Elliott Park — Just Be
Has it been too long since you poured over the pages of the Guinness Book of Records in search of a challenge that will sustain you through the summer until the list of who’s in which class is posted on the school’s office windows in late August? Has it been too long since you and your best friend tried to dig a hole partway to China in your back yard? If so, you have the kind of curious, keen mind that just might have lasted through the important years of growing up and would appreciate a little musical stimulation even as an always-serious-without-meaning-to-be grown-up.
“No life ain’t easy sometimes
You’re doing good, you’re doing fine
There’s a place that always is
Find the space to be a kid
Elliott Park’s new collection of songs—a smart and lively album titled Just Be—is packaged as an album for kids. Sure it is. In the same way that Peanuts is for kids, or Walt’s original vision of Disneyland, or, what the heck, throw in baseball too. If it’s a children’s album, then it’s the most inventive and relevant one since Peter, Paul & Mary’s Peter, Paul and Mommy in 1969. What makes Just Be so spectacular is that, as with the best product meant for kids, it doesn’t speak down to them in any way, and it is just as satisfying for a listener of any age. These are songs that will entertain and grow the imaginations of younger people, while reaching adults on entirely different levels. Provocative ideas distilled into jazzy, catchy, deceptively simple songs, these songs will make sense to your heart the instant they soothe your ears. Elliott Park has a gift: the ability to endow seemingly pedestrian subjects with intense emotional vibrations, without turning things overly sentimental.
The album is a musical Cracker Jack® box, full of classic tastes and nifty surprises. Be warned: the savory truisms that complement the silvery harmonies just might catch you by emotional surprise. One song in particular, Summer Tree, had me welling up with tears by the second verse. Of course, Elliott Park’s always agreeable piano-playing is so seductive that by the time he let’s a lyric float out, the listener is already readily vulnerable. This is not a man who is afraid of the power of a lilting waltz. As for the song Traitor Heart, it is one of the few songs that seems to have truly captured the inner conflicts faced by those serving a nation still fighting the longest war in its history… or anyone who is in a relationship, for that matter. Devastatingly powerful inquiry in the disguise of a simple ditty. Elliott Park’s delivery comes with the trusty voice of authenticity that sometimes only occurs when a songwriter is singing his own songs.
From the sympathetic voice of the songwriter comes a set of observant instructions for the modern day hero: any kid or adult who is connected—to the other humans, and animals and, yes, even objects, that decorate the scenery of their life. Clearly, Elliott Park has pulled off one of the great challenges established since the appearance of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan: he has protected the ability to see the world as only a kid can. Luckily for us, he has added a sophisticated sense of rhythm, composition, insight, and wit to create songs that are as instantly classic as the boy who wouldn’t grow up.
If you still are a kid inside, and I bet you are, you’ll want to listen to these songs over and over until you have them memorized. As with the best oft-repeated poems or verses, they will comfort and reassure, as you tend the great cosmic campfire called your life. I just have one request for Mr. Park: S’more, please.
To purchase this album, visit Elliott Park’s website (click here).