Unlike Star Trek fans, Can enthusiasts never have to choose between the two key vocalists of the Can oeuvre. Partly this is because Damo Suzuki and Malcolm Mooney both found idiosyncratic ways in which to interact with the rest of the band. It is also because Can enthusiasts are not necessarily Star Trek fans.
Mooney’s sojourn with The Can initially manifests as one and a half albums. Further material is revealed on (Un)Limited Edition and then later we were treated to a full album of Mooney-era material with Delay 1968, the slightly unfortunate Rite Time in the late 80s; and the recent unearthing of The Lost Tapes reveals more of the Mooney legacy. In spite of his initially slender showing on an arguably embryonic version of Can, he has always been regarded with a great deal of affection by the audience. Not more, less or who-would-win-a-fight-between-Mooney-and-Suzuki, but as I have already said: Can enthusiasts are not necessarily Star Trek fans.On this Sound of White Columns 12″ we hear an older Mooney sounding very much as home at this Greenwich Village gallery space. It’s something of a warts and all recording. It’s not necessarily the best location to capture the piano sound, and we catch paper rustling and other tiny environmental noises, but let’s not quibble; this was never intended to pump out of club sound systems. The older Mooney shows a jazzier side, the side we know from “She Brings The Rain.”
“She Brings The Rain” is given a somewhat different treatment that on the original. A Rhodes piano paces out a rectangular meter. Occasionally Mooney’s voice threatens to strain into dischord. Not that this is necessarily an unusual character of his voice. It is a pleasant enough rendering and Alex Marcelo‘s electric piano provides an able counterpoint to the singer, but in the older man we wonder if Mooney is merely singing the words he wrote over forty years ago.
“Uniting Of The States” is a freer, more expansive scat meditation on liberty, slavery and The American Dream. Luis Tovar‘s percussion rattles and clatters around while Marcelo opens out from a stately chordal theme into increasingly labyrinthine stairways. We are reminded of Sheldon Ancel‘s contributions to Holger Czukay albums. It’s a jazz beatnik protest that the older Mooney wears well. The fauve painter and the beat poet in the centre of his own canvas.
The second side is given over to “Jo’s Tune.” Alex Marcelo’s rising arpeggio figures on the piano suggest a freeing from gravity, a theme that Mooney takes on as he sings that “We are drifting, no longer earthbound.” As his voice unfolds it is a mahogany tenor tone full of resonances. Luis Tovar’s cymbal splashes are sparing, initially more suggestive than rhythmic. As Mooney’s lament takes shape he ask us a characteristic question, “What is there to say while you’re away?” Something of the loneliness of “You Doo Rite.” The rhythm coalesces into a stride but without the vigour of the angry young man of his former incarnation. And why would we expect that anyway? He scats and plays cartwheels with the pianist and testifies.
This is Mooney’s blues. It suits him.