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Peculiar Friends

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Album Review

The third and final disc on Polydor from Ten Wheel Drive before Annie Sutton would come in to take over for the irreplaceable Genya Ravan and they would move the organization to Capitol for one more go at it, this is the most sophisticated of the small but cherished output from the ever changing and evolving entity known as Ten Wheel Drive. The pity here is that they had really found their groove on Peculiar Friends.The band blends so nicely behind Ravan's unique and multi-purpose voice, changing genres while exploring the possibilities of a song like "I Had Him Down." They lift a few notes from Blood, Sweat & Tears' cover of the Laura Nyro composition, "And When I Die," but the song mutates before you can hold it down. The key word is "down," and the six-minute "Down in the Cold" rocks — co-written by the core of the band, keyboardist Michael Zager (no relation to Zager & Evans of "25/25" fame, though many have made that mistake), guitarist Aram Schefrin, and vocalist Ravan. Drummers and bassists and horn players came and went, but the musical vision of the three main partners kept maturing, "Down in the Cold" takes Janis Joplin's drunken barroom "Turtle Blues" and speeds it up a whole lot. Ravan is in total control from the very slick "Shootin' the Breeze," which is one of the most magnificent songs they ever put on plastic, to "Fourteenth Street (I Can't Get Together)." The textures Schefrin and Zager build are the perfect complement to Ravan, and they should have kept this unit together at all costs. The title track is a mere 19 seconds of silliness while "The Night I Got Out of Jail" takes a Beatles riff and tucks it inside an Ike & Tina Turner rave-up. The nine tracks here hardly satisfy fans of early adult rock who would demand more. What they got was "No Next Time," the closest thing to a duet on this album, and a wonderful exercise in stretching the boundaries of pop. This is tough stuff that didn't lend itself to early-'70s radio, but had the potential to move the music from this time period to another, higher level. "The Pickpocket" fuses the hard rock of early Deep Purple from their keyboard heavy Tetragrammaton Days with contemporary jazz. The arrangements and performance here are top-notch, so good that the fact that there would be no more is the most disappointing aspect of Peculiar Friends.


Formed: New York, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Ten Wheel Drive was a highly influential rock/jazz group not afraid to push the envelope while exploring various musical styles. Though musicians came and went, including the original lead vocalist, by the time the fourth album was released, the records have stood the test of time, influencing the successful Bette Midler breakthrough film The Rose, inspiring women with the drive and ambition to front their own group in a once male-dominated industry, getting sold on online auction sites to be discovered...
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Peculiar Friends, Ten Wheel Drive
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