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Peter Lewis: Imagination


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Peter Lewis: Imagination
Peter Lewis' songs are among the most distinctive entries in the body of work by that great but woefully unsung San Francisco band of the '60s, Moby Grape. "Sittin' By The Window" and "Changes, Circles Spinning" illustrate his unique fingerpicking guitar style, the circular nature of which sounds as effortless as the slightly breathy phrasing of his singing.

Lewis' sixth solo album, Imagination, wisely trades on those very strengths and, like its predecessor The Road To Zion (Omad Records, 2019), benefits from the simplicity of arrangements emphasizing guitars and vocal harmonies. Nevertheless, this is a logical extension of the prior album, not merely a soundalike companion piece.

With the discriminating addition of harmonium and Fender Rhodes, respectively, on "Just Like Sunshine" and the alternately majestic and near- frenzied "Frank Zappa's Ghost," this is a dense thirty-eight minutes. But co-producer (with Lewis), recording engineer and mixer John DeNicola precisely layers his acoustic and electric guitars with organ on the title song too, interwoven with the background singing from Lewis' daughter Arwen (with whom he often performs).

The overall effect of those components comprises a welcome variety of textures within an audio mix of depth, size and presence. Such clarity of sound especially benefits Alan Zahn's grand piano on "Without You"; his work on the ivories has all the warm immediacy of those bass lines of DeNicola's by which he wends his graceful instrumental way throughout the arrangement.

The keyboardist's organ playing also adds a stately air to "The Garden Song (For Judy)." Something of a curveball, "If I Had You" contains echoes of Fifties doo-wop vocals as well as the complex sonority of the Beach Boys group harmonies. But "Path of Least Resistance" harkens to the most upbeat rock and roll of Peter Lewis' past, Moby Grape's uplifting "Fall On You."

Rob Bailey's cutting electric guitar solo elevates the forward motion of the musicianship there, so much that it can distract from the introspective clarity of the words Lewis intones. But the man's voice has deepened considerably with age and experience, and, as a result, the often stentorian tones in evidence on "La Mujer" for instance, add a suitable gravitas.

Printed in full on a six-panel color insert, also adorned with a drawing by Lewis, lyrics such as those are worth pondering almost as much as the multiple other virtues which distinguish this LP. No less deserving of close attention are the jazzy noir notes of Jeff Elliot's trumpet wafting through "Saying Goodbye."

Concluding these ten tracks on such an unexpected note is nonetheless an appropriate twist from a musician who has defied expectations for over five decades. With all of his estimable collaborators in tow on Imagination, Lewis continues fearlessly along his chosen path of unpredictability.

Track Listing

Just Like Sunshine; Without You: Frank Zappa's Ghost; When You Come Back To Me; If I Just Had You; Imagination; Path Of Least Resistance; La Mujer; The Garden; Saying Goodby.


Additional Instrumentation

Personnel: Peter Lewis: vocals, John DeNicola: harmonium, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, percussion, tambourine, background vocals; Marc Muller: pedal steel.

Album information

Title: Imagination | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Omad Records

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