Thursday, April 30, 2015

Back in Larry Fallon's room

Awhile back, I likened Astral Weeks to a house: "You enter a room and stay there for a bit and explore how you like; you sit and stand, amble back and forth, touch the walls and furnishings, maybe stretch out on the hardwood floor. There are seven rooms in this house, each one occupied by one of the seven musicians who made significant contributions on Astral Weeks." I spent some time with the musicians residing in these rooms and then I stopped spending time with them. I got distracted; it happens quite frequently these days.

Well, it's time to reboot this little series. I will kick things off with Larry Fallon, who is not only the album's arranger and conductor, but is the musician behind the harpsichord on "Cyprus Avenue." (The quasi-call-and-response interplay between Van Morrison's wistful vocals and Fallon's elegiac melodies makes the top 10 list of my favorite things from Astral Weeks.)

Just like in previous entries, the goal is to acquaint myself with the work Fallon, Richard Davis, Connie Kay, Jay Berliner, etc., did prior to Astral Weeks as well as any material recorded around the time of the album's 1968 release. Fallon handled the arrangements on Jimmy Cliff's 1969 LP Wonderful World, Beautiful People, the first album (as far as I can tell) that he worked on following his tenure with Morrison.

On Wonderful World, Beautiful People, Fallon's tactics run contrary to what he did on Nico's landmark Chelsea Girl two years earlier. (Read it about it here.) On that album, he was all about balance: some light here to offset a shadow there. Cliff's upbeat reggae anthems are the work of a man who is comfortable in his own skin. Fallon's arrangements take this into consideration; they enhance and expand Cliff's self-assuredness and compassion, his missives of positivity. They deliver light to a room already bathed in light. Cliff's music brings a smile to your face; Fallon's arrangements ensure that smile reaches your eyes.

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