The Peddlers with the London
A story of my favourite Peddlers record by:
Bas Möllenkramer of the Netherlands
Suite London was the final album released by the original line-up of the Peddlers. Without question this is their most ambitious and artistically most successful project. The album contains only original compositions. The superb musicianship and taste of the Peddlers is augmented by classically trained composer and rock keyboard player Peter Robinson, known for his work with Chris Farlowe, Quatermass, Suntreader, Phil Collins and many others. On Suite London, Peter Robinson wrote instrumental pieces for the orchestra and for the band. His compositions add much depth to the work. It's almost a collaboration.
The album was released on the Philips label in the United Kingdom in 1972, and on the EMI-distrubuted Odeon label in Europe. The album was pressed in South Africa too, most likely on the Parlophone label. Presumably there are pressings from many other countries. Oddly, the sleeves differ across the territories. The UK album has a black sleeve with gold and white lettering, while the European release has a white sleeve with black lettering. The European sleeve was initially pressed with a small but amusing error. The Odeon label logo was printed mirror-image. A corrected version also exists.
Whatever pressing you are after, this album is horrendously rare. Extended searches come up empty. No-one ever seems to be selling one. When one does surface the prices are atrocious. This reviewer has both examples shown in his collection. The Odeon pressing is in fine shape and has been used as the basis for a CD-R transfer. Only minimal declicking was needed.
Philips 6308 102
The rear of the sleeve is black with only standard record company lettering.
Odeon 1C 062-93367 (sleeve)
Netherlands: Odeon 5C 062-93367 (record)
The rear of the sleeve is uniformly white with no lettering at all.
The European pressing on Odeon has other errors. The Philips record shows seven titles on side one, while the Odeon record has only six titles. On side two the label features track number five twice. Somebody wasn't paying attention in the label printing department. The Odeon record is not banded and all tracks run into each other. This makes it almost impossible to see what tracks begin where. The Philips record is banded but here too an error was made. Track two on side two is in fact a suite of three movements and there are bands between each. Tracks four and five on side two however, have no band in between. This makes it hard to find specific pieces.
After exhaustive research the final accurate track listing with timings is published below. There are no silences between tracks making the album a suite as the title suggests. The album has been transferred to CD-R by this reviewer and the choice was made to have no timing gap between side one and side two. The result has a natural flow and arguably the music was intended to be heard as one continuous piece.
|This Strange Affair
|Raining In London
|Sequence Of Thought
|Under London Lights
|I Have Seen
|Impressions: Movement 1
|Impressions: Movement 2
|Impressions: Movement 3
|A Year And A Day
|This Strange Affair (Reprise)
|This Is It
Year And A Day (Metamorphosis)
Total playing time
As mentioned above Peter Robinson composed orchestra pieces for the album and the entire three piece suite called Impressions. Peter Robinson is a talented keyboard player with a very recognizable style on the electric Fender piano. During the first movement of Impressions, a Fender piano solo can be heard, which has a marked similarity to Peter Robinson's playing on other albums, notably the B-side of the rare Quatermass 45 entitled Punting. It is therefore the contention of this reviewer that although uncredited, Peter Robinson actually plays during this movement. The Fender piano heard here has been modified by an electronic effect known as a ring modulator, a device also used by him elsewhere.
Suite London is a beautiful record and extremely satisfying to listen to. The recorded sound quality is stunning and more is the pity that this album has not yet been issued on CD anywhere. The quality of playing and singing too is of the highest standard. The orchestral pieces are strange, angular and haunting. The Roy Phillips tunes are wonderful Peddlers masterpieces.
This Strange Affair 4:10
Suite London kicks off with thoughtful Fender piano chords and Roy Phillips wonderful singing. Cellos and basses are added, and gradually the orchestra fills out. A drum break introduces the band. Ochestra and band merge effortlessly. Peter Robinson's challenging angular arrangements slowly build the tension to a gradiose climax with oboes, trumpets and strings.
Raining In London 1:41
A percussion break introduces the 'proper' Peddlers in full steam swining mode and wah-wah pedal Hammond slightly reminiscent of 'Tell The World We're Not It' from two years earlier.
Sequence Of Thought 3:01
A short continuity piece with orchestra and band again playing backwards and forwards, moving into some great Hammond work. Inexorably we move towards another orchestral climax, relenting slowly into mood Fender piano chords. Orchestral mystery-movie chords lead us into:
Did She 2:10
A genuine Peddlers classic which would sit well in any anthology of the band. A great tune, great playing and a wonderful hook in the chorus. Take great care playing this very loud. The bass drum and bass guitar together might ruin your woofers. A deliciously tasteful Hammond solo or two closes the tune. What a shame it's only two minutes long.
