Monday, March 31, 2008

Ray's Vast Basement

OK. I know this sounds like an April Fool's joke mocking hyper-literate bands but Ray's Vast Basement really is a band from NoCal that released an entire album based upon the works of John Steinbeck. The project started when Jon Bernson of RVB was commissioned by the Actor's Theater in SF to compose music for the theater's performance of Of Mice and Men. Well, I guess Bernson just couldn't stop himself after that because he then went on to tackle Grapes of Wrath, Tortilla Flats, East of Eden and Cannery Row. What?!?! No love for Travels with Charley.

The band collected the pieces and released them last summer on their third album, Starvation Under Orange Trees. Some of the tracks suffer from the dreaded "sameness disease" that kills albums like dutch elm disease knocked off trees but when the band takes advantage of the fullness of their ensemble, they hit some high peaks. I'm not enough of a Steinbeck fan to speak to how well Bernson did in translating the books to song but I'm digging the album on a less literary level.

Ray's Vast Basement | California's Gone (Grapes of Wrath) | Buy

Ray's Vast Basement | Black Cotton (Of Mice & Men) | Buy

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