Saving the planet with a power of music, British blues maven gathers a flock of kindred spirits. Phil Collins and Wayne Kramer chime in.
Four decades after its release, “Peter And The Wolf” still stands out as a prime example of translating a symphonic opus to rock idiom, with an all-star cast of musicians delivering blistering, if often overlooked, performances. The record’s mastermind, saxophonist Jack Lancaster, may carry on pursuing his creative dream, but there’s an additional concern now: extinction crisis that sees more and more species disappear from the face of our planet, a danger that, with a Saint-Saëns’ suite as a framework, lay foundation for this album. So, with a percentage of the sales profits going to the WWF, it would be interesting for the stellar line-up alone if the music wasn’t so alluring.
With the classical prototype limited to an acoustic guitar and cello weave on “The Swan” and the “Dinos Fossils & Bones,” and a context outlined by orchestral passages of the album’s overture and a few spoken-word pieces, there’s a wild variety of styles on display, from the glimmering “The Whale’s Song” which Phil Collins fills with anguish and anger and Rod Argent covers with stardust, to “Tyger Tyger” that finds Gary Brooker infusing Blake’s gloom with lucid soulfulness. While the Wayne Kramer-ruffled raga of “Tiger Rug” is linked in the world-music stakes to “Festival Carnival” where Lancaster whips up a Caribbean dance, Leslie Knauer’s wail on “Camel Silk Road” follows a desert twang, and “Alligators, Snakes & Me” is a swamp blues flowing on Mick Abrahams and Jackie Lomax’s fluid lines.
There’s proud sadness in the “We Were Lions” – roaring and ridden with Jack’s piercing brass – and a fittingly relaxed Michael Milner’s croon in “Doin The Dodo” with its quirky march, before “Penguin Island” resorts to rhymes and infectious acid jazz. The misplaced country and African chant of “Elephant Song” praising the album’s global trot, riffs cut across spirituality to shape “B U” as a joie de vivre epitome. And that’s what this record is: a celebration of life which humans must praise rather than destroy.