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Music Review - `The Gods and Ghosts of Bleecker Street` by Tom MacLear (lz)

Tom MacLear -- The Gods and Ghosts of Bleecker Street   (click on image to watch video)

 26 Sept 2020



Even with all he’s accomplished up until this point in his prolific career — one that’s found him exercising his skills as a singer, songwriter, musician, author, producer, poet, and filmmaker — Tom MacLear has taken a turn that might prove somewhat daunting. A spoken word narrative about past times spent in the shadowy haunts of Greenwich Village, The Gods and Ghosts of Bleecker Street finds MacLear sharing his stories knowingly and assuredly over a series of quiet, unobtrusive freeform interludes, while creating a nocturnal setting for both magic and mystique in the process. Moreover, MacLear stays true to the album’s title, conjuring up the spirit of Kerouac,  Steinbeck, Hemingway, William Burroughs, the Beat Poets, and others that go unnamed who once called New York City home throughout the cultural upheaval of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. 

Although only the sweeping title track comes across as an actual fleshed-out song, the other offerings succeed in conveying the aura of a time long past, but still a part of that fabled Environ’s legacy and legend. “1955 (The Cold War Hemingway)” offers individual insights courtesy of McLear’s recollection of how he became engrossed in those transformational times.
It was, he declares, “A place all its own, where the eccentricities made sense, or at least I made sense…” and indeed, his vivid description of an era flush with romance, revelation and new-found awareness effectively transports the listener back to those hallowed environs where Dylan, Ginsberg, Dave Von Ronk, and the prophet and seers that held court on street corners, dimly lit nightclubs and fanciful coffee house plied their craft for anyone who cared to hear.

Although the album is remarkably brief — some of the tracks clock in at less than a minute — the aura and the ambiance are illuminated with drama, description and detail. Its brevity aside, MacLear opts for nuance over nostalgia, while still leaving the listener pining for the past and the way things once were when change was in the air and no one knew what would lay ahead. Thanks to MacLean, its Gods and Ghosts are still very real.

 Lee Zimmerman


Lee Zimmerman

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