Peaceful World/Island of Real
Eddie Brigati and Gene Cornish both left the Rascals by 1971. The remaining members -- chief songwriter, vocalist, and keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and drummer Dino Danelli -- kept the name and left Atco for Columbia. Before disbanding permanently in 1972, they released two albums for the label -- 1971's Peaceful World and 1972's The Island of Real -- that have been unjustifiably discounted and forgotten for years. In 2008 Great Britain's terrific reissue outfit BGO placed these discs together in a double-CD package (Peaceful World was a double album). What's remarkable about both these recordings is how far ahead of their time they were. Cavaliere had become deeply interested in the writings and teachings of the great Sufi master musician Hazrat Inayat Khan, who -- through his own tradition -- looked at music holistically, as an integral part of earthly and spiritual life. He also came under the sway of the emerging sounds of jazz, gospel, and the emerging uptownfunk and soul of the period. Peaceful World is a sprawling yet very focused collection of songs. With Danelli on drums and Ralph MacDonald on percussion, he filled out the rest of the band with the cream of the New York studio scene: saxophonists Joe Farrell, Pepper Adams, and Ernie Wilkins; bassists Gerald Jemmott and Chuck Rainey; guitarists Link Chamberlain and Buzz Feiten; trumpeters Ernie Royal and Joe Newman; trombonist Garnett Brown; flutist Hubert Laws; and backing vocalists Ann Sutton and Cynthia Webb. In other words, he put together a smoking studio band. The remarkable aspect of this gorgeous record is that it sounds vintage but not dated. The production is clean, the funk is in the cut, and the communication between musicians in the charts is tight. The LP's last side is taken up by the title cut, a 21-minute complete bliss-out of a spiritual jazz jam. But there are some excellent gospel and sophisticated soul tunes as well -- check out "Mother Nature Land,""Bit of Heaven," the funky Rhodes in "Sky Trane," and the rave-up soul-rocker "Love Letter." The ballad "Little Dove" includes stunning harp work by Alice Coltrane! The Island of Real was released just before the band split. Cavaliere brought back many of the same players, though the core was himself, Danelli, and Feiten, with the great Robert Popwell on bass. This is a less overtly ambitious offering, but its sunny optimism, warm vibes, and reliance on the emerging urban spiritual soul coming from Los Angeles, the rhythmic toughness of Chicago, and stretched vocal harmonies from Philadelphia make it a quiet stunner. Some of Cavaliere's best songs are here, including the opener, "Lucky Day," which reprises the Rascals' earlier blue-eyed soul sound -- albeit with a Fender Rhodes instead of a B-3. The ARP synthesizer makes an appearance on the rocker "Saga of New York," with a killer soprano solo by Farrell and great guitar work by Feiten. Side two opens with the uptempo soul jam "The Hummin' Song" and contains a great alto solo by David Sanborn with support by the Woodstock Horns. The title track is a feel-good Caribbean-cum-funk number that fuses a gospel chorus on the melody with terrific backing vocals by Molly Holt and Sutton, with a killer flute solo by Laws and conga break by MacDonald. There is also a tough, driving, gospel-oriented funk duet with Sutton on "Time Will Tell." Ultimately, if two albums ever deserved reconsideration, it's these. Commercially, the end may not have been pretty for the Rascals, but these albums hold together as well or better than anything in their catalog and vindicate them with their timeless appeal.