlier artists and his folk revival peers. He became noted both for his large physical stature and his expansive charisma, which belied an intellectual, cultured gentleman of many talents. Among his many interests: cooking, science fiction (he was active for some time in science fiction fandom [he referred to it as "mind rot" and contributed to fanzines), world history, and politics. During the 1960s he supported radical left-wing political causes and was a member of the Libertarian League and the Trotskyist American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI, later renamed the Workers League, predecessor to the Socialist Equality Party). Somewhat by accident, he took part in the famous Stonewall Riots during which he was arrested, abused and briefly jailed. In 1974 he appeared at a concert with his old friend Bob Dylan, to aid refugees from the military coup by Augusto Pinochet in Chile. In 2000 he performed at Blind Willie's in Atlanta, clothed in garish Hawaiian garb, speaking fondly of his impending return to Greenwich Village. He reminisced over tunes like Good Ol Wagon, a song teasing a washed-up lover, which he ruefully remarked had seemed humorous to him back in 1962. He was married to Terri Thal in the 1960s, lived for many years with Joanne Grace, then married Andrea Vuocolo, with whom he spent the rest of his life. He continued to perform for four decades and gave his last concert just a few months before his death. He found it amusing to be called "a legend in his own time." Van Ronk died before completing work on his memoirs, which were finished by his collaborator, Elijah Wald, and published in 2005 as The Mayor Of MacDougal Street. In 2004 a section of Sheridan Square, where Barrow Street meets Washington Place, was renamed Dave Van Ronk Street in his memory. Van Ronk has been described as an irreverent and incomparable guitar artist and interpreter of black blues and folk, with an uncannily precise ability at improvisation. Joni Mitchell often said that his rendition of her song Both Sides Now (which he called Clouds) was the finest ever. He is perhaps underestimated as a musician and blues guitarist. His guitar work is noteworthy for both syncopation and precision. In its simplest form, it shows similarities to Mississippi John Hurt's, but Van Ronk's main influence was the Reverend Gary Davis, who conceived the guitar as "a piano around his neck." Van Ronk took this pianistic approach, and added a harmonic sophistication adapted from the band voicings of Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington. He ranks high in bringing blues style to Greenwich Village during the 1960s, as well as introducing the folk world to the complex harmonies of Kurt Weill in his many Brecht-Weill interpretations, and being one of the very few hardcore traditional revivalists to move with the times, bringing old blues and ballads together with the new sounds of Dylan, Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. During this crucial period, he performed with the likes of Bob Dylan and spent many years teaching guitar in Greenwich Village, including to Christine Lavin, David Massengill, Terre Roche and Suzzy Roche. He influenced his protégé Danny Kalb and The Blues Project. The Japanese singer Masato Tomobe, American pop-folk singer Geoff Thais and the musician and writer Elijah Wald learned from him as well. Known for making interesting and memorable observations he once said "Painting is all about space, and music is all about time." Thanks to what he had learned from Davis, Van Ronk was among the first to adapt traditional jazz and ragtime to the solo acoustic guitar. His guitar arrangements of such ragtime hits as St. Louis Tickle, The Entertainer, The Pearls and Maple Leaf Rag continue to frustrate and challenge aspiring guitar players. He also did fine compositions of his own in the classic styles, such as Antelope Rag. Van Ronk refused for many years to fly and never learned to drive (he would use trains or buses or, when possible, recruit a girlfriend or young musician as his driver), and he declined to ever move from Greenwich Village for any extended period of time (having stayed in California for a short time in the 1960s. Van Ronk's trademark stoneware jug of Tullamore Dew was frequently seen on stage next to him in his early days. Robert Shelton described Van Ronk as, "the musical mayor of MacDougal Street, a tall, garrulous hairy man of three quarters, or, more accurately, three fifths Irish descent. Topped by light brownish hair and a leonine beard, which he smoothed down several times a minute, he resembled an unmade bed strewn with books, record jackets, pipes, empty whiskey bottles, lines from obscure poets, finger picks, and broken guitar strings. He was Bob's [Dylan] first New York guru. Van Ronk was a walking museum of the blues. Through an early interest in jazz, he had gravitated toward black music -- its jazz pole, its jug-band and ragtime center, its blues bedrock.....his manner was rough and testy, disguising a warm, sensitive core. Van Ronk retold the blues intimately....for a time, his most dedicated follower was Dylan."

4 comments:

Blake said...

thank you very much aoofc. it's been many years since i even thought about this music, how could i have done this? oh my. thanks again. b

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,Blake. I think people are starting to look back at some of the great artists of the past. Got no choice. There's very little music of real merit and originality being produced today. Thanks for comment, & ttu soon

maracana said...

I would be great if you could reup
thank you in advance

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,maracana. Unfortunately, I haven't got this album anymore to re-up. Apologies, but thanks for request. Maybe somebody reading this can help? Cheers...Paul