-->
Music

Pieces of Peace: Pieces of Peace

Hip-hop's use of the music of the past has led to the remembrance and rediscovery of so many lost funk and soul masterpieces.


Pieces of Peace

Pieces of Peace

Label: Quannum
US Release Date: 2007-10-16
UK Release Date: 2007-11-05
Amazon
iTunes

You have to credit hip-hop and its crate-digging DJs with the current trend towards remembrance and rediscovery of funk and soul bands from the past. Adults who grew up alongside hip-hop found jobs in the record industry and brought that digger’s knowledge of music to their work. The last five or so years have seen a bounty of funk, soul, and jazz reissues for this very reason. Some of the music being reissued is rare, and some of it goes far beyond rare, into the realms of the truly forgotten.

Somewhere far along that continuum, towards the ‘absolutely lost and probably forgotten’ side, lies the self-titled LP by Chicago group Pieces of Peace, recently reissued by Cali-Tex Records, DJ Shadow’s imprint of Quannum Projects. Described as “arguably the most important lost document of Chicago soul music” in Rob Sevier’s liner notes, the album is especially obscure because it was never released in the first place. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Pieces of Peace brought together a batch of hard-working Chicago musicians with genuine chops. They made the rounds of the Chicago soul scene, becoming a fixed presence. They backed up Gene Chandler, backed up Syl Johnson, and became close with the Pharaohs. In 1971 they recorded an album, scheduled for release through the Pharaohs’ label Scarab, but then unexpectedly disbanded during a tough tour of Asia, as Sevier relates in detail. The various band members went their own directions, within and without Chicago, and the LP never came out.

Over 35 years after it was recorded, here it finally is: the six LP tracks and two bonus instrumental takes. It stands strong – not just as an example of the Chicago scene of the time, but as a rock-solid, adventurous blend of soul, funk and jazz. Within the album’s six proper songs lies sweet soul balladry; post-What’s Going On ecologically aware social commentary; hard, steady funk rhythms; and unleashed, exploratory playing that would slip casually into any free jazz fan’s music collection. With that unique combination, in retrospect the group’s style seems particularly resonant of the ‘60s/’70s crossroad it comes from. Pieces of Peace’s music veers towards psychedelia but stays on the alert side of it. They sing of love and peace but play with a fierce awareness of the dark side of that. On jams like “Peace & Blessings” they work at their instruments like they’re angry, but always express a preference for healing at the end of the day.

That track, “Peace & Blessings”, has some wailing electric guitar that reeks of Funkadelic, while the horns blast away in a way that reminds of Chicago’s rich history with out-there jazz. “Yesterday’s Visions”, which rounds out the album, turns that same forceful musicianship upward, into bright, black hippie marching band playing, and also outward, exploring the visions of the title. But as dreamy and experimental as Pieces of Peace get, they’re never anything less than tight, never far from the sturdy confines of funk. Earlier in the album, they take that same in-the-pocket approach to playing straight-up soul music, on the light yet strident opener “Cease Fire”, the spunky “Flunky for Your Love”, and the slow-dance love song “I Still Care”, sung with sweet sadness by organist Ben Wright.

That title “Cease Fire”, along with “Peace & Blessings”, makes it clear that the band’s name was no joke, that they played their music with positive intent, driven by the notion that music can change the world. But it’s clear that those motivations never led them to sacrifice musicianship for message. On “Peace & Blessings” they work their way into an ecstatic frenzy that pushes in a spiritual direction, heavy with meaning. Yet the precise, directed way they approach wildness requires top-notch musical skills. Pieces of Peace is possessed with the spirit of hope and change, but it’s also a stunning display of musicianship. So much skill and love went into this music. Skill and love have brought it back as well, and thanks be for that.

7
Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

Keep reading... Show less
7

Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image