Peter Straker - This One's On Me [Strike Force Entertainment/ Cherry Red - 2020]Here we have a CD boxset that brings together the three late 70’s to early 80’s albums from Peter Straker- all three albums are passionate, creative, and often playful cross-breeds between Rock & Cabaret- making for three of the more distinctive & original rock albums to appear from the period.
The release appears Strike Force Entertainment- one of the sub-label of Cherry Red- the three-CD set is presented in a glossy red flipside box, with each of the CD’s coming in their own replica mini album slip sleeves. The sets is topped off with a fat, glossy & largely colour forty-eight-page booklet-this features all the songs lyrics & credits for each of the three albums, as well as a few write-ups- first a two-page piece about Straker friendship & work with to Queen Singer Freddy Mercury, the second an eight-page recording overview- the booklet topped off with a full list of all the screen, stage, and concert performances Straker made- so really a nice looking & well put together set.
Jamaican-born singer and actor Peter Straker first shot to fame in 1968 with a west end production of Hair- and he went onto appear in a host of stage shows from the time such as Pete Townshend's Tommy, Ken Hill's The Original Phantom of the Opera, Hot Stuff, Blues in the Night, The Rocky Horror Show. He also acted in classical roles in the likes Julius Caesar and Measure for Measure , as well as small-screen roles such as bit parts in Doctor Who & the Stephanie Beacham centered drama/ soap Connie. So a very versatile & talented man, and of course you can add the above impressive list of accomplishments to the three albums we have to hand here.
So moving onto the music with-in, and on the first disc, we have Peter’s second album 1977 This One's On Me, which followed up his 1972 debut album Private Parts. This One's On Me took in ten tracks and was produced by Freddie Mercury & respected English record producer, songwriter, arranger Roy Thomas Baker.
The albums a wonderfully charming, varied & consistent release that perfectly blends together elements of rock & stage- we move from the dramatically bounding piano & swirling-to-simmering rock guitar of “I’ve Been To Hell And Back” with Straker showy-yet-punchy voice soaring & darting in fine fashion. Onto the manic & marching piano ‘n’ percussion retake of Kurt Weill “Alabama Song”, which most famously appeared on the first Doors album. Though prancing & dancing 1920’s go-rock Cabaret of “The Annual Penguin Show”- which features what sounds like a tap-dancing breakdown. Or the melodic clear picked guitar melodies & flamboyant yet emotional vocals of “The Saddest Clown” which features some very Queen-like back harmonies. In all the album runs at thirty-seven minutes, with each of the tracks never outstaying thier welcome, and there’s a good variation of tracks too- which both highlight Straker rich & expressive voice, and the musical prowess of his five-member backing band.
Moving onto disc two, and we have Peter’s third album 1978’s Changeling- this was produced by Tim Freese-Greene, who was most known for working with Talk Talk. The album was a ten-track affair, and once again it’s a varied & largely consist release, which has a slightly more meaty rock guitar edge to many of the tracks- though it still remains fairly genre mixing in its feel. We go from roaring ‘n’ darting “D-D-D-D-D-Danger” with soaring & chugging guitar riffing, bouncing keys, and Straker powerful, at times almost punk august tinged vocals. Onto the jaunting stagey-meets-rock guitar harmonics & falsetto backing vocals of “Sweet, Sweet Music”. The more laid back-yet bounding blues-tinged rock meets showy piano rolls of “Tear Down The Walls” with Straker singing moving between rocking warbling, gospel-like rising, and stage bound dramatics. The album finishers in a decidedly stripped-back form with “Talk About Me”- which is just tight–yet-intricate acoustic guitar & Straker wavering-yet- slightly forlorn vocals. Once again is Changeling another well balanced & largely rewarding album.
Moving to the final disc in the set, and we have 1980’s Real Natural Man- the original album took in ten tracks, and once again it’s a good selection of well-written songs- with Straker spread his genre wings wider. We move from falsetto doo-wop meets shearing guitar groove of “Nasty”, onto stones-meet-rocked-up-Bowie vibe of “They Got You Dancing”. Through to the strutting guitar meets throbbing bass guitar reggae rock of “Illusions, Confusions”, onto grand & felt singer-songwriter piano and rising vocals of “Melancholy”. Sadly this was Straker last album until 2013’s Peter Straker's Brel- which is a pity, as he still had so much to give- this disc is topped off with three extra tracks- two from 1982, and a shorter single version of one of the album tracks.
It’s great to see these three albums getting such a nice & classy reissue- and I’d say if you have enjoyed the place where theatrical/ show-ness-meets-rock this set is a must-have item for you. So I’d say fans of Antony And The Johnsons, Marc Almond, and similar need to take note.