This record label knows of what it enthuses over…
By Blurt Staff
Paradise of Bachelors is set to offer up, on June 17, the first artist-sanctioned reissues-and first-ever vinyl reissues-of iconoclastic English-born, Rome-based folk and experimental music legend Mike Cooper’s classic trio of early 1970s avant-folk-rock records: Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1972), out June 17th. The latter two titles are presented for the very first time as the definitive double album, as Cooper originally intended them to be released.
Here’s the background story, courtesy of the estimable archivists at PoB:
With the oddly evocative choice of his third solo album’s title, appropriated from Richard Brautigan’s 1967 surrealist-pastoral novel Trout Fishing in America, Mike Cooper might very well have been describing his own mercurial musical practice. “Trout Steel” suggests a reflective, highly mutable, quicksilver riverine element, an apt metaphor for the lap steel runs summoned from his trademark National resophonic guitars and his restless, constantly evolving development as a singer, composer, interpreter, and improviser.
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 molting began in 1970 with Trout Steel, on which Cooper took a decisive step away from the folk and blues scenes in which he was well-known-he had toured with Michael Chapman and traveled in the same circles as Bert Jansch, Wizz Jones, and Davey Graham, among others-toward the New Thing jazz of Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Sharrock, and Derek Bailey, without sacrificing any of his lyrical songwriting or forsaking his established roots in the soil of the American Southern vernacular.
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. The sessions veered from the impeccable conceptual folk-rock artistry of Places I Know 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.
Check out the song “The Singing Tree” from Places I Know/The Machine Gun Co. With Mike Cooper. Check that out right here.
TROUT STEEL (1970)
A1. “That’s How” 4.22
A2. “Sitting Here Watching” 3.14
A3. “Goodtimes” 3.29
A4. “I’ve Got Mine” 11.22
A5. “A Half Sunday Homage to a Whole Leonardo da Vinci (without words by Richard Brautigan)” 1.36
B1. “Don’t Talk Too Fast” 3.24
B2. “Trout Steel” 2.25
B3. “In the Mourning” 5.21
B4. “Hope You See” 4.20
B5. “Pharaoh’s March” 7.16
B6. “Weeping Rose” 3.23
PLACES I KNOW/THE MACHINE GUN CO. WITH MIKE COOPER (1971-72)
A1. “Country Water” 3.04
A2. “Three Forty-Eight (Blues for or Against Andalusia)” 3.49
A3. “Night Journey” 5.09
A4. “Time to Time” 8.27
B1. “Paper and Smoke” 3.55
B2. “Broken Bridges” 4.38
B3. “Now I Know” 4.57
B4. “Goodbye Blues, Goodbye” 4.53
B5. “Places I Know” 2.25
C1. “Song for Abigail” 9.02
C2. “The Singing Tree” 5.36
C3. “Midnight Words” 3.28
D1. “So Glad (That I Found You)” 15.19
D2. “Lady Anne” 5.15