In Juxtaposition 1:18
As the title suggest this orchestral piece is a surprise after the previous swinging song. Modern classical music at is most challenging for the listener, with a percussion tour-de-force that Stravinsky would have been proud of. The mood softens to lead us into the next tune.
Under London Lights 2:57
The Peddlers with orchestra in mysterious mode. 'Lord will I feel alright?' sings Roy Phillips. Even at this low energy level the swinging musicianship of the Peddlers entertains us. Finally the orchestra appears to detune and go home.
River Lives 2:43
More straight jazz-pop from the inimitable Peddlers. A tune that would work outside Suite London. Here we can hear why Roy Phillips is such a remarkable organist. He combines great timing and taste with a gentle sound which soothes the listener. The orchestra take over for the finale of side one of the original vinyl album
I Have Seen 5:03
Mystery movie noises from the orchestra start off side two. It's almost like listening to one of Bartok's famous pieces featuring celeste and persussion. The bass guitar introduces a gentle groove over which Roy Phillips plays fine Hammond blues lines. Here too orchestra and band merge effortlessly.
Impressions: Movement 1, 2:46
A drum break introduces us to a funky instrumental jam session, with wah-wah guitar and ring-modulator piano. At some points two electric Fender pianos can be heard suggesting that the solo is by Peter Robinson, added and abetted by Roy Phillips (read elsewhere on this page).
Impressions: Movement 2, 2:07
An abrupt edit shift us into a barroom late at night with the Peddlers closing the place down. Anyone needing proof of Roy Phillips' mastery of the Hammond organ as an expressive blues instrument need only listen to this. As if we didn't get the picture earlier, cutlery noise are introduced halfway in. A lovely smooth intermezzo from the Peddlers. The orchestra conductor then tells us all to be quiet for the third movement of the Impressions suite.
Impressions: Movement 3, 2:55
More instrumental funk jamming, this time with orchestra. Peter Robinson at his characteristic best. Listen to the closing song on the famous Quatermass album to hear more of his prowess. Here too, we must conclude Peter Robinson takes Fender piano lead.
A Year And A Day 2:06
A change of mood, preceded by lovely atmospheric orchestra chords and magical Fender piano. Roy Phillips at his most introspective. Just voice and piano, hauntingly beautiful. This man just has such impeccable taste.... . The orchestra enters gently halfway through, just adding to the goosebumps.
This Strange Affair (Reprise) 1:11
An uptempo repeat of the opening tune merging imperceptibly into:
This Is It 2:28
A bold statement of self-confidence from Roy Phillips. Powerfully optimistic and deceptively final. It feels like the album is about to end. But there is a suprise in store.
A Year And A Day (Metamorphosis) 1:17
Suite London closes with Roy Phillips singing over the orchestra sounding like the Ligeti pieces in 2001: A Space Odyssey. One is left wanting more and wondering what it has all been about.
Listening to Suite London is like flying over a city with the weather changing continuously. Spots of brilliant sunshine alternate with cloudy gloom. The view keeps changing and a new surprise is in store around every corner. The music is evocative and challenging. At times band and orchestra blend imperceptibly into an artistic unity and at other times they clash with wonderful angular chord structures. And if that isn't enough, Suite London has some of the best original Peddlers music anywhere on record.
It is a crying shame this album isn't out on Compact Disc, preferably featuring the full treatment of 24 bit 96 kHz remastering. The technical side of the recording is so good that a straight stereo SACD (Super Audio CD) is certainly worthwhile too. Record companies where are you? Castle? Sequel? Mobile Fidelity? Repertoire? Akarma? Who?
Original Album credits
|The Peddlers would also
like to thank
Electric guitar: Toney Walmsley
Percussion: John Punter
Produced by Peter Robinson for Actasbilt Limited
17 Savile Row, London W1
Publisher: Train Publishing Plan Ltd.
Recorded at AIR Studios London
Engineers: Bill PRice, Chris Michie
IBC Studio, London
Engineer: Mike Clayton
Sleeve design: Bloomsbury Group
Co-ordinated and refereed by Cyril Smith for Actasbilt Limited by
kind persmission of National Westminster Bank
About the reviewer