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Bob Drake — Planets & Animals
(ReR Megacorp CTA-26, 2020, CD)

by Jeff Melton, Published 2023-08-18

Planets & Animals Cover art

Bob Drake usually maintains a safe compositional distance from insanity and the macabre. That doesn’t mean he’s a moody SOB like say Robert Smith (or heaven forbid, Morrissey). No, the bassist continues to juxtapose his ideas with appreciable doses of mystery, abandon, and joy. The tone of his more recent studio endeavors (Arx Pilosa and L’Isola dei  Lupi) has evolved past his earlier inspirations from Edgar Allen Poe and Edward Gorey into other mystifying but diverse genres such as newgrass or even taxidermy. It’s hard to completely nail down, but Bob just wants to keep you guessing in that way. With a Wile E. Coyote-like perspective, Drake articulates themes of remorse and menace that carefully fit into his organized, but outwardly chaotic pieces. Planets and Animals is Bob’s lucky 13th solo work, and appears to be a loosely-based concept album — although I still haven’t quite deduced the connecting themes after several attempts. Traditional progressive rock has always informed his arrangements, especially present in his vocal songs that pull equally from folk, bluegrass, RIO, and flat-out rock and roll. Drake’s trademark quirkiness is best represented by new pieces such as “Old Sundial Mottos” and the recording’s title track. The former piece is a jangly folkish romp that quickly flourishes into a planned commotion that moves quickly down the road while “Planets and Animals” follows a Beatles-ish tempo that switches gears into a kind of Yes-like interlude. Alternately, the country-tinged ballad “Dogstar” is maybe the easiest to digest on its own terms due to the composer’s persuasive, but inviting vocal parts. Bob just knows how to lure you into a Roy Orbison-esque vocal before satisfyingly twisting it just ever so slightly. My only real overall complaint is that it all kinda gets started then suddenly it’s over. That’s because because it’s only around 30 minutes long start to finish. And don’t forget that if you purchase the CD you also receive a colorful Taurus the bear poster which I have proudly mounted on my apartment ceiling where it’s strategically placed. Seriously I’m just grateful that we still have solo artists of this unique caliber who continue to find an imaginative reason to push their own limits and indirectly our own as well.

Filed under: New releases, 2020 releases

Related artist(s): Chris Cutler, Bob Drake

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