Peter Allen

Singer-Songwriter: The Anthology

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Like real estate, one could say the three most important things in Peter Allen's music are location, location, and location. The Australian-born entertainer left his native country in his late teens and never returned for more than a visit, spending most of his adult life living in New York City. But he never lost his sense of dislocation, and it turned up in his album titles and in the subjects of some of his best and most popular songs; it also occasionally turned up as a teasing metaphor for Allen's homosexuality. Allen's music changed extensively during his career while maintaining a core dichotomy of introspection and theatricality. In assembling this outstanding three-hour, 40-minute three-CD box set retrospective for release in Australia, his biographer, Stephen MacLean, draws primarily from the five albums released on A&M between 1974 and 1980 -- the transitional middle period of Allen's career. None of Allen's earliest recordings with the Allen Brothers are included, but the third disc ends with two selections from Chris & Peter Allen, the 1968 album they recorded for Mercury after moving to the U.S. The box opens with five tracks licensed from Allen's two early-'70s sensitive-singer/songwriter albums; here he is intensely confessional and affecting, commenting on his troubled home life. Allen's theatrical flair begins to emerge on his early A&M work as a ballad-heavy pop craftsman. The key transitional track is the 1977 single "I Go to Rio," an uptempo tune with an appropriately Latin arrangement that propelled him to a new career plateau. The live double-LP It Is Time for Peter Allen is included in its entirety as the second disc of the box; here, Allen revealed himself as a potentially flamboyant entertainer no longer content with small night clubs and sad piano ballads. 1980's adult contemporary effort Bi-Coastal that attempted to reconcile Allen's now big-time stage act with his recording persona. A sampling of Allen's final decade (spanning four albums) is provided by the four licensed tracks near the end of the set. The ideal Peter Allen box would have included more from his early and late recordings and less from the A&M years, but the label is to be commended for licensing as much material as it did for this retrospective, and the tracks have been sequenced well by a man with a thorough knowledge of Allen's work who tried to balance the artist's many sides. This is far and away the most comprehensive collection of the music of Peter Allen, and likely to be the only one ever done on this scale.

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