Album Review

Don Dixon - The Invisible Man

Don Dixon - The Invisible Man

Don Dixon has never seemed like the high-concept type. Yet here he is on his first album in five years, tackling a thematic song-cycle about (in his own words) "mortality and redemption." Dixon turns 50 next December, a milestone that apparently has him pondering the void. The Invisible Man traces the phases and stages of life from adolescence to obsolescence, sung by characters about whom Dixon cagily says, "I am none of them and all of them." He even goes so far as to assign a specific age to all 11 songs here, from 18 to 85. Subjects include the peculiar sense of freedom brought on by middle age, when one becomes "Invisible & Free"; teenage suicide ("Decline & Fall", which closes with its 18-year-old narrator chanting, "Go on and die"); wishing for the end to come ("All I Wanted", sung by the 85-year-old character); and the self-explanatory "Why Do Children Have To Die?" Thanks to its conceptual framework, The Invisible Man hangs together from start to finish as a cohesive album rather than a collection of individual songs. And what really makes it work is that, in seeming defiance of mortality, Dixon has not lost a step. The years have been kind to his soulful rasp, as well as his studio prowess. Dixon played most everything on the album, with cameo contributions from the usual suspects -- spouse Marti Jones, his old R.E.M. co-producer Mitch Easter, percussionist Jim Brock. Most of the tunes fall within Dixon's usual lexicon of Nuggets-era garage pop-soul, right down to his umpteenth variation of the "Needles And Pins" riff on "Do So Well". But The Invisible Man also has some oddball touches, especially the chamber classical arrangement on "High Night For The Tide" and the Native American vibe of "Why Do Children Have to Die?" Recommended for fans of Randy Newman's crankier side, or Loudon Wainwright III's middle-age melodramas.