A welcome issue on CD for two of the most underrated rock albums of the last thirty...
Peter Marsh 2004
Hardly a month goes by these days without the rediscovery of some neglected talent, to be lavished with fawning retrospectives in Mojo or Q while their back catalogue gets a wash and brush up from a hopeful record company. In Annette Peacock's case, the words 'neglected' and 'talent' don't really begin to do her justice, but her rediscovery's been a long time coming...
Unlike the usual 'forgotten genius' type, Peacock wasn't (and isn't) a fey artist shying away from fame, or a casualty to booze, drugs or violence. She craved commercial success and, at the time that these recordings were made, might have been on the verge of getting it. But it wasn't to be. Her first recordings were made with then partner Paul Bley, and explored the gaps between free jazz, electronic music and songform. Striking out on her own with the stunning (and still criminally unavailable) I'm the One in 1971, she caught the attention of David Bowie's management, who signed her up and then effectively ignored her for years.
This compilation brings together the two albums that appeared on the obscure Aura label towards the end of the 70s. The first, X-Dreams, featured a who's who of UK leftfield rock and jazz talent (including Mick Ronson, Chris Spedding and Bill Bruford), plus two tracks dating from a few years earlier. As a result, the album has a slightly uneven feel about it, but that's not to subtract from its power.
Peacock's witty, uncompromising tales of sex and politics are delivered over taut, inventive backings that play with blues, funk, jazz and avant rock. There's the sinister shuffle of "My Mama Never Taught Me How to Cook", with Peacock's erotic, threatening vocal lodging itself between the ears, or the tender, spacey torch song of "This Feel Within'. And it's the voice that's the main focus; imagine Laurie Anderson, Patti Smith and Sarah Vaughan rolled into one and you're halfway there.
The follow up The Perfect Release charted similar territory, but with a relatively anonymous band of fusion-orientated musicians in tow. It's a more cohesive record as a result, less confrontational perhaps, but its shiny muso-funk is a perfect frame for Peacock's sly wordgames and passionate flights.
Highlights include the socio-political polemics of "The Succubus" where Annette lays down her sexual manifesto over a cool funk throb, or the reggae inflected shimmer of "Rubber Hunger" (guess what that one's about). Not many people could make lines like "Capitalism without a social conscience is dangerous and inevitably destructive" sound so persuasive, maybe even sexy. The political and the personal have rarely coexisted so well.
After these records, Peacock changed tack, abandoning her rockist tendencies for a more stripped down, ethereal approach which culminated in the gorgeous melancholia of 2000's An Acrobat's Heart for ECM. Though she's never achieved that commercial success, there's no doubt that Peacock's talent is still deserving of wider recognition. Now will someone please reissue I'm The One?