Keyboardist Pete Levin has remained under the radar, especially when compared to bass-playing brother Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), by playing as a sideman and working in TV and film over the past 40 years. Deacon Blues is a rare solo release, and features the synthesizer specialist playing Hammond organ exclusively.
Early cuts, like covers of Steely Dan (the title track) and the Beach Boys (“Sail On Sailor”) succeed through Levin’s interplay with drummer Danny Gottlieb and guitarists Joe Beck and Mike DeMicco. Brother Tony contributes bass on a few tracks, freeing up the keyboardist from his simultaneous bass pedals and resulting in the disc’s best performance, a creative Levin arrangement of classical composer Erik Satie’s “First Gymnopedie.”
But unless your name is Jimmy Smith, Hammond organ is difficult enough to make a compelling recording on, and Levin gets undercut by his percussionists during the disc’s second half. Beginning with the keyboardist’s “Once Lost,” Carlos Valdez and especially Ken Lovett unleash a series of overused wind chimes that would make a New Age composer—which Levin has occasionally been during the past 15 years—blush.
Sequential compositions by Ralph Towner (“Icarus”), Jimmy Giuffre (“Sad Truth”) and DeMicco (“Eclipse”) also suffer, as does Giuffre’s “Dragonfly” near the disc’s end. Levin’s remaining original, the sans-chimes “Might Have Been,” should’ve been the title track—since Deacon Blues might have been better with less overblown metallics or at least better song sequencing.