Robert Carlberg | Seattle | 04/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When Louis Hardin moved to Europe in 1974, he was received as visiting royalty -- unlike his home country who treated him as some sort of one-joke street-performer. For the next 25 years, until his passing in 1999, he produced an astonishing variety of music for organ, brass band, voice, piano, percussion, small chamber ensemble, and string quartet.
Disc one of this collection contains an anthology of his German recordings, and presents a clear advantage over the originals in that every track is on a different instrument. The listener never gets a chance to grow weary of any one style, allowing you instead to concentrate on the commonalities running through all of Hardin's music. As a sampler of the work done in his senior years (ages 61-83) it's a remarkable collection showing verve, inventiveness and playful iconoclasty.
Disc two presents his last concert, previously unreleased, from Arles France on August 1st 1999, just five weeks before his death. Pianist Dominique Ponty, who I believe is the daughter of famed violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, plays 34 of his pieces for piano or arranged for piano. Louis 'Moondog' Hardin himself accompanies her on tambour, a big skin drum, on several of the tunes, and recites six couplets in his rich ageless baritone.
Also included, a 44-page booklet of photos, notes, lyrics and critical comment. This is a first-class production for one of the last century's most enduring and original composers."
Moondog's last concert!
Patrik Lemberg | Tammisaari Finland | 10/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a professional production of an official double disc set that was released in 2004 (5 years after Hardin's death.) It looks good and has 44 enclosed pages of valuable information about Moondog, such as a detailed biography, discography, Moondog's own words about the recordings, personnel listings, lyrics, pictures and a poem that Leonard Bernstein wrote to and about Moondog.
Also seeing quotes of Benny Goodman and Frank Zappa praising Moondog's music is particularly exhilarating for a Zappa fan like myself (I had no idea.)
The first disc consists of already released material, most of which I already owned when I bought this set. This disappointed me a bit, as I'd expected additional versions of these titles provided on the back.
The set is called "The German Years," but includes 5 tracks that are taken from "Sax Pax for a Sax" - an album that was recorded in England and performed by English musicians, and consists mainly of material that was written while Moondog lived in New York. Other albums that songs have been taken from are "H'art Songs" (4 tracks,) "In Europe" (4 tracks,) "Elpmas" (4 tracks,) "A New Sound of an Old Instrument" (3 tracks,) "Big Band" (1 track) and "Bracelli" (1 track.)
The 56 minute long disc #2 is the essential music in this set as it consists of only previously unreleased material. It is Moondog's last concert, which was recorded in France on August 1st, 1999 (less than 6 weeks prior to his passing.)
The concert, which consisted of both rare and recent material, was performed on solo piano by Dominique Ponty. At times Moondog joins in on bass drum, and here and there he recites a few couplets - a nice treat. But as always, when it comes to live recordings of solo piano performances, we have to deal with intruding sounds; aside from applause we get a few hundred coughs, a squeaking door that repeatedly opens and closes, at one point the barking of a distant dog, at one point the sirens of an ambulance driving by the recording location, and believe it or not - audience members trying to clap along to one of the solo piano canons! ...but overall the sound quality is very good and clear.
I'd recommend "The German Years 1977-1999" to Moondog fans (who haven't heard his last concert,) but to people who aren't familiar with his work, this might not be the optimal place to start."
Missed opportunity (but still essential)
svf | 10/25/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Why are there so many tracks on disc 1 that are readily available on the Sax Pax for a Sax CD? It's too bad more of the impossible to find recordings from this period couldn't have been included instead.
Otherwise, it is great to finally hear some of this material and the disc 2 live concert is a treasure. All things considered, a bargain and a must for Moondog devotees.
Also note the packaging is very attractive -- but unfortunately on my copy, the binding/glue is already falling apart so the CD trays have seperated from the cover... sometimes plastic is a better way to go...