by Richard MasonAt last. Or has your chance passed? I’m the one by Annette Peacock has been re-issued on CD. But hark! A description of product: "special first edition CD, 500 signed & numbered, 6 panel jacket, 12 page booklet containing lyrics & 9 colour photos."
So your chance may have passed, again. Since the original vinyl issue in 1972 there’s been 1 previous [vinyl + cassette] re-release, in 1986, until now. But hurry! This is where to go.
I did. Here’s my copy. And here’s what I think.
A beautiful card sleeve with lyrics & photos of Annette; these things matter to me. And then there’s the music. For those who know this recording, the sound quality of this re-issue is exemplary. The electronic treatments and percussion can be heard in their full glory and the only distortion on the singing is as intended. You can really hear the music now.
For those who don’t... the material on this album is subtle, varied and challenging. Stylistically, there are elements of pop, rock, funk, jazz, gospel and [electronic] contemporary classical. But none of these constraints can hold this music.
The songs tend not to follow the usual linear verse-chorus-verse-break-etc format. Adding this to the often complex melodic structure, this places demands on the listener, who has to concentrate and really listen in order to appreciate the music fully. The highly personal and emotionally charged lyrics act as a further incentive to be involved in the music, to engage with it, to make it mean something rather than just having it there. This is music that invites you into it, that implores you to get involved, to think, to feel physically and cerebrally, to hear and listen actively.
The cover of "Love Me Tender" invokes a new perspective on the song. The seeming naivety of the lyrics is rendered pure feeling; spiritual as well as physical love – the very combination of emotions that so many must have felt for the original performer.
There are expressions via the original compositions of lust, celebration of lust, loss, acceptance of loss, loneliness, resignation to loneliness and above all the glory and the pain of real love. The music enhances the complexity of these emotions and at all times helps to resist trivialization and cliche.
The singing and playing on here is superb. Apparently the recordings were made live in the studio, which is astonishing. The empathy between the participants is evidence of extensive rehearsal and total commitment to the project.
A few questions you might have:
Q: Is it, as many claim, a “revolutionary”, “important” recording, “ahead of its time”?
A: I don’t think that sort of thing matters.
Q: Who does it sound like?
A: Annette Peacock.
Q: Will it appeal to fans of, say, Bjork, Radiohead, Chicks On Speed or Goldfrapp?
A: Quite conceivably. But no-one knows for sure.
Q: Will the average PSF reader like it?
A: There’s no such thing as the average PSF reader.
Q: Is I’m the one deserving of wider attention?
A: I’m unable at present to think of a recording more deserving of wider attention.
There follows an interview I conducted through the ether with Annette recently. Thanks to March for facilitation, and of course to Annette herself. For me, it was nothing less than a privilege.
PSF: The re-issue strikes me as being a real labour of love. Is that how it feels for you?
AP: I expect you're responding to the attention given to every detail. It's the way I show respect and appreciation to people who have a personal relationship with my work, who take it into their lives and thereby give it value and validity. In return, they deserve to have it be the best it can be.
PSF: The re-issue was originally planned for 2008 – how come there was a delay?
AP: The process was arduous and very costly. The project was an odyssey of unforeseen obstacles requiring time to resolve.
PSF: I’m staggered to learn the material was recorded live in the studio. Were there intensive rehearsals? How did you prepare the musicians?
AP: Having begun a career in avant-garde jazz, I was accustomed to working live with great players who needed little rehearsing. Of course, it was necessary to write and arrange an album of songs, but rock isn't a difficult language and all musicians can speak it, so I just trusted we could jam the charts, and the tracks went to tape simultaneously, mostly as first takes.
PSF: How were the electronic treatments to voice & instruments carried out in real time?
AP: Synthesizers hadn't been conceived to be operated by an external source, so I invented a way to do it then become adept at working with the unpredictability and difficulties of a new instrument that hadn't been designed to accommodate live performance or improvisation.
PSF: I was so happy to find the lyrics included. Which of the lyrics [& songs] is your personal favourite?
AP: The solitary, simplicity of "Been & Gone"; the emotional minimalism of "Blood"; the spontaneous approach of "Pony;" "Gesture Without Plot" as a poem on its own; "Did You Hear Me Mommy?" as a timeless sentiment everyone can relate to; and of course, the naive sweetness and symmetry of "Love Me Tender."
PSF: How do you think the music industry today compares with the music industry in 1972 from a female artist’s perspective?
AP: I started ironicrecords in 1981, just when the indie scene in the UK began to burgeon. Now the Internet has made it possible for everyone, including women, to be independent.
PSF: How does it feel to be a cult figure? Do you wish your music was more accessible?
AP: I'm drawn to keeping life simple and prefer being engaged making the music rather than devoted to promoting it. I fear a loss of freedom with fame, and believe that self-promotion lacks grace. The irony is that I'm assured the music itself is accessible, only that it's never been properly promoted. And that may be true, judging from the people who have written, bought the albums, and friended me. They appear to be ageless and ubiquitous.
PSF: Are you planning to re-issue any of your other recordings? Do you own the rights to your old recordings? Have you any new recordings which might be released soon?
AP: Overtime, I've reclaimed the rights to my albums, and will subsequently be releasing them, but this year I feel I must also record something current, though I've been quite content composing for its own sake, without any ambition to record.
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