Review Allen Shadow
King Kong Serenade
Reprinted from:   Blue City Records
Chronogram By Liam Drauf

New York City native Allen Shadow traveled a long way to record "King Kong Serenade." Four years in the making, Serenade was recorded pre-9/11 in Nashville--where Shadow was employed as a commercial for most of the '90's--and is a musical portrait of Shadow's hometown (New York) that contains an auguring darkness of events to come.

The album's first track, "Downtown," is the discordant doppelganger to the tune Petula Clark made famous that seems quaintly naive now. Shadow's vision of New York is darker, grittier, and is played out in minor chords: "Platform cheek to cheek/the paper hides the morning geeks/signs read in shock speak/sunglassed to the knees/the drive for sex so sleek/it rushes 42nd Street." Shadow walks the same New York streets as Lou Reed before him, another bard of the underbelly of Gotham, creating verbal mosaics out of urban decay. (Shadow published two books of poetry in the 1980's.)

Shadow is joined on "Serenade" by some heavy-hitting music industry veterans: John Jackson (played with Bob Dylan and Lucinda Williams), drummer Paul Griffith (played with John Prine), and keyboard player Randy Leago (played with Janis Ian). Backup vocal work was handled by Etta Britt, who's vocal on "You, Coney Island" is eerily reminiscent of EmmyLou Harris' backing on "Desire" for Bob Dylan.

An off-beat opus, "King Kong Serenade" takes the rock album down the path of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Patti Smith, weaving stories over minimalist backing music at times propulsive, droning, and plaintive. Shadow has taken off toward the idiosyncratic edges, looking under the unfamiliar stones for a true rock story.

Allen Shadow will be appearing at The Uptown, 33 N. Front St. in Kingston for a CD release party on Saturday, October 12. For more information, call (845) 338-8440.


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