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Le Musee De L'Impressionnisme

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Album Review

Saying Robert Callender's reputation was obscure even in the world of psychedelic collectors was understating the case, but even so his first two albums and occasional singles had been circulating around well enough. Turns out that he had a third and final one that had only been released in the Netherlands in 1971, and as a prime example of how the vinyl album format became the repository of all sorts of insane ideas during that decade, Le Musee de l'Impressionisme not only takes the cake, but probably spikes it. Fallout's liner notes for the 2006 reissue (which has some inaccurate track divisions on the CD, it should be noted) use the words "grandiose folly" and there's not much more to immediately add to that — it's ridiculous, but in a compellingly bizarre way. When you hear Callender begin the album with "Nadars (The Baptism of Impressionism)" — a five-minute history lesson on the birth of the artistic school in question, with brassy backing singers, horns, and a general arrangement of post-Otis Redding Southern soul/funk of sorts as redone by '70s Elvis — then it's unclear whether the nearest point of comparison is Schoolhouse Rock or Monty Python. If it was just that, maybe the album would have recovered, but Callender — writing all the music as well as the words, producing everything, co-writing the arrangements — was out to live his dream. Dancing rapidly between fragmentary short pieces and "interludes" and a variety of French language performances, Callender creates something which feels, in retrospect, like a Euro-porn film scored by mid-period Stereolab jamming with Santana's rhythm section with a Quaalude-laden Tom Jones on vocals. There's all kinds of funky jamming and gasps and Sly Stone moves, even while Callender is painstakingly trying to sing the stories of Van Gogh, Gauguin and, to quote one memorable title, "Claude Monet (A Visionary of Time and Space and the Light)." It is, if nothing else, unique — but not worth hearing more than once.

Le Musee De L'Impressionnisme, Robert Callender
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