Peter Wolf roomed with eclectic film maker David Lynch while in school, married (and divorced) actress Faye Dunaway, and fronted the legendary J. Geils Band for close to sixteen years, 1967-1983. He still re-unites with the band every now and then as they and Aerosmith will play together in Boston’s Fenway Park August 14, 2010.
He has now returned with his seventh solo album and first in over seven years. It was well worth the wait as in my view it takes its place as one of the better releases of the year thus far.
While he is now reaching the traditional age of retirement, Midnight Souvenirs proves there is a lot of life left in this old rock ‘n’ roll dinosaur.
The album is grounded in the type of melodic rock which made him famous but he stretches out into some blues and a little country along the way. He voice is still a fine instrument and his songwriting ability remains superb as he co-wrote twelve of the fourteen songs.
While a number of strong up-tempo rock tracks grace the album it is three ballads with vocal duets which are at the heart of the release. He wisely intersperses them throughout the CD and they are the first, last, and sixth tracks.
The ballads deal with love, mortality, and relationships which have been recent themes for Wolf. “Tragedy,” with guest vocalist Shelby Lynne, is a slow country blues piece which explores the theme of romantic turmoil. The true highlight of the album is “The Green Fields Of Summer” where he shares the vocal duties with Neko Case, and the lady can really sing. It is a smooth flowing ballad as it combines his thoughts and feelings about relationships and mortality into a tale of hope and contentment. He unites with one of his musical idols, Merle Haggard, for the album ending “It’s Too Late For Me.” Haggard sounds better than I have heard him in years and their voices mesh well together on this mellow song.
The rest of the album rocks along. “I Don’t Wanna Know,” “Watch Her Move,” “There’s Still Time,” and a bluesy cover of Alan Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky” are filled with energy. “The Night Comes Down” is a poignant tribute for Willy Deville.
Midnight Souvenirs moves Peter Wolf to the head of the class of 2010. If this album is any indication his concert at Fenway Park will be a home-run.