By Audra Tracy
You can’t go from writing songs like ‘Bananas & Blow’ to covering a celebrated American poet without turning a few heads. Aaron Freeman (aka Gene Ween) has done exactly that with his debut solo record, Marvelous Clouds (Partisan Records). For twelve tracks, Freeman forgoes his sordid alter ego and churns out some good clean fun.
Marvelous Clouds culls material from 20th century poet, Rod McKuen. While you might not recognize his name, he’s got songwriting credits on records from the likes of Johnny Cash, Madonna, and Frank Sinatra. An obvious stretch for the Ween front-man, but Freeman proves he’s pretty damn flexible with this foray.
Once you get used to the lack of profanities streaming from Freeman’s lips, you can really appreciate his exposed, unaltered, actual voice. ‘One by One’ sounds like a Paul Simon singalong, and, maybe its the piano underlay, but ‘Lonesome Cities’ has a lounge lizard feel a la the Phish classic ‘Lawn Boy’. He switches to a spoken-word style on ‘Pushing the Clouds’, a spiritual reflection that finds Freeman “looking for that thing that’s hardest to find: himself”.
Just as McKuen’s work was often scoffed for its silliness in the 60’s, Freeman faces similar criticism today, mainly due to his reputation with Ween. Both will probably continue to endure relentless scrutiny from those who just ‘don’t get it’, but lucky for us, we do.
© May 8th, 2012
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