North Carolina, Piedmont based record label Paradise of Bachelors have done themselves proud again. Their tireless efforts to liberate these long out-of-print masterpieces from the vaults has paid off with the first artist-sanctioned reissue of a classic trio of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records from the English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper.
They are to release Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1972). The latter two titles are presented for the very first time as the definitive double album, as Cooper originally intended them to be released. Tracks will be appearing in the Folk Radio UK playlist next week, in the meantime have a listen:
You only need to listen to these three albums to appreciate how far ahead of the game he was.
By the time the Rolling Stones invited him to join the band in the early ’60s, and he politely declined (true story; Brian Jones took the gig), he had already progressed far beyond the circumscribed bounds of their early, hip-histrionic Albionic blues.
By the time he was rumored to have retired from music in the mid ’70s, disappearing from his home in Southern England into Southern Spain to become a fisherman (an amusing fiction; he suffers from seasickness), he had already moved beyond his heady homebrew of progressive, free jazz-framed songcraft into increasingly less conventionally structured frontiers of open improvisation and later, electronic composition.
The Machine Gun Co. band (named for the 1968 Peter Brötzmann album) coalesced around Cooper’s desire to continue the improvisatory path forged on Trout Steel in a more sustainable manner, with a steady core group of likeminded musicians able to buttress its daring, long-form improvisatory vaults with a bedrock foundation. Peter Eden (Donovan, Bill Fay, Clive Palmer) produced the historic sessions, which veered from the impeccable conceptual folk-rock artistry of Places I Know (as Cooper explains, “the secret of the title of this record is that it was meant as a kind of covers record, or an homage to some musicians and songwriters that I liked at the time, the ‘places’ in the title—I was interested in seeing if I could emulate some other people without actually sounding like them”) to the utterly singular “songmaking” deconstructions of the more radical The Machine Gun Co., wherein the band erects lapidary arrangements reminiscent of Tim Buckley, only to dismantle them into virtuosic passages of Beefheartian free-jazz scree and skronk. According to Cooper:
What was initially planned was a double album, with one record played by the Machine Gun Co. and the other with arrangements by Mike Gibbs and his orchestra. Those two records were conceived as a double album aimed at covering the wide range of music I was interested in and gently leading the listener from the more accessible Places I Know, with its Mike Gibbs arrangements, into the more (for the times) extreme areas of The Machine Gun Co. That never happened, and they were released as two separate records a year apart.
Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper is Paradise of Bachelors’ attempt, two years in the making, to correct this historical oversight and offer this masterpiece as it was designed to be experienced, as an extraordinarily ambitious document spanning Cooper’s song-based and improvisation-based styles of the early 1970s.
Order them here: http://www.paradiseofbachelors.com/products-page