"Destiny Road" is the Splinter Group's first studio album, and is the latest step on the road of rediscovery for Peter Green. There are some parallels with the rediscovery of many Blues artists in the 1960s, when a number of them had to learn how to play again. Green is certainly making progress, although it is difficult to judge just how much, because the band's other guitarist, Nigel Watson, plays in a style similar to Green.
The album opens in fine style, with "Big Change is Gonna Come," which offers an insight into what the Splinter Group can do. Green's almost world-weary voice, at times veering into Curtis Mayfield territory, simply adds to the atmosphere. As well as sharing vocals and guitar duties, throughout, Green also shows that he can still play harp and slide guitar too when the mood takes him.
Whilst Peter Green's name may front the band, and he does get most of the attention, he is very much a band member, rather than a band leader. He does not feel up to writing new material yet, although he is credited with two tracks. The first is the instrumental "Tribal Dance," which wanders into Jazz territory. The other is the mysterious unlisted track 13. It turns out to be an instrumental rendering of "Man of the World," tucked away at the end of track 12. Of the other 11 songs, nine are written by individual band members. The two covers are a horn-driven arrangement of Elmore James' "Madison Blues," and the closer, a very sympathetic treatment of Stevie Winwood's "There's a River."
I have mixed feelings about "Destiny Road." If it's judged as an AOR album, then it succeeds, and will probably do quite well, since it pitches its sound somewhere in mid-Atlantic. At its best, it is very good indeed ("Big Change Is Gonna Come," "You'll Be Sorry Someday," and so on), but at its worst it is rather mediocre ("Turn Your Love Away"); fortunately, there are more highs than lows. Hopefully Green's creative songwriting genius will re-emerge over time, and this will help to clarify the future direction of the band, which seems unclear at the moment. Until then, "Destiny Road" provides a welcome staging post, which hints that the best is yet to come.
Peter Green: www.petergreen.com
Snapper Music: www.snappermusic.com (Artisan is a Snapper Music label)
This review is copyright © 1999 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.