The term “Misfit Toys” has become shorthand for any group of ill-fitting or otherwise wrongheaded castoffs from the straight-ahead world. It can be shorthand for oddball collections of ideas and plans that have no hope of succeeding, no chance of surviving on their own. But it’s also a badge of honor. And it just might be the perfect name for percussionist Dan Moore’s latest project.
Moore’s last album for innova was Cabinet of Curiosities: The Graphic Scores of Robert Moran (innova 792)—an in-depth exploration of percussive improvisations drawn from Moran’s Fluxus-laden ruminations. So how to follow up what Arcane Candy called “an exercise in gorgeous understatement”? Why not a collection of 1970s pop classics and one-hit wonders re-imagined for vibes, oboe, banjo, clarinet and more? Now that the smoke has cleared and mid-life crises thoroughly enjoyed, it’s high time to revisit those adolescent years spent by the transistor radio, and give the dear musical icons a much-needed poke in the ribs.
Far from a lark, Moore’s Misfit Toys has been in the works for the last decade. It’s really a labor of love, born of a desire to revisit the halcyon days of Moore’s youth with the help of his two friends and musical partners-in-crime, composer and banjo player Paul Elwood and drummer Matt Wilson. The key to completing Moore’s offbeat vision for the album was experimental composer and post-klezmerical clarinettist Robert Paredes, who joined on in 2005 to add his wry musical touch.
Mining ‘70s AM radio for hits and B-sides from artists as diverse as Talking Heads, Stevie Wonder, Chicago, Todd Rundgren, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and others, Misfit Toys spins daringly deconstructed arrangements that perform a tightrope walk back and forth from virtuosic to campy. The result is a gleefully demented love letter to lost days, made all the more poignant by the passing of Robert Paredes shortly after his work on the project was completed.
With tongue and groove firmly in cheek, enjoy your visit to this particular island of Misfit Toys. No Charlie-in-the-Box or King Moonracer here: just leisure suits, smiley faces, and a pet rock or two. Be sure to bring your mood ring.