Paul Mark and the Van Dorens

Paul Mark and the Van Dorens
Trick Fiction

Radiation Records 5891

By T Charles
February 2007

Clever album titles seem to get rarer every year. Paul Mark gets points for this album title, and several others, such as “Disposable Soul” and “Metropolitan Swamp.

After hearing this album, the titles of his other albums make we want to pick them up. He reminds me of Frank Zappa and the clever titles he came up with for songs and albums. Mark (and Frank) doesn’t stop with the titles. The lyrics on this album are a strong point. Mark wrote all the songs on this one, except “Suspicion,” the Terry Stafford hit from the early 60s. It doesn’t add anything to the album, and probably shouldn’t be here.

The band starts off with a little humor on “Fritos, Barbecue & Scotch.” Almost any guy left on his own while the wife is away can relate to this one. Bachelors tune in. I love the line: “When my wife went home to her mother, boys, I turned it up a notch.” I can relate.

He keeps the humor going through most of the album. Not enough bands add humor. If we can find some humor in the blues, it will help us through it. Mark shows some tasty guitar licks, and Dan Schnapp adds just enough of the B3 organ to provide some of the mood.

“Big Glass Building” and “Never Again” get the feet movin’ and the head bobbin’. “Building” describes a shotgun as a way to “cure that coughin’,” as it comments on the tobacco industry and air pollution. Susan Marshall and Jackie Johnson add some soulful wails. Mark adds bluesy harmonica on “Building’, and Schnapp cuts loose with some honky-tonk piano on “Never Again”. The harmony provided by Marshall on this song is a plus, and adds to the variety on the album.

One of the best songs I ever heard about paranoia is “Conspiracy,” a slow blues, with more humor. This might be my favorite track on the album. He says, “I tried calling 911, but they’re in on it too.” Later, you find out that the mailman, the state, cops and others are also in on the conspiracy.

An eerie guitar gives flavor to “Fear of Grief,” another slow one. “Wholly Rollin” is another rockin’ blues cut that will get people up on the dance floor. Mark and the whole band rock on the instrumental “Stake out,” which has a nice groove.

“Times have changed” complains about aging: “The picture on the mantel, it don’t look like you no more.” This is a touching slow song where the band is trimmed down. With just piano and Mark’s voice, the song seems more convincing. I hear Springsteen and Waits as influences here.

The band closes the album with a slap at Pres. Bush when he says, “we got a schoolboy in the White House,” whom he describes as, “covering his ears and starting a war.” Here is one more reason to like these guys. I will be on the lookout for this band.

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