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CD/DVD Review: “Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year in the Day”

As you may already know, I lead another life as an entertainment writer for a variety of “grown-up” sites and publications (including our parent site, Popdose). In that life, I’ve devoted a lot of column inches to my hatred of prog bands and concept albums, and had a lot of fun at the expense of airy-voiced, caftan-wearing singers like Jon Anderson of Yes, whose fascination with fairies (sorry, faeries) and bluebirds and the like has given me endless cynical joy.

I’m saying this now because while watching Gustafer Yellowgold’s latest magnum opus, Year in the Day, I realized that the wide-eyed little alien from the sun has been peddling the kindie equivalent of prog, what with the concept albums and the fanciful creatures and all the mellow singing about living in harmony, man. And also that my love of all things Yellowgold makes me a dirty old hypocrite.

I admit this. I’m not proud. But in my defense, there aren’t any 10-minute keyboard solos on Gustafer Yellowgold’s records, offering a subtle sonic lesson that all prog bands could stand to learn. (I’m looking at you, Keith Emerson.) Anyway. We’re here to discuss A Year in the Day, which is here, and it is good.

If you’ve ever spent time with the Gustafer oeuvre, you know what to expect: Funny, sweetly melodic songs, driven by acoustic instruments and deceptively simple arrangements, all centering around the adventures of a yellow alien and his assortment of unusual friends. Like the rest, Year in the Day is a “musical moving book,” meaning that in addition to a CD of the songs, you also get a DVD that adds illustrations to the songs. They’re barely animated — “musical moving book” is a perfect description — but trust me, your kids aren’t going to complain. (And neither will you.)

This time around, as the box art tells us, “we find former Sun resident Gustafer Yellowgold enjoying his Minnesota woodland home and experiencing his own unique take on a year’s worth of Earth holidays, both classic and unusual.” (I’d make a Kwanzaa joke here, but I have class.) Like most things Yellowgold, the concept is fairly loose; you’ll be able to pinpoint certain seasonal themes in the track listing (“New Is the New Old,” “Fireworks!” “Pumpkin Pied”), but songs like “Pancake Smackdown” and “Eggs” could fit in on pretty much any Gustafer record.

Which is fine, really. Throughout his career as Gustafer Yellowgold, singer/songwriter Morgan Taylor (who I interviewed for Dadnabbit not long ago) has excelled at the artful blend of silly and sweet that so frequently evades kindie artists, and he pulls it off again here, using non-sequiturial turns of phrase to build a cuddly, homespun vibe that’s pretty much impossible to resist. There are reasons Gustafer is one of the genre’s biggest stars; they are very good reasons, and they are all on display in Year in the Day. Order it with confidence, and prepare to sing along.