Peaceful World

This has been a notable week for any number of reasons, but most weeks are nowadays. However, it's been exciting in that I made my first visit to Tangents on the net. Now, some of you may find that a little strange, but there you go. Yes, I made a fleeting visit when no-one was looking, and saw in passing Rob's piece on revisiting jazz on vinyl, which set me thinking.

It's odd, but I never think of buying vinyl now. I very rarely feel the temptation. I have not even got a proper record player anymore, and it doesn't bother me an awful lot. Once it would have done. As the LJs once said: "this is the culture of dusty old vinyl", and it was. I used to spend an inordinate amount of time rummaging around in charity shops in the late '80s/early '90s, picking up gems all over the place. Old 7"s, forgotten LPs, promo stuff; it was all around and waiting to be found and reclaimed.

I had a lot of time and very little money, so it was a great way to pass the time, and dotted around there were plenty of us up to the same thing. People were convinced vinyl would soon be redundant, so out it went and we were out there prospecting. I got all sorts of rubbish (a promo of the Andrew Loog-Oldham produced seven inch by Brett Smiley on Anchor, with a pic sleeve of a character like a mix of Ziggy Stardust and Eno, springs readily to mind), and all sorts of treasures like an original of Keith Hudsons 'Pick a Dub' or one day's haul which took in Rod Stewart's 'An Old Raincoat', Dr John's 'Gumbo', T Rex's 'My People Were Fair' and Charles Lloyd's 'Forest Flower' at 50p a throw.

We all learnt a lot this way, and very definitely learnt to challenge. So, Bobby Gentry and Francoise Hardy came to mean more than the Beatles and the Stones. So Kris Kristofferson's first LP came to mean more than the Who's. So we found that Kiki Dee and the solo Mike Nesmith did more of interest than Iggy Pop and Neil Young.

I don't get the time so much now, but whenever I return to former haunts I find the same records time and time again in the charity shops and I am rarely tempted by exotic delights. And I suppose that is part of the trouble. Everyone is so aware of the exotic and eclectic now, and all the rubbish heaps have been carefully picked over, and so much has been recycled and reassessed and even remastered. And I have not really got a problem with that. Apart from the sheer practicality of buying CDs now, it's so amazing the choice there is, and it's really revolutionised the concept of record collecting.

I got to the stage where I no longer had any interest in the arbitrary value of dusty old vinyl, and I gave piles of records away. Partly it was to make space. Partly, I wanted to get rid of anything dusty and musty, battered and scratched. I did not care if the item was worth 50p or £50. I didn't feel I needed it. I didn't care if I had Frank Wilson's 'Do I Love You?' on 7" or Motown's 'This Is Northern Soul' on a budget CD. Or maybe I'm trying to come to terms with the fact that I gave away a score of copies of the Manic's 'Suicide Alley' 7" once upon a time.

One record I do have very fond memories of announcing is The Rascals' 'Peaceful World'. I found it one morning when I was giving my mum a hand in a local charity shop. A shop occasionally distinguished by a visit from a June Bride, incidentally. It was the Gauguin cover that caught my eye; and, despite the appalling condition of the gatefold sleeve, I couldn't resist it. Now we all know The Rascals' classic Groovin', but 'Peaceful World' is not a record that appears in very many top 100 LPs of all time lists. I'd recommend it though. It's out again on CD, and you should get change from £10, and if you fancy a gamble and can live with over ambitious, sprawling visions, then go for it!

From 1971, 'Peaceful World' saw Felix Cavaliere bringing in some names which should set mouths watering: Joe Farrell, Hubert Laws, Chuck Rainey, Ron Carter and Buzz Feiten who played guitar on Bob Dylan's 'New Morning' (and they don't come much more funky that 'Day of The Locusts', do they?). It was around the time of Paul Welder's first two solo LPs that I chanced upon 'Peaceful World', and I remember playing an extract excitedly down a 'phone line to a friend saying "this is where Weller's going," and he was until he took a wrong turning down 'Stanley Road' and overdosed on his old Free and Fleetwood Mac blues jams. At its most ordinary, 'Peaceful World' sounds like the best of Traffic and that's no bad thing. At its best, it's as funky as any contemporaneous Curtis Mayfield outing with a groove and beats to get all the headz nodding along and it's ridiculously epic in its efforts, as in the title track sprawling and stretching over twenty minutes and the eight minute 'Getting Nearer' which draws spiritually on the book of Daniel, as I'm sure one of the tracks on the Congos' 'Heart of the Congos' masterpiece does. Or does it? One reggae classic does.

alice coltrane

Strangely, I remember 'Peaceful World' most because it was my first introduction to Alice Coltrane. She plays harp on the exquisite 'Little Dove', and it was a revelation that those strings could be so healing. Since then I've been fortunate to hear Alice work her magic on some of her own LPs (and if you have not already got the Impulse! Reissues, 'Ptah The El Daoud', Journey In Satchidananda' and 'A Monastic Trio', then get out of here!) and her collaborations with Joe Henderson ('The Elements') and McCoy Tyner ('Extensions'), and am very firmly of the belief that she's a frighteningly gifted person and it's hard to conceive that some jazz people could be so dismissive of her contribution to the great art of the late twentieth century.

Anyway, 'Little Dove' remains reason enough to get hold of the splendidly flawed 'Peaceful World', and if I'm preaching to the converted and you have other Rascals' titles you could point me in the direction of, well, here I am! Are all their records out on budget CDs in the States? Let the editor know…

© Kevin Pearce 1999.

Editors note: it seems that there are indeed several Rascals titles available from the USA. The CDNow site lists at least five titles, some of which are compilations. 'Peaceful World' itself is reissued on Nothing Records.