Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two for the road

Recent CDs by Peter Loveday

This is another review for which a disclosure is required. Peter is an old friend and former musical colleague. We go way back, which is why Peter has very kindly sent me copies of all six of the excellent solo albums he's made since his 2002 debut, A Bend in the Road. I listen to them a lot and am always thrilled to get a new one, as I did, er, quite a while ago now. Roadside Ballads came out last year and I have been meaning to write about it for ages. Ditto Standard Ideal (2009). No excuses there, obviously. Two soaring birds, one pseud's stone.

Peter has lived in Barcelona for over 25 years which may go some way to squaring the otherwise inexplicable phenomenon that is his absence from the world's stage. Scoff not. Usually, when I have one of these what's-wrong-with-this-picture moments, it's because otherdom is a little slow in catching on to something I've known for years. And yes, I do think all of my friends are genius personified but that is not really the point. All I ever ask of the universe is that it reward fairly. I submit in evidence the novel of my writing buddy Phillip Mann, which I always thought was brilliant and which not only finally got published last year but was short-listed for the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award. Please do feel free to eat my short stories at will. Sorry, I've gone off topic again. I should never get started on how I'm right about absolutely everything.

'Are you planning on getting to the point any time soon?' queries TQW whilst delivering the traditional char...

'What is this?'

'A Chilean Pinot Gris. You'll like it. Trust me. When have you not liked a white wine?'

'I believe there was a Frascati back in 1984...'

'Please let's not go there.'

'Fine by me. Pour.'

I'm the last person who should even be thinking of reviewing new music. These days the CD player spins little else but Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Ministry of Sound dance compilations -  and only when I feel like pirouetting around the house like the idiot I have become to annoy the neighbours late at night. (Some habits are hard to break.) And the CD player, incidentally, was a free gift in 1999 with the tinniest possible mobile phone. The tinniness extends to the player. The phone died over a decade ago but the player lurches on pluckily. I survived the traumatic transition from vinyl to CD, not to mention the expense. I have a digital player but the toil of loading it seems a middle eight too far in my declining years. Besides, there is a dim memory from my own recording days that we always listened to 'mixes' on crappy domestic speakers. They didn't flatter.

'Come on already, I have plans for the rest of the month.'

'A timely top-up will yield better results. How is it that you still don't know that?'

So, we were discussing Peter Loveday and his thirty-plus year's worth of distilled euphony available in handy packs that you can even try before you buy. It's not often that you come across people who are innately musical, even in the music business. Peter is such a phenomenon. His voice has always been generous in timbre and mellifluous in tone and has maintained its youthful vitality. In every respect, he's a true original. He would be the first to admit that he's no virtuoso on the guitar, but he wears it like a favourite coat and it serves him well in his storytelling. He's also canny when it comes to collaborators. He has drawn, mostly from the expat community in Barcelona, exceptionally competent and inventive musicians. They get him and they've stayed with him over the years to create an ensemble that gels instinctively. It's a formula for aural joy.

I'm a bit rusty on categories, leave alone all the sub-genres, but I have worked out that Peter's music is not Indie, nor Rock, nor Folk, nor Country. It is, in the most nourishing possible way, all of the above. He is a balladeer, a troubadour. He builds ordinary-yet-fascinating stories and glues them with allegory. Like all natural artists, he chooses himself as his primary subject. He does not tell other people's stories, neither does he appear to invent a persona to tell stories. His songs are intensely personal but not at all confessional. Even if I didn't know him already, I feel like he's someone I might want to know. This is going to sound weird to anyone who isn't me, but it sounds like the music you make when you're young, but with the benefit of hindsight and minus the world-weariness. Can you be both fresh and mature at the same time? It seems so.
Peter pursues the big themes. That great old standard 'love' is one of them. There are always a couple of beautifully calibrated love songs on his albums. You'd beat a singer/songwriter who couldn't deliver a decent love song to death with his/her own plectrum if you had the opportunity - I know I would. Nothing to fear here. Peter is uncommonly good at translating the personal into the universal without casualties on either side. He does human experience with both candour and dignity. No rare accomplishment. 

A major preoccupation of Peter's is 'the road'. Expats typically have shallow roots. Believe me, I know all about this. No matter how long you've lived in one place, home still feels more like a backpack than a bungalow after you've upped stumps a couple of times in your youth. Peter has made two albums with the word 'road' in the title and several videos shot from a moving car or train. Roads, paths, byways and journeys in general make regular appearances in his songs. If there is anything of the constant nomad in you, this music will bring an itch to your feet.  And this is an excellent reason to buy any or all of Peter Loveday's six albums. Get the two featured in this review and you'll crave a road trip.