Back when I was 19 years old, at the peak of my naive pursuit into a career in poetry, I discovered the works of Rod McKuen. I would spend several hours each week in my college library, searching for verse that spoke to me in the same way I wanted my verse to speak to others. McKuen’s words were so relatable — after seeing my fiancé off to South Korea for a year, I found understanding in his poems. “If you go away on this summer day, then you might as well take the sun away.” During some of the darkest days of my life, it was in the worn pages of those library books where I found the light to keep me going. Discovering that McKuen had translated his poetry into music helped it glow even brighter, and I basked in it.
The sad news heard across the world recently is that Ween has come to an end. Honestly, no great loss to me because I didn’t really listen to them much. They did some interesting, admirable stuff, but it never really stuck with me. However, I do have friends who feel the loss and I am here to pat them on the back and say, “There there, there there.” Because YOU GUYS, Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman has done something right now that I completely love and you might love, too!
Admittedly, though McKuen’s music was lovely and affecting, his voice was neither of those things. Combine the simple beauty of McKuen’s songs and lyrics with Freeman’s smooth, mellow vocals and you’ve got yourself a recipe for some seriously sweet tunes. Marvelous Clouds is a near-perfect collection of McKuen’s works, under Freeman’s interpretation. It’s definitely a departure from the material he’s done with Ween, but for die-hard fans of Freeman and/or McKuen, it’s worth checking out.
The album preserves the original sound of these songs, altering only tempo at times, or inserting new instrumental adornments. To be honest, Freeman makes them better. As far as I’m concerned, the greatest value McKuen brought to these pieces was his lyrics, as I knew him as a poet first, a songwriter second. Freeman clearly has a lot of affection for the music, as well, since he does very little to alter anything about it. The best thing he does is lend his magnificent voice, and give these wonderful songs a second life so that a new generation may have a chance to enjoy what McKuen gave the world decades ago.