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Peter Walker - Long Lost Tapes 1970

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Artist: Peter Walker

Album: Long Lost Tapes 1970

Label: Tompkins Square

Review date: Apr. 14, 2009


Peter Walker - "City Pulse" (Long Lost Tapes 1970)


A list of facts will make you wonder why Peter Walker’s Long Lost Tapes 1970 sat in a box for 39 years. It was recorded in Levon Helm’s Woodstock, NY home with breaking producer Eddy Offord behind the board and a strong band around him. Walker’s CV was the sort that should at least have generated enough favors to get a record out. At the time he was working as Timothy Leary’s music director; he was a well-connected folk scenester who had played and hung with the likes of Karen Dalton and Fred Neil, and he had already recorded Rainy Day Raga and Karmela, or Gypsies Are Important, two celebrated (and currently out of print) albums for Vanguard that made good on the raga implications made by John Fahey and Robbie Basho.

But sit these tracks did. While Walker never quit playing, he made his living for the next quarter century as first a mechanic and then an insurance adjustor, and did not make another record until he was in his late ’60s.

Put it on and it all becomes a bit clearer. It’s not bad; if you’re already on the raga guitar bandwagon, it’ll get you to the next station. But it’s loose and hazy in a way that was quite out of fashion at the time. These are basically jams, with Walker setting a theme and everyone else filling in as the spirit moves them. His tone is more electric and on edge than the lush sound he achieved on the Vanguard LPs, tart when he solos and tense and trebly when he bounces chords off Maruga Booker and Badal Roy’s surging tablas and trap drums and bassist Rishi’s (no last name here) stout-hearted pulse.

Walker sings on one track, but it’s the record’s one serious misstep; his Hindustani intonation of the “102nd Psalm” sounds like a student effort, not anything you’d want to put to tape. Perry Robinson and Mark Whitecage’s spacy, elaborate woodwind flourishes are like two more hits off the hash pipe; they’ll take you out if that’s where you want to go, but they’re not going to reel anybody in.

In 1970, this record must have felt like an artifact of a trippy past that the music business was eager to shed. Its balance of eastern-flavored experimentation and brittle rock energy probably makes more sense today. Anyone who appreciates Six Organs Of Admittances earlier efforts will find a lot to love here.

By Bill Meyer

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