Long Lost Tapes 1970by Peter Walker
East Coast guitarist Peter Walker is one of the more obscure artists from the late '60s and early '70s American instrumental folk underground. Walker participated in the Cambridge and Greenwich Village folk scenes before establishing himself as a fine guitarist in his own right. Like Sandy Bull and John Fahey, he also studied the classical music of India, in his own case with Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan. Walker hung with and played with an assortment of legendary characters, including Lowell George, Fred Neil, Karen Dalton, Tim Hardin, and Joan Baez His bio says he was also the music director for Timothy Leary's acid celebrations. Along the way, Walker issued less than a handful of albums, most of them long out of print, though Tompkins Square did issue a tribute record in 2006 -- with four new cuts by Walker -- along with a new studio album called Echo of My Soul in 2008. Long Lost Tapes 1970 is an exciting discovery. A true lost classic, the set was recorded by Walker -- playing electric guitar as well as acoustic -- in the company of five musicians, including tabla legend Badal Roy and the near mythical Detroit drummer/percussionist Muruga Booker, at Levon Helm's home studio in Woodstock, NY. The sessions have not seen the light of day until now, because they'd been uncovered by Walker as he went through his old reels. These six tracks are revelatory. They offer the deep influence of the Indian classical tradition on Walker, but more than this, they also reflect on the discoveries he was making on the electric guitar in employing it as a "folk" instrument. Long drawn-out multi-tonal passages emanate from the electric on "Meditation Blues," where drones and overtones are imbued and overlaid with sharp arpeggio work and ghostly, trancelike percussion. "Camel Ride" features some gorgeous songlike passages by Mark Whitecage and astonishing primordial bass work by Rishi. For its three-and-a-half-minute length, "City Pulse" is one of the most astonishing cuts on the record because of Booker's circular drumming as it engages Walker's electric guitar, which relies on chordlike phrases and open tones to reach outside the framework of the initial statement -- in and of itself quite simple -- and charge for the skies, with Whitecage's wild yet melodic improvisation on flute. The slow raga-esque feel of "Missing You" reflects some of the influence of Sandy Bull -- who seamlessly melded Indian music and American folk and rock traditions. Walker's acoustic playing is every bit as compelling -- and perhaps more so -- than his technique on the electric instrument. "102nd Psalm" opens as a raga on sarod and Walker overdubs his acoustic guitar on top. There are some vocals on the track, but they are more like additional instruments given their chantlike quality. Booker, once again, is so in the pocket it's as if the entire track revolves around him. "Mellowtime" is a dreamy soundscape with spooky clarinet work by Perry Robinson. Any way you listen to it, this music is psychedelic, magical. It breathes, seethes, whispers, and drones its way into the listener's brain, emitting its own sense of fluid song. This is music influenced by the LSD generation's explorations, but it is played with great discipline by a quintet whose members are all instinctively in tune with Walker's vision. The sound quality on the set is remarkably good considering how old the tapes are, and the mastering job by Todd Levine is commendable. Thanks to the generosity of Walker, and the good graces and determination of Tompkins Square, this heretofore unknown masterpiece lives among us. Highly recommended.
- Release Date:
- Tompkins Square
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