Thank God that reissue specialists like Riverman Music are here to peer into the forgotten, dusty corners of musical history and find hidden gems that have been lurking under the carpet for decades. Without their efforts in the archiving of esoterica, the world at large might easily have missed out on Peter Elizalde's 1982 debut album. Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Elizalde was born in Peru before relocating to the U.S. in his youth. He was influenced at first by prog rock, but he had his eureka moment when he finally heard Todd Rundgren. The latter is the defining inspiration on Winter Playground Mystery, which basically sounds like the lost Rundgren album that slipped between the cracks of Something/Anything? and A Wizard, a True Star sometime in 1973. From the Rundgren-esque vocal tone to the mix of soulful inflection and post-Beatles art pop compositional sensibilities, Elizalde has his Todd tricks down pat here. He's even got the cracked-genius-sequestered-in-the-studio thing going on, handling all lead and background vocals, guitars, keyboards, and production himself. Only two tracks here really depart from the circa-1973 Rundgren vibe -- one is "Passion Play," a new wave-inflected rocker that serves as the sole reminder that this album was cut in the ‘80s. The other is seven-minute closing cut "Day Dreamer," which works itself into more of a prog feel, with synth and guitar leads flying through the air, though even this is more evocative of early Utopia than anything else. Ultimately, it's the slightly off-kilter quality of Winter Playground Mystery that makes it more an homage to Rundgren than a ripoff -- although he comes as close as possible to making his home in Toddville, Elizalde is clearly coming from his own eccentric corner of the universe, and his endearingly odd sonic fingerprints are fortunately impossible to erase.
AllMusic Review by James Allen