Van Dyke Parks – Song Cycle (1968)

Posted by Beamer


Coming across a 100% album isn’t very easy to do. On first listen of Song Cycle, it’s pure perfection blinded me. There’s not a single note I would change or a track I’d skip. Solid gold.

Parks was only 23 when he was asked by Brian Wilson to work on the famed Smile album with him. He pumped out “Heroes and Villains”, “Surf’s Up” (one of the best songs ever written), and many others with Wilson. After leaving the project, he went to write his first solo project Song Cycle at age 25; one of the most expensive albums ever recorded.

Give it a listen, and go buy it. You can get some great 180g analog master pressings on eBay.

Van Dyke Parks – Palm Desert


Van Dyke Parks – All Golden


Van Dyke Parks – Public Domain


“I should think he’d fade away; the way that bohemians often bare the frigid air.”

14 Comments Leave A Comment


donato0 says:

July 11, 2010 at 10:52 am

I’ve heard the intro to All Golden sampled in a song but can’t name it. I now have to know.


NEOkeitaro says:

July 11, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Van Dyke Parks did the arrangements for Joanna Newson’s Ys, and therefore together they created what is to me one of the greatest album of, if not all time, the decade for sure. I’ve never been curious enough to check out his own work, though. Thanks for article, I have a feeling I’ll get his recordings soon ;)


Beamer says:

July 11, 2010 at 10:13 pm

@donato0 – I’d love to hear it!

@NEOkeitaro – You can really hear him shine through on her album – such a great combination. You’ll *thoroughly* enjoy the rest of Song Cycle – or your money back.


NEOkeitaro says:

July 11, 2010 at 10:45 pm

@Beamer – Definitely, and the mixing is spot on. Some parts never fail to make me shiver, even after dozens of listens… I’ll definitely check out his albums, thanks a lot :)


Dave says:

July 12, 2010 at 2:06 pm

the expression “this album changed my life” is highly overused, but this album changed my life. i own a nice minty original pressing of it on vinyl and will play it for my kids…whenever that happens.


ghostinthetoast says:

July 12, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Here’s hoping the rest are better than ‘Palm Desert’. File this under ‘gay showtunes’.


DominicU says:

July 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm

One of the most colorful records to emerge from 1968, hands-down. This record blew my mind when I first heard it. At the time, I’d only known his name for his enormous contribution to Brian Wilson’s ‘SMiLE’ sessions, and later learned that he was a master arranger, composer, and session musician (that’s him on Tim Buckley’s debut, and he’s behind the keys for ‘5D,’ the opener on the glorious ‘Fifth Dimension’ album from The Byrds). He was mighty particular about the sounds on this record, too. Powerfully diverse stuff; he commanded a boatload of session folks — check the names in the liner notes. I’d also recommend the ‘Look! Listen! Vibrate! Smile!’ book about the SMiLE album for a great collection of press clips and background on Parks’ early work. Solid post, man.


DominicU says:

July 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm

@donato0 I think a sample of that track ended up somewheres on Madlib’s Movie Scenes: Vol. 1-2, if I remember correctly.


donato0 says:

July 12, 2010 at 7:14 pm

DominicU, you are absolutely correct! It’s track 10, “Left On Silverlake (Ride). Thanks for the fine tuning, I knew I heard it. And once you said Madlib I knew it had to be him.


Sameet says:

July 16, 2010 at 9:02 pm

Ahhhhh BEAMER!!! This album…really? Shame on you.

(BTW, you dropped your pocket.)


Reverend Flash says:

July 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Perfect album? The whole reason I bought this album was because it was always at or near the top of ‘all-time worst albums’ lists. (I gotts admit that I kinda liked it though, but I AM weird like that.)