Friday, December 31, 2010

Michael Nesmith - The Prison (Pacific Arts Corporation, 1974)

Here's something. Michael Nesmith, formerly known for songs like 'I'm a Believer' and 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' shows a bit of his dark, edgy side with this release, 'The Prison.' The music on the album is actually intended to be secondary--it was released as 'a book with a soundtrack,' meant to be played while reading the story. The book is written in both English and French, and tells of a prisoner who ultimately realizes that he is confined not by the physical prison walls, but by the prison of his OWN MIND. Here's a little sample of Michael's prose:

"Jason was transferred into the prison one day when it rained. Ponderous and moody, he was nonetheless possessed of a keen spirit and wit which made him likable to some. It wasn't long before Jason discovered the hole in the wall. He noticed it one afternoon when he strayed from the rest of the inmates and their eternal games. It seemed unguarded. Jason stood startled. That such a break in the otherwise secure prison should exist with so much apparent unconcern from anyone struck him as strange. He peered through the hole but could only see a few yards. His vision was obscured by a mist which hung patiently outside."

I'm no literary critic, but this sucks. It reads like it was written in French by a teenager and translated into English by his little brother. Or Mickey Dolenz.

The label is pretty cool-looking. That's a dove on there carrying an olive branch, I guess to represent Michael's Peaceful Music Company. The album cover is black and white, so the green of the branch is the only color on the record art. And please, look at the words printed over that dove! 'Life, the Unsuspecting Captive.' 'Elusive Ragings.' 'Waking Mystery.' Who knew this kind of profundity hid beneath that green beanie?

Aside from the fiction element, this record is pretty awesome. It's not really like anything else I've heard. It's spacey, repetitive country with electric piano and rare percussion--occasionally some bongos turn up. The music is pretty subdued throughout, so it's a good record to put on while you make breakfast, relax on a Sunday evening, or sit alone in the dark, stupefied, as you realize that you, too, are living in the prison of your OWN MIND.

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