[Review] Roger McGuinn: Peace on You (1974)

McGuinn’s second album is of a piece with those solo CS&N albums.

Kronomyth 2.0: A rich man’s birds.

When Roger McGuinn released his second solo album, Columbia promoted it by playing up McGuinn’s status as a rock & roll legend. It was a point that needed making after several mediocre Byrds albums and a solo record that somehow managed to fly under the radar of rock fans and radio stations. Peace on You isn’t a markedly better record than his first, again suffering from an identity crisis as McGuinn brings in material from other writers, although the production value has more oomph this time. It’s not a bad record and, in fact, grows on me the more I listen to it, but at no point do I have the sense that I’m listening to a rock & roll legend.

Of course, McGuinn wasn’t the only rock star to flounder in the mid Seventies: Neil Young rejected his rock-star status, John Lennon retired, Joni Mitchell was making jazz records. And Peace on You isn’t any worse than those Stephen Stills albums. Individually, the songs are interesting enough. In fact, the songwriting partnership with Jacques Levy was proving almost as fruitful as the Hunter-Garcia team. The Lady, Gate of Horn and Without You are all solid songs with good lyrics. Two songs from James “Donnie” Dacus, who would join Stills in the studio the following year, are also very good: Going to the Country and Do What You Want To.

The remaining songs come from very different quarters. Better Change from Dan Fogelberg is a nice match for McGuinn’s voice; (Please Not) One More Time, featuring Al Kooper, not so much. But the oddest choice is the decision to make a fairly straight cover of Charlie Rich’s Peace on You (from his award-winning Behind Closed Doors album of the previous year) the centerpiece of the album. It gets the album off to unsteady start from which it never really recovers.

As I said, this album grows on me the more I listen to it, and the quality of the individual songs make up for its inconsistencies. Bill Halverson (credited with wife Suzanne) provides plenty of production polish and the backing band (featuring past and future Stills collaborators) is a nice change of partners. It’s no Desire, but it’s no dog either.

Original elpee version

A1. Peace on You (Charlie Rich, arranged by Bill Halverson) (4:01)
A2. Without You (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:07)
A3. Going to the Country (James Dacus) (3:17)
A4. (Please Not) One More Time (Al Kooper) (3:23)
A5. Same Old Sound (Roger McGuinn) (3:30)
B1. Do What You Want To (James Dacus) (3:00)
B2. Together (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (3:45)
B3. Better Change (Dan Fogelberg) (3:00)
B4. Gate of Horn (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (2:45)
B5. The Lady (Roger McGuinn/Jacques Levy) (4:16)

CD reissue bonus track
11. Rock & Roll Time

The Players

Roger McGuinn (12-string rhythm and lead guitar), Donnie Dacus (6-string rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals), Dan Fogelberg (backing vocals, electric guitar on B1, acoustic guitar on B3), Paul Harris (keyboards), Russ Kunkel (drums, percussion), Lee Sklar (bass) with Jorge Calderon (singer on A1), Tish Coulter (singer on A1), Gwendolyn Edwards (singer on A1), Brenan Gordon (singer on A1), Jordan Halverson (singer on A1), Charles Higgins, Jr. (singer on A1), Brooks Hunnicutt (singer on A1), Howard Kaylaw (Kaylan) (background vocals on A5/B3), Mark Kellgren (singer on A1), Eddie Lee Kendrix (singer on A1), Lee Kiefer (ooo’s arranger and conductor on A1), Al Kooper (sweetening arranger & conductor on A1, clavinet, piano, guitar, arranger & conductor on A4), Al Perkins (steel guitar on B1), Brian Russell (singer on A1), William Smith (singer on A1), Paul, Cynthia & Pilar Stallworth (singers on A1), Mark Volman (background vocals on A5/B3), Tommy Tedesco (flamingo guitar on B2). Produced by Bill & Suzanne Halverson; recorded by Michael Verdick, Kurt Kinzel, Bill Dawes.

The Pictures

Illustration by John Van Hamersveld. Photography by Emerson-Loew. Art direction by Ron Coro.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on August 2, 1974 in the US (Columbia, KC/CT/TC8 CA 32956) and the UK (CBS, S 81071/40-80171). Reached #92 on the US charts.

  1. Re-released on expanded compact disc on January 20, 2004 in the US (Sundazed, SC 6202) with one bonus track.
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 2007 in Japan (Sony, SICP-1544).

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