The musical legacy of great black-owned labels rests greatly on the oft-uncredited contributions of their house bands-the Funk Brothers at Motown, Booker T and the MGs at Stax, and the Sound Dimension at Studio One begin the list. For the obscure but critically respected Chicago soul label Twinight, there was Pieces of Peace, the group that provided the music for crucial records by Syl Johnson, Jackie Wilson, Gene Chandler and Eugene Record. Pieces of Peace’s lone self-titled LP, issued now (thanks to DJ Shadow and others) in limited quantities some thirty-eight years after the tapes were shelved in 1969, is marked by the brooding soul the band explored with Johnson, the socially conscious scope of fellow Chicagoan Curtis Mayfield, and a smart Afro-Latin jazz-fusion along the lines of War and Santana.
The best tracks here are the intricate eco-pocalyptic “Pollution” and the scruffy guitar funker “Flunky for Your Love.” Pieces of Peace appropriates Mayfield’s political activism while eschewing his lush orchestration; blaring horns and labyrinthine organ runs make Pieces of Peace boil where Mayfield chills. The band works best on the jazzier tracks with hot-cold rhythm changes, such as the jazzy “Yesterday’s Visions”; the ballad “I Still Care” is the only time the group sounds stagnant, bogged down in maudlin chord progression and pedestrian R&B croon.
As competent a record as Pieces of Peace is, it’s easy to see why the album was passed over. There’s no single or even standout track; the band needs a charismatic vocalist or instrumental virtuoso to lift it out of the frequently monochromatic groove. But it’s still a worthy item for hardcore soul-jazz aficionados.