Thursday, July 07, 2016

Review: "The Songs" - Jim Peterik

by Jon C. Ireson, Music-News.com

Prolific classic rock songwriter reveals the masterful music behind the anthems that we were introduced to in a haze of fog and bright stage lights.

Jim Peterik has contributed his talents to a plethora of iconic classic rock outfits from Lynard Skynard to The Beach Boys and was a key member of The Ides of March and Survivor. His latest collection, The Songs, peels away the giant arena rock veneer of booming drums and overblown guitars to cut to the emotional core of each track. Stratocasters are traded in for acoustics, synthesized strings are replaced by the real thing and the vibe which originated in the metropolises of the mid-west is revived in country music's capital. Peterik decided to record this re-imagining in Nashville with heartland producer Fred Mollin (Kris Kristofferson, America) and a host of the town's top session players. The result is a mature reexamination of the unbridled, youthful tracks that made him famous.

The album begins on a somber note with a simple, stark electric piano accompaniment to Peterik's singing on Vehicle, his hit from 1970. The new arrangement of the Ides of March hit feels more like Portishead than the thumping rock original. A tasteful, lyrical guitar solo courtesy of Johnny A joins Peterik to sing a duet.

Perhaps the most shocking rendition is their version of his biggest hit, Eye of the Tiger. The anthem that can be heard from sea to sea in every sports stadium is stripped of its iconic guitar riff and replaced with the mandolin and fiddle of an old-time bluegrass band. With the focus readjusted, the lyrics are brought front and centre to be appreciated as a story of hard work and determination beyond the simple tale of glory told by “Duh! Duh-Duh-Duh!”.

Other notable tracks include That's Why God Made the Radio the title track from the Beach Boys most recent album and Heavy Metal, one of Sammy Hagar's best solo tracks. The later is given a locomotive feel which a chugging acoustic guitar and a howling boxcar mouth harp.

The Songs is a testament to Peterik's talents as a songwriter. You'll find yourself realizing that he's had a hand in many songs stuck in your memory. Not all the songs benefit from this gentler approach. At times the grandiose lyrics feel out of place being played 'piano bar' style. However, the bluegrass approach he takes on certain songs makes them feel new again, despite being played in a style that far out dates their original incarnations. At the very least, check out the new version of Eye of the Tiger. You won't hear the song in the same way again.

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