Peter Gallway, |
(Gadfly Records, 1999)
In this effort, which takes the term "hands-on" to a new level, Peter Gallway takes credit for writing all of the songs, providing vocals, guitars (acoustic & electric), keyboards, bass, drum and percussion programming. This is on top of producing, recording and mixing the CD, an approach that undoubtedly grew out of the introspective nature of the project.
Gallway describes the album as flagging "significant markers of my life from boyhood to the recent past." It starts out with "Lights of London," my personal favorite, which attempts to capture Gallway's boyhood visions of flying with Peter Pan over London. "In a Cool World" takes the listener forward to the teenage years, and speaks to Gallway's sense of "disassociation." "My Electric Guitar" recounts Gallway's reaction to seeing his first Rolling Stones concert -- an event that catalyzed his desire to make the creation of music his life's focus. "Songwriter" describes the creative process that Gallway states was how he "actually found a voice." "I Get Joy" is Gallway's "gospel." "Redemption," it seems, comes to him out of an effort to infuse his life with as much joy as possible.
The next song, "Chinalight," is about heroin, described in the liner notes as "the darkest and most powerful magic I know." "On the Promenade" has a very-familiar sounding juxtaposition of bass-line, percussion and melody that made me think I had heard the song somewhere before. It describes Gallway's musings about the sinister goings-on that might be occurring in a large Victorian house he would pass when taking a walk through Portland, Maine.
Gallway creates a monument to his deceased mother in "Angel By The Bed," a haunting paean which captures emotions surrounding what must have been one of the most significant and heartbreaking events of his youth. Married late in life, Gallway explores conflicting emotions that nonetheless suit him "just fine" in "Worth Waiting For," with very nice backing vocals by Erin Kamler. The recording finishes with "One Kind Word," which was previously recorded on Gallway's live album, A Night In Time, and was rewritten for this project. Gallway says the song "is the moment of peace, the moment of grace, that I have spent my life looking for."
Some of my favorite music required repeated playing before I could appreciate and eventually enjoy it. I suspect that if I had been a Gallway aficionado before hearing the CD -- this album was my introduction to his music -- I would have been delighted by the opportunity to share the intimacies contained in this work. But although I struggled over the writing of this review, I refused to go with my first impressions. I could tell that there was something of substance here, which I eventually came to appreciate. I do not in any way intend to damn this work with faint praise -- Gallway's songwriting style and distinctive vocals are simply not my cup of tea, although the cup does sit on the same tray.
I would comment that some of this album's strengths are also its weaknesses. When the artist retains total control over all of the musical, lyrical and production decisions, the reader hears the artist in a purer form than would otherwise be possible. But I think perhaps that Gallway attempted too much here. I found the electronic percussion particularly jarring -- it sounded like the machine-made accompaniment that it is. A really excellent drummer in the mix would have added a lot. There are many other moments throughout this CD where I wished someone could have tapped Gallway on the shoulder and said, "What do you thing about trying this...?" I suspect Gallway himself could have been that person, if he had thrown his masters in a drawer for a year or so and then listening with a fresh ear. Self-editing is simply one of the hardest things to do. However, these are minor gripes. This album is an impressive tour de force which few artists would tackle at all, let alone bring to a successful conclusion.