Brotherhood of Peace
Brotherhood of Peace (aka B.O.P.) brought the world some of the best breezy Power Pop, Southern Rock and Heavy Boogie all packed into one brilliant album in 1976, the fittingly titled Cuttin’ Loose. The album is a free-flowing 9-song collection of genre blending would-be hits suited for both 70s AM Gold and FM Album Rock that never received its proper due, until now.
The album flows somewhat similar to the way Big Star combined heavy riffs with airy pop sweetness, but B.O.P. brought more of a blues rock groove to the proceedings, resulting in heavier undercurrents to songs with glowing 3-part harmonies and impeccable power trio musicianship.
By the mid-70s, rock ’n’ roll was truly anything goes. Experimentation, excess and inventing new genres was all the rage, and the trio of spritely young men — guitarist/vocalist Dennis Tolbert, bassist/vocalist Mike Arrington and drummer/vocalist Ronnie Smith — gamely tackled whatever sound they pleased. Fortunately, the band captured it all on their lone album, released on the small independent label Avanti Records in March 1976.
The Mount Airy, North Carolina trio got its start as teens in 1969 as the backing band to a large 20-50 person traveling church choir called the New Americans. By 1970, the band was ready to move on to performing on their own. First as a sextet, the band soon trimmed down to a 3-piece, working the local club circuit like madmen, sometimes playing 3 shows a day. At the height of their live tightness, B.O.P. recorded the album with local musicians Don Dixon and Robert Kirkland of the band Arrogance who worked at Charlotte recording studio Reflection Sound in October 1975.
The band laid out the highlights of their live set in the studio, which ran the range of influences from The Raspberries to Deep Purple, Doobie Brothers to Nazareth, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Grand Funk. The initial pressing of 1000 copies was released in March 1976, but without major label machinery for retail distribution, radio and press, the album never took off the way it could’ve. The band mostly sold them at live shows, via consignment at local stores and in limited distribution in the Southeastern region. However, to date, the record still occasionally pops up for sale online worldwide at exorbitant collectors’ prices. Until now, finally getting a proper reissue via RidingEasy Records.
Cuttin’ Loose kicks off with the sweet bubblegum pop sound of “Since You’ve Been Mine”, but from the slamming Alex Van Halen-esque drum fill starting 4-seconds in, you know that this isn’t going to be teenybopper fodder. Tolbert’s silky smooth vocals and clean strummed guitar float along, bolstered by Smith’s wildman drum fills. “Holiday” takes a quick about face into Zeppelin style hard rock, while “Mistreater” and “Red Sun” echo the funky groove of pre-Michael McDonald era Doobie Brothers. “Candyland” is pure primordial Heavy Metal with grinding guitar, stadium vocals and the rhythm section lobbing the progression back and forth like a hot potato. “Ready To Go’ sounds like a mix of Joe Walsh’s formative group James Gang combined with Lynyrd Skynyrd’s most rockin’ moments. “Before The Dawn” is a tasteful power ballad that slowly builds to a strong crescendo with glistening synth over crunching power chords and drum rolls. Overall, by the end of the record, it feels like the listener has really taken a musical journey in the way that the album format intended, and some bands in the 70s perfected, like Brotherhood of Peace.