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Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations) - Peter and The Wolf CD (album) cover

PETER AND THE WOLF

Various Artists (Concept albums & Themed compilations)

 

Various Genres

3.71 | 56 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars In this version, Peter never meets the wolf!

While other similar types of work such as Steve Hackett's "Genesis revisited", Ayreon's "Human Equation", and Jeff Wayne's "War of the worlds" tend to be credited to the individual who takes on the lead role, it appears that this truly is a "Various artists" effort. The list of people who appear is like a who's who of 1970's rock, including the likes of Phil Collins, Gary Moore, Bill Bruford, Manfred Mann, Gary Brooker, Brian Eno, Cozy Powell and Jon Heisman. That said, the man behind the project is in fact Jack Lancaster, probably best known for his time in Jethro Tull offshoot Blodwyn Pig. Lancaster also worked with Brand X, many of whose members appear at various points.

The music is based around Prokofiev's classical composition of the same name, with Lancaster and his co-composer Robin Lumley adding pieces as they deem required. Prokofiev's piece in it's classical form has become popular with schools who use it to teach children about the various instruments which appear in an orchestra. Indeed, the composer originally wrote it for his own children. The different sections of the orchestra (classical version) or artists (this version) take on the role of characters, each having their own distinctive sound. Here, the predominance of drummers among the guests in perhaps a warning for those of us who feel drums should simply be used to provide a rhythm.

Peter is represented by the synthesisers of Manfred Mann, his theme being instantly familiar as one of those classical themes you recognise but cannot necessarily name. Viv Stanshall narrates throughout, his performance being deadpan and devoid of any of the humour which one might expect. I have never been a fan of Stephane Grappelli's violin style, and here he takes the opportunity to deviate well away from Prokofiev's composition into avant-garde jazz. When Henry Lowther takes over on violin for the following "Cart and duck", the results are equally indulgent. Fortunately, Jack Lancaster and Gary Moore pulls things back together on "Grandfather", a fine duet between sax and guitar. Eno's performance as The Wolf sees him giving one of his most dynamic and energetic displays, possibly ever.

Towards the end, we suddenly find ourselves in the middle of a straight rock and roll song "Rock and roll celebration" sung by Bernie Frost, which is completely out of place and serves only to destroy any mood created up to this point.

There does seem to be an irritating tendency here to stray from the composer's original intentions for the piece. For example, as mentioend above, the main character "Peter" is played by Manfred Mann. In the original orchestral score he is played by the string section. Mann however disappears completely after the second track, Peter apparently being represented thereafter by a variety of performers and instruments. Peter (Mann) and the wolf (Eno) do not therefore appear on the same track, or indeed anywhere near each other, at any point.

Some performers, such as Alvin Lee, Julie Tippett the English Chorale, do not play parts as such, but are used in a purely musical context to embellish the sound.

Overall, this album can be assessed on various levels. As an interpretation of the composer's original piece it is loose, straying regularly into improvisation and new compositions. As such, it fails to capture the essence of the original composition. Taken as an album in its own right and judged on its own merits, the album is enjoyable and varied, but I do find it to be somewhat disjointed with sections falling short of full development. The constant interruptions of the narrator quickly become irritating and superfluous.

Although the cardboard shortage (sic) of the time meant that the album did not come in a gatefold sleeve, it is still lavishly packaged with a wonderfully illustrated LP sized booklet.

Easy Livin | 2/5 |

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