Van Christian has just released a new album called “Party of One”, that is bound to be an instant collector’s item, because it’s impossible to find! I’ve heard some tracks off of it, and it’s very good. The playing thoughout is excellent. Lots of variety. From trashy rockers, to restrained and understated cool jazz numbers, to Dylan-esque tough cowboy pieces. From grunge guitar to bass cello, to sweet and distant background vocals: it’s all here. It’s really a tour-de-force.
They players on this album are very good, in fact, in many places it sounds like smooth jazz. Huge jumps in dynamics, from loud to soft, all while showing incredible restraint. “Desperado” and “Mercy” are amazing works. Classical instruments (bass cello, violin, piano), shakers, the ting of a triangle, are in the same song as loud gnarly guitar. It’s really great! At one moment, you hearing crashing power chords, and the next, you’re hearing some smooth and steady atmospheric jazz.
“All Resolve” is an earnest and sad song about lost love. Primarily solo acoustic in its arrangement. Vocal stylings remind me of Bob Dylan and Howling Wolf. Haunting and beautiful background vocals reminiscient of Leonard Cohen’s stuff, with a simple tapping of a tambourine to keep the cadence, which has a feel of VU’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. Van wears his heart, and his musical influences, on his sleeve. Sounding like wounded animal, he sings “she gave me wings, but took took away the sky”, evoking some provocative surrealist imagery. For a sad song, it sounds surprisingly refreshing and liberating—like a new day.
“Built for Sin” is a great loud trashy glam-rock ball o’ fire, that sounds as if it’s played by a rock n’ roll dream group. Lots of classic rock influences ring out in this piece, that make it high energy and a lot of fun. In this song, I hear shades of Johnny Thunders (on the wailing guitar lead), Charlie Watts, and the Stooges. Plus, this songs has some great dynamics, where the band takes the volume way down so Van can whisper a few verses in your ear, and then come back like runaway horses dragging the stagecoach through a musical instrument shop (what would that sound like? Now you know!). Plus, Van rhymes “hemophiliac” with “burlap sack”, which I find very original.
The other songs remind a lot of various old Dylan albums. There’s a real countrified Dylanesque vibe that runs though a lot of these song (noticeably on, “Michelle”, which quotes a few bars of Dylan note for note). One of my favorite tunes in that vein is “If your gonna’ be dumb, you’d better be tough”.
This is a great album! A downright CLASSIC. Thank you, Van!