Bet you didn’t know Mike Cooper was the guitarist the Rolling Stones wanted before Brian Jones. His solo records Trout Steel, Places I Know and Machine Gun Co. are albums undoubtedly worth checking out.
After the release of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Cooper, who began playing music in the vein of folk and blues, quickly became interested in acoustic bass players. He was eventually led to South African bassist Harry Miller, whose unique style of jazz inspired much of Trout Steel. Lively and unpredictable, the album channels through back porch swing and free-jazz improv with a confidence that can be credited to Cooper’s preferred style of recording. “I made a record with songs and people having a good time playing whatever they wanted,” he tells in the liner notes. Together, they have some “Good Times,” achieving a lucid conversation from start to finish.
Places I Know, like the title suggests, pays homage to the colorful palette of inspiration Cooper drew from, tipping the hat at Neil Young on “Three Forty-Eight” and Bob Dylan on “Night Journey.” But beyond ragged guitar lines and roadhouse blues, Places I Know illustrates a musician finding his own footing. “I was interested in seeing if I could emulate some other people without actually sounding like them,” he said. Look no further than “So Glad (That I Found You)” where lush horns, psyched-out sax solos and trippy organs maintain interest for fifteen minutes. 1972’s Machine Gun Co. was supposed to appear as a double album with Places, but his label denied it. Thanks to Paradise of Bachelors, who has tracked down the original masters, the music is presented the way Cooper had originally intended.
To further immerse yourself, enjoy copious liner notes teemed with entertaining snippets – like that time Cooper took on an angry mob at a music festival in Germany as Alexis Korner hid behind a stack of amplifies and laughed his ass off.
– Melissa Caruso