In many ways, Dave Nachmanoff’s latest album, Spinoza’s Dream, isn’t really Spinoza’s at all. Or even Nachmanoff’s, particularly. It’s sort of every musician’s dream, at some point in his life: “Hey, what if we got the old band back together, just to see what it’d be like…”
In this case, it was the critically-acclaimed powerhouse that had backed Al Stewart on his breakthrough 1976 album, Year of the Cat. Nachmanoff wasn’t starting from ground zero, exactly, given that he’s been touring with Stewart for a decade and a half, but this particular band — those that had survived the intervening 40 years — spanned the globe from Southern California to the UK, so wrangling them into a studio for a project was going to be no simple task. As they say, you gotta go big or go home, so Nachmanoff went big and left home, armed with phone numbers, introductions, a few songs, and a dream. Destination: Wales.
In addition to musical legends Tim Renwick (occasional Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Eric Clapton co-conspirator, as well as a YOTC stalwart), smooth jazz superstar Peter White (a member of Al’s recording and touring bands for well over a decade), and Stewart himself, Nachmanoff also rounded up drummer Stuart Elliott, harmonica player Graham Smith, bassist Mark Griffiths, and vocalists Robin Lamble, Dave Ellis, and Boo Howard, all of whom (except the last) have either toured or recorded with Stewart. Bringing the sound all together was producer Martin Levan, who had helmed John Martyn’s Grace and Danger and Ralph McTell’s Water of Dreams, among other critical favorites.
Nachmanoff was uniquely positioned to bring this Dream to fruition; not only is he a professional musician of some consequence (SingOut! praised him for his “heartfelt, inspired songwriting . . . with a delivery both biting and assured”), but he also holds a Ph.D. In Philosophy from the University of California. Unlike the beery Monty Python observation that “David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel,” Nachmanoff’s insights are perceptive, targeted, and infused with both scholarship and humor. To wit, when confronted with Nietzsche’s concept of the Übermensch — not a taxi driver, incidentally — he responds thusly: “From the boardroom to the bedroom/He’s the master of the deal/With eyes as cool as ice and nerves of tempered steel/He’s got a taste for subterfuge, he’d make the perfect spy/Well, if that’s who you are looking for…/I’m just not that guy!”
Dave Nachmanoff might be selling himself a teeny bit short there, as he has shared the stage not only with Al Stewart, but also with Alison Krauss, Cheryl Wheeler, Steve Forbert, Firefall, John Wesley Harding, and many others, at venues ranging from The Bottom Line to the Glastonbury Festival. His catalogue runs to a dozen albums, not to mention the Uncorked collection he produced (and played on) for Al Stewart.
With tracks that reference the likes of Kant, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Aristotle, and Leibniz, among others, one might imagine the album is obliquely brainiac and difficult to digest; nothing could be further from the truth. It’s immediately accessible, both musically and lyrically, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s weight. Hell, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton With tracks that reference the likes of Kant, Camus, Sartre, Kierkegaard, Aristotle, and Leibniz, among others, one might imagine the album is obliquely brainiac and difficult to digest; nothing could be further from the truth. It’s immediately accessible, both musically and lyrically, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s weight. Hell, to any pop music fan whose IQ exceeds Paris Hilton’s IQ.
Is it Year of the Cat? No. But neither is this. 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, and the monkey is characterized (zodiacally speaking) as being “…smart, clever, and intelligent. They are lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile.” That fits Spinoza’s Dream like a glove… whether you’re in a “morning from a Bogart movie” or not.