Listen Up: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Marley’s Ghost

Spooked (Sage Arts Records)

By Tom Geddie

When Marley’s Ghost sings about that old-time religion, they really mean it. The traditional-sounding Spooked, the quartet’s eighth album in 20 years and the first to be released nationally, is filled with traditional and traditional-sounding folk — it ranges as far back as the Civil War to as recent as Bob Dylan’s “The Wicked Messenger” and includes a couple of the group’s own songs.

With four-part harmonies, guitars, banjo, mandolin, and more, and with the help of a few friends in the studio, including old-timers Ed Littlefield Jr., Mike Phelan, Dan Wheetman, and Jon Wilcox, Marley’s Ghost strolls through the mid-19th century, the old American West, ancient shores, and newly imagined lands. When the singers deliver the familiar opening lines of one song — “Give me that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me” — soon the names “Zarathustra” and “Aphrodite” are evoked and the promise that “she’s naughty and she’s flighty / And she doesn’t wear a nighty / And that’s good enough for me.”

There is some levity, as on “Last Words,” when a man on his death bed has to put up with his friends and family asking for his stuff. But most of the time, Marley’s Ghost plays it straight and well.

The c.d., its cover replete with images by legendary comic book artist R. Crumb, was produced by Van Dyke Parks. A former child actor, Parks has written three children’s books, released seven albums of his own, and produced the first albums of Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, and Rufus Wainwright, and the Grammy-winning album The Esso Trinidad Steelband. He’s scored a dozen or so movies and tv shows and has worked with a galaxy of musicians — Fiona Apple, The Buena Vista Social Club, The Byrds, Cher, Natalie Cole, Judy Collins, Sheryl Crow, Kinky Friedman, Eliza Gilkyson, the Grateful Dead, Keith Moon, Aaron Neville, Harry Nilsson, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and U2.

Parks said the purpose of Spooked was to revere “the form in this music and find its strength, and at the same time kind of skewer it.” He and Marley’s Ghost succeed at all of the above.


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