Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Annette Peacock—
X-Dreams


Released 1978 on Aura
The Seth Man, January 2001ce
By the time Annette Peacock recorded her second solo album, “X-Dreams,” six years had passed since her debut “I’m The One” -- a fantastically experimental album of spartan inspiration that didn’t fit into any categories but the one it single-handedly created for itself. It was from a female singer songwriter not only versed in jazz and rock’n’roll, but the avant garde of both as well. And treating both her vocals and arrangements with Moog synthesizer manipulations, Annette wrapped up the whole album into something that was a light-years-ahead-of its-time anomaly. Released on RCA, it drew the immediate attention of label mate David Bowie, who approached her with the invitation to join him on his tour for “Aladdin Sane.” Annette declined, but this did not prevent Bowie’s Mainman management from signing her anyway. Little came of it, as she was soon met with the same waiting room sensation that had already descended upon The Stooges when they too were put on ice for the better good of Bowie’s rapidly expanding career.
Already relocating from New York to England with her young child, she bided her time by writing songs and living her life independently. But after six years of silence, the British Aura label released “X-Dreams” with a stateside release the following year on the jazz-oriented Tomato label. “X-Dreams” is not a jazz album, despite (or perhaps because of) her respective marriages to jazz musicians Gary Peacock and then Paul Bley. For what she produced here sounded nothing like her previous solo outing. Every inch as defiantly non-traditional as it occupied a no-woman’s zone between jazz and rock with oozingly slow experimental funk trimmed with her vocal instincts pinballing between ancient blues, modern jazz stylings to outright pussy in heat purring. Resigning the instrumentation to a battery of both jazz and rock musicians, her songs are all carefully thought out ruminations regarding love, relationships and general man/woman workings that are astonishingly clear and simple as they are frighteningly insightful. Her voice is lies somewhere between Grace Slick at the Village Vanguard with masses of Maria Muldaur smouldering joining Patti Smith street smarts down on the corner.

“My Momma Never Taught Me How To Cook” sees Peacock flashing a bit of vocal ass in the sexiest, most cool and post-liberated manner ever, and it’s not a bit affected. Not even when she turns to describe her brother, who taught her how to “turn the other……CHEEK” as well as “giving her a HEAD...start.” These super drawn out insinuations of incest would be altogether too much if her vocals, confidence and fierce independence of spirit didn’t utterly trample over any and all female jazz singer stock in trade faux-sassiness that reeks of spotlight posturing. But here there is no sophisto jazzbo audience to titter on cue at well-worn ‘risqué’ innuendo. And over the sparse, jagged and steamed up funkiness, she starts enumerates all the many come-ons she’s received in a deadpan rap that knocks all the trash talkin’ requests to “suck her honey,” “cop her conception,” and “pay your landlord some dues” into a corner with the simple response:

“Hey, man...
My destiny is not to serve...
I’m a woman.
My destiny is to create.”

She did not name her publishing company ‘Vicious Music’ for nothing.

The second track is the ten minute exploration of “Real And Defined Androgens” where the music behind Peacock’s cool, near-spoken phrases start to churn up an sexual, part-jazz-inflected, ever hardening/softening gel of kneading rhythms. It is actually more ROCK, come to think of it as Bill Bruford’s drumming here is every bit as muscularly planted and well-timed as it was on King Crimson’s “Red” (their mutual respect of talents resulted in Annette appearing on Bruford’s own solo album, “Feels Good To Me.”) Annette’s smoky, spoken introduction is a sexual slowburn as the ever-building progressive Rock/jazz bonfire backing always approaches climax, only to shift into pre-ejaculation mode for another round. And another and another...it goes on like this for ten minutes, and that’s a near torturous length of time to hold back from anything half as sensuous and inviting. And her near murmured intonations of sexual poli-tickling is balanced on a knife’s edge with a feather touch as it tightropes any and all pre-coital motivation, highly disciplined as it is sexy as hell. The guitar part, played in all certainty by Chris Spedding (who was among the rock’n’roll session players on this disc, along with Bruford, Mick Ronson and ex-High Tide bassist Pete Pavli) builds and builds as it slashes ever onward’n’upward.
“Dear Bela” ends the side, complete with late night New York bar saxophone sounding the weary end to another weekend night as Annette prods and probes her vampiric lover with questions over a further drunken score of tangled saxophoneering.

Side two is by far more serene and relaxed. “This Feel Within” is a calmed jazz piece with a guitar solo at the end the burns at both ends over the easy-listening synth and Peacock’s murmured, almost Patti-like vocals. “Too Much In The Skies” is a subtle and serene naming of her heart’s spirit over further comfort synth drones. Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is the only non-Peacock compo, sees the arrangements kind of sink into late seventies, streamlined Steely Dan stylings, but Ronson redeems the piece by burning down a storm on guitar at the end, saving it from becoming Rickie Lee Jones guesting on “Aja”-ness. Which it almost is except Annette can run rings in liquid cursive around the shorthandedness of that particular pairing. The album ends with “Questions,” a calm rumination on love that quakes with all the human heart’s uncertainties. “Caught between the future yet to be/And the silent past to which I’m bound, still holding me” sees her voice trail off into whispers as the piano captures that mood when you’re in love and alone on a cold Sunday, when all you can feel are the many days to follow with no assurances whatsoever. It’s an emotion rarely captured without at least a bit of distillation or cliché, but Annette nails it with her incisiveness intelligence and open heart.

Was Annette Peacock the true inspiration behind Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul”? I wouldn’t be half-surprised.