Monday, January 19, 2009
Peter Allen -- jazzy, but not jazz
OK, Peter Allen was not a jazz pianist. But he was still a hell of a pianist -- in the Elton John mold -- and one of the best performers I've ever seen.
By far, his best album was the live "It Is Time For Peter Allen" from 1977. What a shame he never became a superstar.
I saw Peter Allen in concert twice, both times in the early 1980s. He was always a much better performer than recording artist. On vinyl, his songs mostly seemed unenthusiastic and overproduced. In person, he was exactly the opposite. His fans were rabid, and justly so. He was the kind of charismatic, energetic performer who could attract loyal fans -- if only more knew about him.
That's why this album is so affecting. This is the Peter Allen I remember: tender on the ballads, outrageous on the uptempo numbers, and often nostalgic. This album captures that Peter Allen. His second, later live album "Captured Live at Carnegie Hall" is too mannered and overproduced, although it has its moments, too. This is the real thing.
Somewhere, I'm sure, there are more tapes of Peter Allen in concert. I'd love to hear them. Unfortunately, because his star never rose very high -- at least on vinyl -- there's probably no market in it. What a shame.