Peter Case – Peter Case (review)

Peter Case – Peter Case (30th anniversary edition) (Omnivore Recordings) review

After the breakup of Peter Case’s band the Plimsouls (who had a minor MTV hit in 1983 with “A Million Miles Away”), he stepped out on his own for a solo career.  But, instead of continuing with the rockin’ power pop of his previous band, Case scaled everything back for an acoustic-based album, at a time when everyone else was embracing the screaming guitars of the Big Eighties.  The result, Peter Case, has just been reissued by Omnivore Recordings, complete with seven bonus tracks.

The record opens with the sparse “Echo Wars,” featuring a haunting harmonica solo, signaling this new direction in Case’s career.  “Icewater” and “Walk in the Woods” are both stripped-down tracks, based in the blues.

This disc is credited for jump starting the roots movement, later called Americana.  Yet, Peter Case isn’t a typical folk album – there’s straight-ahead rockers like “Satellite Beach” (featuring guitar from guest Mike Campbell) and the moody “More Than Curious.”   Then, there’s “Three Days Straight,” propelled by a hypnotic Linn drum pattern, the track is augmented by background vocals from Victoria Williams.

The standout track is “Old Blue Car” – sounding like a great lost rock/blues track from the Sun Studios, the song received significant airplay on college radio.  The original album closed with “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” written by the Pogues’ Shane McGowan (but actually released before their version, thanks to an association with producer Elvis Costello).

The bonus cuts run the gamut from the acoustic “Trusted Friend,” to the synth drum-led “Toughest Gang in Town” and a tamboura-infused early version of “More Than Curious.”

This was one of the earliest production credits of T-Bone Burnett, who famously said he’d quit the music business if this record didn’t sell a million copies.  Well, it fell way short of that lofty goal, and Burnett thankfully did not make good on that particular promise. But it has done something else – stood the test of time.  While so many albums from the mid-Eighties now sound horribly out of step (most because of the over-hyped drum sound and synths), Peter Case sounds as fresh as the day it was released.  That, is what you call redemption.  —Tony Peters