Ken Nordine- Colors

nordOne time, after getting down, down, down to ‘Funnel of Love’, I heard an unmistakable voice. “In the beginning” it starts. “Oh, long before that.”

And I’m sold.

Ken Nordine’s imposing timbre fills the room.

“As an intellectual vibration – smack dab in the middle of spectrum – green can be a problem”

His rich voice played like Bud Powell.  Each nuance carefully considered, every breath in its place. Starting deep and heading deeper, deeper , deeper still; spewing post-modernisms like light refracting from a prism.

“There’s the green that should have never happened: stupid green”

Recorded in 1966 after an unexpected series of hip radio ads for paint, Colors gets unfairly, and consistently, labeled as some of the hippest of bullshit; an obscure artifact from the era of spoken word.  Well liked, yet backhanded. Dangerous Minds, Allmusic, Wikipedia,  Etc. all seem to enforce this idea. That there is nothing obscure about this album seems to elude their consensus (It’s a Google search option). That whatever conception of hip they are using to define this album is over fifty years old does as well (the comparisons to Lenny Bruce, et al. rest solely on the fact that they are both speaking. In that way, my voice mails are like Lenny Bruce).

However, there is an incredible aspect of this record that seems all too primed for the Internet Generation. Maybe its it’s almost memetic (in both the Dawkins and Reddit sense) wit that fuels the album. Or the too-serious-for-seriousness of the master vocalist’s delivery. Or maybe it’s some further connection. Perhaps, 50+ years on, we still haven’t fully wrestled with the post-modern condition. It’s probably just because its full of Dr. Seuss-style  mind-ticklers and presents us with almost no conflicts.

“…If there’s an absolute Black (and there is) then it follows that there is an absolute Grey”

It’s just a great record. Nordine speaks with elegant, powerful, grace over incidental music – library music really – yet each bar greets each lyric warmly, and accents its meaning better than most Pop records. One listen allows the music to worm its way into your mind, like another, less pretentious, SMiLE.

Examining conceptual relations, word play, rhythm, and tone, nothing on Ken Nordine’s Colors is black and white. Except ‘Black’ and ‘White’.


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