Peter Himmelman - if you like Costello, Dylan, etc, give him a spin...

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mrjinks, Sep 25, 2008.

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  1. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    In honor of post #1000 here, I wanted to shine a little light on a criminally unappreciated singer/songwriter: Peter Himmelman - a guy who's been making literate, radio-friendly rock'n'roll for 20+ years, without gaining much airplay. People who like the music of Costello, Hiatt, Dylan, Richard Thompson and that ilk, really owe it to themselves to check this guy out.

    Brief bio: did a couple "indie" releases in Mpls in the early 80s as the singer & songwriter behind the group Sussman Lawrence: very quirky, Costello-influenced "new wave" material. Following the death of his father, he decided to take a different path, writing more introspective material and ditching the band moniker (but keeping the band). Did a few albums for Island, then went to Columbia/Epic for a few more. Despite getting reasonable airplay on the "AAA" format, CBS let him go. He was then slated to return to Island, but a label shakeup changed all that and he's been on indie labels ever since.

    Music/video samples: He first caught my ear with this Tom Petty-ish rocker back in the early 90s, but he's also capable of coming up with subtle acoustic gems, as well. Here's one of my recent favorites (audio only) and another recent one with some nice guitar work. In addition to his studio work, he's also released a series of "kids" albums (the last one was Grammy-nominated, for whatever that's worth), and I suspect he's probably made more money scoring TV & Film work in the last few years than he ever did as a major-label artist...

    Live: Unless you live in a major US city (NYC, LA, SF, Chicago, Seattle, etc), you'll probably not have a chance to see him live, which is a shame. The subject matter of his lyrics tends to be pretty dark but, in a concert setting, he's the funniest guy I've ever seen (if you've seen Richard Thompson live, it's kinda like that, but Himmelman's even better, with an Andy Kaufman-like sense of the absurd). I once saw him take suggestions for an improvisational song and he nearly went for the "pomegranate" suggestion, but then another audience member offered up "spawning salmon". Peter paused for about 15 seconds, and then out came a 3-4 verse "song" that had us all laughing so hard the tears were flowing. On another occasion, I made the mistake of wearing a rather LOUD shirt to his show, and my girlfriend & I wound up being interrogated from the stage and then immortalized in song later that evening...

    :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup: Awesome to the fans: In addition to a dozen or so studio albums, he's also released seven "vaults" recordings of outtakes - the last three or so have been initially available for free via his website. Volume three came as a free "bonus disc" with his 2001 release, and his last studio album even featured a free bonus dvd, chronicling one of his tours. Last time he played San Fran, a 17-year old asked if there was any way he could see the 21+ show and Peter responded that "I think I'll need another roadie". :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

    If the samples sound at all appealing, I highly recommend his '92 disc (Flown This Acid World), but he has several other very strong albums, too: Imperfect World (2005), From Strength to Strength (1991) & Unstoppable Forces (2004). His last disc (2007) seemed weak to me, but he's already got another new studio set forthcoming, as well as his 5th kids disc, and a live album (which, typically, he's giving away).

    Obscure trivia: Peter's a devout Jew who won't perform on the Sabbath (THAT didn't help his career), and is married to the first child of Sara Lowndes. You might have heard of Sara - she married another songwriter who adopted this girl, thus Bob Dylan is Peter's father-in-law. :yikes:

    Thanks for reading - this is a great venue to discuss music, and I've been meaning to bring up Peter for a long time!

    www.peterhimmelman.com
     
  2. AKA-Chuck G

    AKA-Chuck G Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington NC
    He has been a favorite of mine as well. The song "Woman with the Strength of 10000 Men" from the LP "From Strength to Strength" is such a great song as is that whole LP. My second favorite is Synisthesia.
     
  3. Wally Cleaver

    Wally Cleaver Forum Resident

    Location:
    Orlando, FL, USA
    I saw Peter Himmelman in I believe it was 1988 open for Squeeze, he was great-it was the first time I ever heard of him.
     
  4. AKA-Chuck G

    AKA-Chuck G Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington NC
  5. tcj

    tcj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix
    He's very good - I would recommend his concept album Skin over just about everything else he's done as a starter (it was mine!) It is very strong and very moving (aside from the first song, which I find kind of annoying. Skip it and try it after the album has settled in with you.) The live, solo, acoustic Stage Diving is also great and shows off not only his great songs but also his sense of humor.

    Like many other underappreciated pop-song writers, his albums are almost always solid, and always seem to have at least one or two "knocked it out of the park" songs that make it worth checking out each one. (See also Michael Penn for examples of this - solid albums and always at least one song that makes you think, "How did this not become a massive hit?!")
     
  6. tcj

    tcj Forum Resident

    Location:
    Phoenix
    Wait, what? I just caught this. Where is this available? I couldn't find any mention on his site.
     
  7. alylemoss

    alylemoss Forum Resident

    His one album that I still have is Stage Diving, which I love, and I would agree that he's got a few great songs on every album (though I haven't heard the last couple).

