Peter Wolf: Don't call it a comeback

Some records define the times, and some records define what's wrong with the times. When it hits record stores on April 6, Peter Wolf's new album Midnight Souvenirs -- his first release in about eight years -- has a lot to tell us about what's missing from so much of contemporary music.

To listen to these 14 tracks is to spend time with an artist who has very big ears, whose work is marked by an abundantly evident love of an array of music: R&B, soul, early rock n roll, country, some jazz, some funk. It's welcome news to discover the firebrand who powered the J. Geils Band in the 70s and 80s still burns with the same passion for music these many years later.

Across his solo career, Wolf never managed to convert the early 80s success of the J. Geils Band, and as near as I can tell his solo debut, the very fondly remembered solo debut Lights Out (1985) is not available on CD.

Midnight Souvenirs (Verve) is a warm-sounding, beautifully recorded record full of great songs and great performances, including cameos by Neko Case ("The Green Fields of Summer"), Shelby Lynne ("Tragedy"), Merle Haggard ("It's Too Late For Me") and an homage to Willy DeVille ("The Night Comes Down"). But as he has throughout his career, it is Wolf who drives the record clear across musical frontiers and gleefully jumps from genre to genre in a way that, to my mind, was much more common, say 25 years ago and seems so alien now in our overly formatted, excessively labeled world. As inspired and inspiring as those cameos are, the jewel at the heart of this record is Wolf's broad taste and talent. Perhaps there are better singers and better songwriters in the world, but few who embody the generous spirit that defined the best music of the past 50 years, and defines so little of popular music today.

Midnight Souvenirs arrives at a time when the air is perfumed (or polluted) with rhetoric about the value of bipartisanship in politics. In music, Peter Wolf continues to reach across the aisle with spectacular results.

(making-of videos for Midnight Souvenirs)


Views: 278

Tags: band, geils, merle, peter, shelby, wolf

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on March 27, 2010 at 3:57pm
I received an advance of this record a couple months ago and it's been in heavy rotation ever since. I was skeptical as I spent way to many nights hearing J Geils "Centerfold" blasting from boom boxes at parties and on the radio in the early 80's. It was one of those songs that would end up on a continuous auto loop in my brain against my will long after it had played, so I was ready to instantly dismiss this new Peter Wolf record on that bias alone. Having excellent guest vocalists Neko Case, Shelby Lynn and Merle Haggard on the record was enough to make me think twice and give it an honest chance. Turns out it didn't need a chance nor did it take any effort to love the record. I was pleasantly surprised from the first listen and I agree with Paul that it sounds like a record that could have and would have been made in the past, which was a refreshing change from most of what I encounter these days. I can't really say it any better than this review did, but I can give it a wholehearted recommendation. The record isn't out til April 6th, but I highly recommend you check this one out.
Comment by chris sweeney on March 27, 2010 at 4:20pm
I was also once guilty of dismissing Peter Wolf because of the J. Geils stereotype. His CD "Sleepless" changed that for good. I have heard "The Green Fields of Summer" and based on that song I will purchase the new CD as soon as it becomes available. Thanks for the review.
Comment by Craig Young on March 28, 2010 at 5:34am
I too am eager to hear Peter Wolf's next release. I thoroughly enjoyed his last effort, 2002's "Sleepless" . My favorite song is "Nothing But The Wheel" featurng Larry Campbell and Mick Jagger . I might also add that the J. Geils Band was one of the most dynamic bands I have ever seen live, performing marathon high energy rock and R&B concerts.
Comment by DublinBlues on March 29, 2010 at 5:39am
Loved "Sleepless," and already have the new CD on order. Just as an aside, I remember 3-4 years ago my wife and I went the Bob Dylan - Merle Haggard show at the Orpheum in Boston. Before the show I visited the merchandise areas; Dylan had the bigger area, and off to the side by the entrance to the floor seating, Haggard had a table set up to seel his stuff which was mainly a couple of t-shirts and a lot of CD's. While I was looking over the many CD's, a voice behind me says, "let's see...I got that one, that one, that one, that one, & that one." I see a finger off to my right pointing to all the Haggard albums this person had in his collection. Looked up and it was none other than Peter Wolf. Had the pork-pie hat on, he always looks the same. He ended up buying something than headed off towards the stage. Told him how much I loved Sleepless before he left, and hoped he come out with another one soon. "Thanks man, we're workin' on it," he said.

2-3 years later I see him back at the Orpheum when he jumped on stage with Phil Lesh & Friends to do a rousing version of "Pack Fair & Square." Maker's Mark in hand he led the crowd through a nice jaunt. Guess the connection was Larry Campbell who was playing lead guitar (among many other things) with Phil at the time. Here's a link to that performance which is kind of interesting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8pcoMfnlUQ
Comment by Jim Friscia on March 30, 2010 at 10:02am
Peter has always been one of those artists possessing "very big ears", tremendous musical integrity, and a sense of fun that has permeated his music since the early days of J. Geils ... "Sleepless" was excellent ... I can't wait to hear "Midnight Souvenirs".
Comment by Jeff from NH on March 30, 2010 at 10:09am
Yes, I'm also looking forward to this and it would be the first Peter Wolf or J Geils in my collection. I found the "Making of" videos very compelling, thanks for including them.

I ran into Peter Wolf at the recent Chuck Prophet show at a small club in Cambridge that he sometimes goes to. I wanted to respect his privacy, but also wanted to say hello, so I asked him if he'd be joining Chuck. He said he was asked, but they didn't work anything out. I had the feeling he could've blown the doors off of just about any song with no rehearsal, but he never made it to the stage. He was there (like me) as a music fan and that was cool, too.

Both Peter and J Geils have been important in the Boston Music Scene for years and still play around the area. Several of the musicians shown on the record and in the video (Duke Levine, Kevin Barry) are also pillars of the music community here.
Comment by Jeff from NH on March 30, 2010 at 10:15am
Peter will be appearing on the “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” TV show (NBC, 12:35am/11:35pm CT) on Mon, April 5th. He will perform “Tragedy” with special guest Shelby Lynne. Be sure to tune in!

Shelby Lynne plays Johnny D's in Somerville, MA on Jun 8. I wonder if Peter will be in town for that one too.
Comment by Shane Tutmarc on March 30, 2010 at 11:27am
Looking forward to this!
Comment by Bob Goldstein on March 30, 2010 at 4:54pm
I thought Sleepless was a great, overlooked album when it came out. "Nothing But the Wheel" ended up on many of my CD compilations that year. I grew up in Boston and never was a Geils fans back then. I do remember Peter's many enjoyable stints on WBCN. I also remember going to see Poco open for J. Geils back in the late 70's. Man did they get a rough treatment from the Geils faithful! I'm really looking forward to Midnight Souvenirs.
Comment by Kyla Fairchild on April 3, 2010 at 4:41pm
Michael Bialas interviewed Peter Wolf and wrote a great feature on him for No Depression. Check that out here and also enter your vote as to whether you think the J. Geils band should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.