Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Pieces of Peace, Pieces of Peace

Pieces of Peace were a Chicago band that, at the time of this recording, included Jerry Wilson (reeds & prcussion), Michael Davis (brass & percussion), Ben Wright (keyboards & vocals), King Johnson pieces of peace(vocals), Bernard Reed (bass, vocals), John Bishop (guitar, vocals) and Fred Crutchfield (drums).  “Pieces of Peace” the band’s only album, was recorded in 1971 shortly before the group broke up.  The liner notes state the as-yet unreleased album was “shelved indefinitely” after the band split and it is never made clear if and when the album was released before this current CD.  The CD contains two “CD bonus tracks” (a version of “Pollution” with the vocals stripped out and an instrumental alternate take of “Yesterday’s Visions”) which leads you to think the album had been released sometime in the past.

The liner notes blurb the album as “arguably the most important lost document of Chicago soul music” which is ridiculous when you remember that this is a band which had established a history as a capable back up band and recorded just this one album which may have never been released.  If it’s not some great “lost document”, what is it?  Pieces of Peace were a soul-funk band with talent and potential that broke up before they could maximize either.  During their formative years Pieces of Peace were mentored by the Chicago afro-jazz ensemble The Pharoahs.  The Pharoahs were the group that gave birth to Earth Wind & Fire and the shared roots between EWF and Pieces of Peace can be heard clearly.  Another important influence, which is atypical for soul-funk bands of the period, appears to have been the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Richard Muhal Abrams’ monumental AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians).  The track “Peace and Blessings” is a 7+ minute workout with very strong free jazz leanings in the brass and reeds played over a thick stew of percussion.

Some of the tracks on “Pieces of Peace” are relatively weak examples of types of music that other bands of the period performed more successfully.  For example, album opener “Cease Fire” is a fairly lifeless slice of soft jazz mellowness.  The group’s horn charts are not especially strong when considered in the company of contemporary horn driven Chicago bands like The Chicago Transit Authority whose first album (before they shortened their name to Chicago and turned dreadful) showcased blistering ensemble horn playing.  Pieces of Peace’s strength lay more in jams than tightly structured charts and the extended jams on “Pieces of Peace” are the highlights of the album and worth the price of admission.

On the evidence provided by this recording Pieces of Peace broke up too soon which is a shame.  Listeners who enjoy horn-driven soul-funk with a decidedly late ’60s – early ’70s sound will probably enjoy the album a great deal.  And if listening to “Peace and Blessings” leads you to look in a different direction and discover The Art Ensemble of Chicago, so much the better.

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02/12/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews

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