    The song that seems to stick with me the most is "Untitled," from From Flown This Acid World, which is about an encounter with an Anti-Semitic cab driver in Minnesota and is mighty intense.
     
  8. Murph

    Murph Somewhere...under heaven

    I remember a song called, I think "Waning Moon" - What a great tune. I forget the album though
     
  9. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    Let me get back to you on that...
    That one is from his 2nd solo release - Gematria...
     
  10. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    For those that might be interested, Peter has recently been doing live online shows (audio & video) from his studio on Tuesday nights. Unfortunately for me, that falls on my tennis night, so I have yet to see one, but they're fairly entertaining if this writeup is to be believed.

    Tonight's show also will contain a password for free download of a new album (his 8th) of "vault" material - studio recordings that have not been previously issued elsewhere. This marks the fourth consecutive "vaults" collection that Peter's chosen to give away to his fans. :righton:

    If you find yourself tired of cheesy holiday specials, and would like a change of pace, tune in at 7pm Pacific time:
    www.tinyurl.com/furiousworld

    Previous performances are apparently archived at his website, though I've yet to listen/watch one of 'em!
     
  11. John Cantrell

    John Cantrell Active Member

    Location:
    Outta here
    I discovered Peter in the late 80s/early 90s while I was looking "outside the box" for music. The popular music - i.e. charts - had held little that interested me at the time.

    Synesthesia in 1989
    From Strength To Strength 1991
    Flown This Acid World 1992
    Skin 1994

    After that, he fell off my radar for some reason. Thanks for the reminder, Mr Jinks. Think I'll dust off Flown This Acid World for starters...;)
     
  12. Thesmellofvinyl

    Thesmellofvinyl Forum Resident

    Location:
    Cohoes, NY USA
    New album came out March 17th

    On his web site (link above) his new album is available for free download if you tell five people about it, or you can pay whatever you like, or you can buy it on vinyl.

    I first heard him on radio in '91 but didn't know who it was. I thought it might be new Elvis Costello but didn't really believe it. I bought From Strength To Strength within the hour based on hearing that one song just that once and now I have most of his albums. Would love to see him in concert. His children's albums are great, too.
     
  13. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    another free download for the fans...

    Peter's weekly online radio show, "Furious World" has been airing Tuesday nights for quite awhile (streaming via his website). Anyway, he's just released a collection of some of the live performance highlights from the show, available for free download here.

    Enjoy, especially if you've never heard any of his stuff before...

    [​IMG]
     
  14. Kayaker

    Kayaker Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Joisey Now
    His kids stuff is really great! I've not listened to his adult stuff in years. Gonna have to get back to it.
     
  15. aaronfirebrand

    aaronfirebrand Well-Known Member

    Strength To Strength still gets airplay in my house. Very underrated album.
     
  16. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Location:
    Cambridge, MA
    I've seen him several times live, and he's fantastic. Great rapport with the audience, often plays impromptu funny songs, and the "real" songs are terrific.

    The best show I saw was in Cambridge, MA, at the Middle East (downstairs), in the early '90s, right after his "concept album" Skin came out. He played the entire album to start, and then followed up with various songs from his catalog. Just incredibly good. Too bad the place wasn't half filled (it was a lousy/snowy week night)...and that's probably why he's never returned to the Boston area for another show... :-(
     
  17. Galley

    Galley Forum Resident

    I love "Gematria", but haven't heard anything else by him.
     
  18. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    For the handful of folks here who are fans of Mr. Himmelman, I thought I'd revive this long-dead thread.

    Peter has a new album being funded via kickstarter. It's got about eight days left in the campaign, and it's ALMOST funded. He recorded the album with Jim Keltner & Lee Sklar, and the posted song samples on the kickstarter page sound fantastic. For $20, you can get digital files; for $30, a signed copy of the cd. There are also a variety of other options out there, including a cd of demos from his early days with his band Sussman Lawrence.

    Check out the page HERE and at least give some of the song samples a quick spin. Sounds like another strong effort from this brilliantly underrated songwriter!

    Not sure if any of the links in my original post still work, but if someone new to this thread has any questions about his work, I'd be happy to answer.
     
  19. hal jones

    hal jones Forum Resident

    Location:
    Waterloo, ON.
    Pete and his Pops-In-Law....
     
  20. mrjinks

    mrjinks Optimistically Challenged Thread Starter

    Location:
    Boise, ID.
    Amusing, for sure, but also likely to scare anyone away from listening to any of Peter's real music!
    Here's a more typical track from a few years ago:
     
  21. hal jones

    hal jones Forum Resident

    Location:
    Waterloo, ON.
    ....sorry wasn't my intent. Just remembered seeing that clip at some point in the past...and later finding out that the dude in the middle was Bob's son-in-law....
     
  22. nojasa

    nojasa Forum Resident

    Thx for the update. He's released so much enjoyable stuff. Hope others check him out.
     
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