Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Nothing But the Tooth From Gustafer Yellowgold

Morgan Taylor thinks outside the box. So far outside the box that his famous creation, Gustafer Yellowgold comes from the sun. Speaking of the box, Gustafer has returned with his sixth DVD/CD box set, WISDOM TOOTH OF WISDOM.

How to describe Gustafer? The mellow little yellow fellow dwells in the woods of Minnesota, having adventures with his pet eel. No really. We became acquainted with Gustafer and his muse (and Morgan's spouse Rachel Loshak) when they played at the Museum of the Moving Image in 2006. Part one-man show, part video showcase, part singalong (every video includes lyrics), the Gustafer Yellowgold experience works on however many levels you wish to participate. Don't want to sing? Don't want to watch Morgan at work? Just watch the colorful, clever videos. But you'll get sucked in, as I did.

Morgan took a prolonged break to devise the storyline for WISDOM TOOTH OF WISDOM. It's really part one of a larger saga, a molar-centric LORD OF THE RINGS for small children, sans orcs but with a bear performing dental work in a tree (you'll understand when you see "I Can't Feel My Face"). After receiving a giant tooth in the mail, Gustafer resolves to return the molar to its rightful owner. And therein lies the mystery.

The videos show Gustafer ruminating about the origins of the title tooth and wondering if he has any right to keep it ("Secret Fox"), to embarking on a quest to facilitate a reunion. Interspersed with the videos are a series of postcard-style images and animations, which Morgan had been manufacturing prior to developing Gustafer.

For WISDOM TOOTH OF WISDOM, Morgan put aside the "one-man band" aspect of the Gustafer project. Guest musicians include horn players Robert Jost (Sesame Street, Saturday Night Live), Steve Tyska (the Autumn Defense), and a fellow named Dean Jones (heard of him)? There's also Semisonic's John Munson, Tom Scott, and Ken Chastain (Jonas Brothers).

I can't call Gustafer a throwback because other than Tubby the Tuba, it's tough to recall a similar melding of character and music directly for kids. Sure, "Peter and the Wolf" is a children's classic. But it's pushing classical music. Gustafer mellifluously utilizes the musical stylings of Donovan, XTC, and Beck. It's gentle and pleasing and moves swiftly from one whimsical setting to the next. And yes, the cliffhanger ending cheerfully promises another trek to the woods of Minnesota to explain the item of indentured dentistry.

GUSTAFER YELLOWGOLD'S WISDOM TOOTH OF WISDOM is available from Morgan's website, Amazon and iTunes.

Here is "I Can't Feel My Face" from the new collection:

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