Jazztracks 02 – John McLaughlin/Peace One (1970)

JohnMcLaughlin-MyGoalsBeyondThis one is special.  Not yet for you perhaps, but certainly for me.  It’s close to where all this began.  You can find Peace One on the album My Goal’s Beyond, originally issued on Douglas Records in 1970 and now available (if you can find it) on a Rykodisc or Knitting Factory reissue.

We have to go back.  I’m in Wolverhampton in the UK west midlands with my schoolfriend Peter and it’s 1970.  We want music and so we dive out of the rain and into a record store.  As a nervous novitiate, I start looking through the jazz racks.  I’ve read Ross Russell’s seminal Bird Lives! and I know that I really want to like jazz  – but I’ve not heard much of it.  I flick through the album sleeves and come across My Goal’s Beyond and its simple cover art – a benign looking McLaughlin gazing serenely into the middle distance while a framed photo of a shaven headed guy (McLaughlin’s then guru Sri Chinmoy) looks out impassively alongside him.  It’s not like most of the jazz covers I’ve seen and this one seems to be drawing me in already.  I like it.

Flip the album over.  On the back is the track listing: a Charles Mingus tune, something from A Kind of Blue and a Chick Corea composition – eight in total.  This is looking good value for 19s 6d – and that’s just side A.

But the real delight doesn’t begin until I get the record home and put it carefully on the turntable.  Side A is great – McLaughlin plays overdubbed guitar with some whispery percussion fills.  The standards are beautiful and the original compositions do that McLaughlin thing of lightning runs and graceful melodies.  But it’s side B that’s the real surprise – it begins with a sitar drone, and then Charlie Haden’s insidiously cool bass line  waltzes its way through McLaughlin’s tune.  Even violinist Jerry Goodman and drummer Billy Cobham (who would later appear in McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra) tame their natural excesses to complement McLaughlin’s open soloing on acoustic guitar.

Peace Two is really the better track – if only for the searing soprano sax of Dave Liebman – but it’s the first shock of Badal Roy’s Indian percussion and the safe solidity of Charlie Haden’s bass line opening on Peace One which have entranced me ever since I first heard them on that summer evening in 1970.

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