Peter Bardens

Write My Name in the Dust: Anthology

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As a two-CD overview of the career of Peter Bardens, Write My Name in the Dust: Anthology manages to fit in a lot of material and display his work in different contexts, but also suffers from some problems that might prevent it from being wholly satisfying to some fans of his music. Despite the 40-year time span of the title, it's not a chronologically balanced selection by any means; 23 of the 29 tracks predate 1972, only three postdate the mid-'70s, and those three are all from his 2002 album The Art of Levitation. Too, there are just three cuts from Camel, which to art rock listeners might be the most familiar of the groups in which Bardens played. In fact, it's essentially a reissue of his first pair of solo albums (1970's The Answer and 1971's Peter Bardens) -- included in their entirety on discs one and two respectively -- with songs tacked on from a few of the '60s groups in which he played keyboards, Camel, and his final album. The first seven tracks might be the ones that interest collectors the most, as they include cuts from various obscure '60s projects in which Bardens was involved. There's the 1963 R&B single "Respectable" by the Cheynes (with Mick Fleetwood on drums); two sides of a 1966 single, and an outtake, of the Booker T. & the MG's-styled Peter B's Looners, also featuring Fleetwood and guitarist Peter Green; and the 1969 psychedelic single by Village, also including future Elvis Costello & the Attractions bassist Bruce Thomas. (Unfortunately, there's nothing from his most notable '60s group, Them, in which he played briefly but memorably in 1965.) Most of these songs have their merits, illustrating the journey from R&B to psychedelia that Bardens, like many British musicians of his generation, undertook during the decade. Bardens was an excellent keyboardist, particularly on organ, but not such a good songwriter, which made the two early-'70s albums that are the centerpieces of this compilation mixed affairs. Although there are flashes of engaging combinations of late psychedelia and early progressive rock, the songs are often too long and loosely structured, even if they do display Bardens' increasingly wide palette, also drawing from jazz and improvisation in addition to rock and R&B. Peter Green (not credited on the original album for contractual reasons) does provide a lift to The Answer, highlighted by the 13-minute Santana-like groove of "Homage to the God of Light"; a jazzier mood is struck by the nine-minute outtake from The Answer sessions here, "Long Ago, Far Away" (the only piece of unreleased music on this anthology, incidentally). Peter Bardens was more of the same, but more subdued, bluesy, and mundane, though there were times at which it verged on more concise and moody pop melodies, particularly on "Sweet Honey Wine." After just three samples of his progressive rock with Camel, the collection ends with three more new age/adult contemporary-oriented cuts from his final album that will likely be of limited interest to vintage prog rock fans. Good liner notes by psych-prog expert David Wells help put Bardens' lengthy career trail in perspective, however.

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