An amazing legacy in music from Mike Cooper – a British musician who started out in the world of folk blues, but never ended up moving towards some of the rockish modes of his contemporaries – instead finding his very own sort of special space in the freedom allowed by the Dawn Records label! The set begins with the very spare Oh Really – a set that has Mike Cooper mostly on guitar and vocals, in a style that's part Piedmont, part Delta blues – but also given a more folksy spin, and graced with Cooper's unusual vocals – almost making the whole thing feel like a spare acoustic version of Canned Heat
territory – with titles that include "Maggie Campbell", "Saturday Blues", "Electric Chair", "Crow Jane", and "You're Gonna Be Sorry". Do I Know you is a record that follows up with a sound that's maybe a bit fuller than Mike Cooper's debut, but still relatively spare – with Mike on acoustic guitar and slide guitar, Harry Miller on bass (really great bass, by the way!), and Poor Little Anne on a bit of vocals. Miller brings these deep tones to the record that really transform things – and titles include "Do I Know You", "Start Of A Journey", "First Song", "Theme In C", and "The Link". Trout Steel is a beautiful set from the British scene at the start of the 70s – a record that's got a fairly folksy tone, but lots of jazzy currents as well! The set was issued on the seminal Dawn Records label – and really shows that imprint's commitment to the left side of the spectrum – as Mike Cooper's vocals and acoustic guitar come into play with more guitar from Stefan Grossman – plus alto sax from Mike Osborne, tenor and soprano from Alan Skidmore, piano from John Taylor, and bass from the late Harry Miller – all key players on the UK avant jazz scene of the time! The mix of these players with Cooper's core inspiration is not unlike some of the most progressive material coming from Island Records – or, even better, the special jazzy moments on records by Tim Buckley or Tim Hardin – company that Cooper could very easily keep, given the strength of his songwriting. Titles include "Don't Talk Too Fast", "On My Way", "Hope You See", "Weeping Rose", "Trout Steel", "I've Got Mine", "That's How", and "Pharoah's March". Places I Know blends Cooper's acoustic guitar and rootsy vocals with some very compelling arrangements from Mike Gibbs – the British jazz talent who was already known for his larger ensemble creations at the time, but who works here in these really subtle ways – to inflect Cooper's core inspirations with just some slight instrumental colors, tones, and phrases on most numbers – while Cooper brings in the core Machine Gun Co group on a few more. The result is a record that's way more than familiar folk – and arguably a lot hipper than most of the British acid folk of the time, too – on titles that include "Night Journey", "Paper & Smoke", "Country Water", "Time To Time", "Goodbye Blues Goodbye", and "Places I Know". The Machine Gun Co album is a partner record to Places I Know – recorded in the same sessions, but with tracks that are longer, and even more openly expressive – all with backings from the sweet Machine Gun Co quartet, a group with some especially nice electric piano from Alan Cook! Heavy use of that instrument really works against some of the folksier elements in Cooper's music – with these blocks of warm sound and color that really illuminate the tunes, and almost unlock a new level in the vocals. Cooper plays a bit of electric guitar at times – and titles include "So Glad That I Found You", "Lady Anne", "Midnight Words", and "Song For Abigail". CD also features songs from singles – "Your Lovely Ways (parts 1 & 2)", "Time In Hand", and "Schaabisch Hall".