Val Stöecklein – Grey Life

Compared to the similar “nakedly emotional (solo) recordings” by the emotionally tormented soulmates such as Skip Spence or Syd Barrett, I’m sure this one is much easier to swallow by an average listener. However, what I find this most comparable to, is The Beau Brummels’ equally moody psychedelicate Americana, heard on Triangle and Bradley’s Barn, with the arrangements and song structures themselves, being much more focused, and therefore intentional, than the ones on Oar, The Madcap Laughs or Barrett.

All of this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better or worse, it’s just that it IS a bit different, while still fitting the mutual somewhat quirky formula. Along with the above mentioned reference, as well as an occasional Dylan, another thing being present throughout most of the record, are the full blown orchestral arrangements, sometimes most appropriate, sometimes kind of depriving some of the songs’ initial stripped down intimacy, and sometimes even adding an almost Hollywood-like soundtrack-ish ambience.

Having gone through an emotional turmoil after his band The Blue Things’ failure to attract more than a local recognition, as well as a “traumatic romantic split”, Val wrote this bunch of songs as an attempt to channel all the grief and bitterness out of himself. After this (in 1968), as well as two more albums released during the following three years, got dismissed as well, what he did is give up the music industry, keeping mostly everything he had been doing ever since to himself, before he took his own life in 1993.

Considering all the above, while the life of Val Stöecklein does seem kind of grey, he sure was able to bring some more colourful shades into our ones.

[Released by Fall Out 2007]

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