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Paul Mark & The Van Dorens release “Gravity” (LP)

With an instantly recognizable, gravelly voice, Paul Mark & The Van Dorens, don’t rely on vocals alone to embark the listener on a bar parlor extravaganza in the 12-track Gravity (Radiation Records). Firmly planted in the piano instrumentation with a bouquet of righteous lyrics and even some rock and roll, Gravity divvy ups the epitome of cool.


Their 11th studio album overall, Mark leads a band of rotating musicians. Among the band’s abundant album collection are Stowaways  and Smartest Man in the Room. Gravity is the third release in 2020 alone. Performing on the strings are Christian Howes, Eli Bishop and Greg Byer. on background vocals are Tess Primack and Connie Laws. A man of many talents, including a voice that could stop a moving train, Mark’s lyrics and tall tales are simply par for the course in his career. He also performs all the vocals, piano, bass, guitar, organ, xylophone, drums and accordion.

The first half of Gravity is full to the brim with flavor and characters. In “Gravity Is Falling”, Mark captains the listener down a river walk full of piano beds and his cinnamon-soaked voice telling of the plunders of the current state-of-affairs. It’s a fact, gravity is failing, look about…you can’t miss the signs, observe how the fallen now rise with ease! And how ladders are so much easier to climb, everybody, Mark boldly sings. The absurdity of it all is just magnified in his vocals, along with the subtle percussion and rhythm. The listener is a bit gangly, loosely-goosey and it’s a fun jaunt along that Riverwalk.

“Forever”, “I Spin When You Grin” and “The Next Fight” are all great set-ups for the regal “Coronation”. Each has spright and levity – Mark’s piano playing is head and shoulders above all other musicians and artists. He’s quite the piano man. “Coronation” is an instrumental track and unexpectedly delivers a bit of an intermission, even though it’s just the fifth track.


“Con May VIP” adds more salt to the Trump wound. With lyrics like blustering down the boulevard in a fact-free cloud and my kids say they all love me but they lie worse than me, it’s no secret that Mark is happily sharing his political opinions from the piano rooftop. What a colorful song and it sounds like he could be singing it from the piano bar down the street. He really drives home the (again) absurdity of it all and the song is really that good.

In “Friend Gone Astray”, “You Can Take It With You”, “OTB and “Heart Full of Soul” he stretches out the piano and starts to rock things out. In “Heart Full of Soul” the mood is a bit more pulp western paperback. Finally, “Waiting Round For You” and the twist on the holiday season “December at the P.O.” solidifies Mark’s songwriting master series. He’s truly a songwriter with a knack for making even the often overlooked people get the spotlight. Much like The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, “December at the P.O.” is hauntingly beautiful.

Mindy McCall



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