I received a text message from Gene Ween. It said “Muddle up your mind”, which is a lyric from the song “A Man Alone” on his solo debut Marvelous Clouds, recently released on Partisan Records under his given name of Aaron Freeman. The text was a response to a message I had sent him a few days earlier with the word “Marvelous” – my one word review of the album. I’d like to think I’m special but it’s probably the same reply he sends to everyone. You see, Gene, I mean Aaron, has posted his cell number online (609-542-0751) and is encouraging fans to send him their feedback. Text him yourself after listening!
To elaborate on that one-word review: Marvelous Clouds is a brilliant collection of Rod McKuen covers; a reclusive poet/composer known for his work in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It seems that recording these quirky McKuen numbers gave the now sober Freeman a low pressure forum to make his artistic departure from Ween, a band that, for the last 25+ years, he has co-fronted with guitarist Mickey Melchiondo (“Dean Ween”).
Ween has been responsible for some fairly substantial albums over the last two decades, most notably the desert-island worthy The Mollusk, along with White Pepper and Quebec. The absence of Melchiondo on Marvelous Clouds does take away a bit of the edge found in Ween’s best work, but it also allows Freeman’s mastery of sentimental pop to take prominence. Here he plays it very straight – avoiding the funny voices and tongue in cheek novelty that would have been easy to fall back on – staying true to each song’s original intent. It's an excellent start, although with Ween’s future currently on hold, I can't help but hope that a solo album of original Aaron Freeman material will be soon to follow.
At last check, Marvelous Clouds was still streaming here.
Aaron Freeman was recently interviewed on WNYC’s Soundcheck. Listen here.
And here’s an interesting Slate interview with Mr. Freeman.