Annette Peacock

The Perfect Release

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After her stunning, groundbreaking album X-Dreams received wildly enthusiastic critical reviews and attained nothing less than complete public indifference, composer, singer, songwriter, and pianist Annette Peacock was at an artistic crossroads. While she wasn't willing to compromise her musical vision, for financial reasons she needed to expand her view to include what she perceived to be the popular music of the time: Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones, et al. (Apparently her vision did not include the Clash's London Calling.) In typical Peacock fashion, brash arrogance dictated the album's title, The Perfect Release. To be fair, although wildly ahead of its time, it nearly was perfect. Utilizing the talents of one band (the group she met when singing backing vocals on some Linda Lewis sessions) rather than a hearty gang of 20 studio musicians as she had on X-Dreams, Peacock constructed an album of seven extended tracks that were too rock- and pop-oriented for jazz radio programmers to handle and a rock and pop album that was farther to the left than Steely Dan's attempt at appropriating jazz -- this was jazz. Needless to report: the album was a commercial flop, and is only being properly discovered here in the digital age. The Perfect Release stitches together the lounge jazz of Lower Manhattan, the Brazilian pop of Tom Jobim, Nara Leao, and Caetano Veloso, the slippery funk of War, and the shifty rock skullduggery of Joni Mitchell's LA studio period. The opener "Lover's Out to Lunch" has steel drums crosscutting the guitars as the synths shape the hallway Peacock has to sing into. When she gushes, "What's happening/Nobody gets it on/Anymore?" and "Love is on the doorstep/Of feeling," all the pop stylings are slashed to ribbons. The melody is catchy and smooth and her singing as soft and sweet as it is carries razor blades for lyrics. The track "Rubber Hunger" has Peacock singing like Astrud Gilberto, in a breathy, lilting wisp. The lyrics drip from her mouth like running water as the band provides the room for her flow, creating a gorgeous groove in the center of the major and diminished sevenths. As a closer, there's the beat poetry dissertation on the state of love in the world in "Survival." Robert Ahwai's guitar trades eights with Max Middleton's amalgam of keyboards underscoring Peacock's Zen poem. It's a rap from the here and now about the here and now; history is relegated to invisibility. Basslines slip under the drums and Peacock slides under them both. It's sexy, relaxed, and loopy; 14 minutes of sensual riffing and rapping that come off as loose as an unbuttoned blouse. In all, if the record's not a masterpiece it is something close. The Perfect Release may not have given Peacock the commercial success she longed for at the time, but it is a record that stands the test of time very well, and is one she is able to be proud of as an artist to this day.

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