Exchanging retirement for a first record under his own name, esteemed English drummer delivers a solo debut.
There are not a lot of musicians who can play with a flair in various styles, but Peter Baron belongs to such a breed of artists. Most often remembered today as a founding member of HOGAN’S HEROES, he came into prominence in the early ’70s, sitting behind the kit in Marty Wilde’s ensemble, and proceeded to work with many first-class acts, including RENAISSANCE. So it wasn’t until 2016, when the HEROES retired, that the always busy sexagenarian decided to record a solo album – and the record was worth the wait. These are the sort of songs where effervescent effortlessness is fastened to depth which come not so much with the pub-rock territory as with decades of plying one’s trade in front of beer-fueled audience who die for foot-stomping numbers and tear-jerking ballads in equal measure. Offering his faithful followers and the uninitiated alike an arresting set of originals and covers – tasteful rarities rather than time-tested fodder – Peter displays a stunning talent as both melodicist and performer.
The record begins in a romantic mode, though, the piano-rippled “In Another Life” framing the veteran’s personal philosophy and his vocal vigor applied to the percussive throb of a transparent pop tune and spiced by a trombone lick, before reckless rock ‘n’ rollin’ and boogie-based abandon fly into the fray on the scintillating wings of Jim Lauderdale’s “Halfway Down” – yet not before Baron’s take on Rodney Crowell’s “Earthbound” is shot through with Albert Lee‘s twangy filigree and Gavin Povey’s ivories that bolster their friend’s true-to-life countrified grace, as they also do on his own “I Don’t Understand” further down the line. This state will be elevated even more when brass and strings provide the magnificent, Philly-soul-like “You Get What You Pay For” with a celestial edge to contrast Peter’s down-to-earth, if emotionally charged, voice and simple beat, but his largely acoustic readings of Carl Wilson’s “Heaven” and Chas Hodges’ “The Ghost Is Laid” strip the drummer’s delivery to the essence of sincerity only the greatest crooners are capable of.
That’s why the baroque-esque balladry of Baron-co-written “Merry Go Round” is so gripping, aided and abetted by the flute from GRYPHON’s Andy Findon and augmented with waltz passages on which the returning string quartet shine the brightest, and that’s why the ticking flicking of “Homefire” that features Jerry Douglas’ dobro is so warm, while the appropriation of Jimmy Webb’s “Friends To Burn” is full of orchestral wonder as Peter’s pipes give it the best Marvin touch one can imagine, Kevin Healy’s guitar a soaring solo, and James Baron, the main man’s son, a crunchy rap. And then there’s the hymnal, spiritual finale of “Take Me Where The River Flows” to set poetical optimism in the most despondent listener’s heart. As a result, “Another Life” serves up a deliciously hour of many moods and miles of smiles: as perfect a debut as can be.