Peter Yarrow

Peter

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Since he was known as the most politically active member of Peter, Paul and Mary, some listeners might have expected Peter Yarrow's debut solo album to be the most successful, or least most ambitious, of the three debut solo LPs issued by the trio in the early '70s. Of those three records, it certainly is the one most in line with the uplifting socially conscious music often associated with the group's 1960s work, whether the lyrics are personal or political. It's also perhaps unavoidably true that the songs -- all written or co-written by Yarrow -- aren't as memorable as the best of Peter, Paul and Mary's, and that the arrangements can sound odd for those accustomed to hearing his vocals in the context of the trio's stirring harmonies. But gearing your expectations to an early-'70s singer/songwriter album rather than stacking it against Peter, Paul and Mary, it's a pleasantly accomplished effort, if a bit tilted toward the gentle and sweet (particularly in the vocal department). With backup from such accomplished musicians as guitarist John Till (who'd recently been in Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band), Paul Butterfield, John Simon, and backup singers Libby Titus and Maria Muldaur, it also shows Yarrow adapting to the early-'70s soft rock sound expected of singer/songwriters, though things never get too cutting or fierce. "Don't Ever Take Away My Freedom" and the singalong-friendly "Weave Me the Sunshine" are the songs most imbued with the staunch liberalism Peter, Paul and Mary typified, but more effective is the more introspective "Take Off Your Mask," whose penetratingly strange Garth Hudson organ solos are the highlights of the entire album. Other superior cuts are "Wings of Time," the track that lies closest to traditional folk music, and the bittersweet "Tall Pine Trees," which is notably Russian-influenced in both melody and arrangement.

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