Perhaps by the very nature of what it is and how it is assembled, Annette Peacock's self-released Been in the Streets Too Long, issued in 1983, is her most challenging and experimentally poetic, if disjointed, recording. For starters, its nine tracks were recorded between 1974 and 1983, almost all of them stripped back to the barest essentials, like demos in approach, but fully realized in production. Some tracks, like the title (1975), "Song To Separate" (1974), and "Pillow-Lined Prison" (1975), feature only Peacock's plaintive yet sensual voice accompanied by her haunting piano. Others are duets and trios. Some of these come off as deeply moving paeans of strained and wasted desire, such as "Safe Inside the Fantasy," a duet with saxophonist Evan Parker (in his straightest and most lyrical performance ever) began in '75 and finished in '83. And others still, such as the instrumental "It Hurts" with Bill Bruford, Brian Godding, and Chris Spedding, are slices of vanguard improvisation held in the expressionistic frame of Peacock's avant pedigree that began with her former husband Gary Peacock in Albert Ayler's band in the 1960s. But overall, this is a recording about broken things: spirits, finances, amorous relationships, ideals, and the longing for, if not new ones, a total acceptance of things as they are. And while it's true that Ms. Peacock writes these kinds of gorgeously sad songs better than anyone on the planet, she has never illustrated them better than she does here, using different musical settings for each moment of her dis-ease. And rarely does she bring it above the level of the speaking voice, but when she does, the fury is inherent in how fiery this heart actually is. On most of these songs there seems no predetermined finishing point, such as on the gloriously understated "Both," a duet with percussionist Roger Turner, where the piano and vocal captivate the percussionist into a meander through the minimal harmonic architecture of the tune like a blind person wandering through the many unfurnished rooms in a mansion. In sum, all of these collaborations and solo pieces with their variegated means and possibilities suggest one thing ultimately: that, on Been in the Streets Too Long, Ms. Peacock took her time, releasing a record only when she had the proper assemblage of moments like these to create a hole, full of space, mystery, darkness, and sensual wonder.
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