Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cochise – Velvet Mountain An Anthology (1970-72 uk, magnificent classic guitar rock with country and folk elements, 2013 double disc set remaster)

Yes, that is indeed a naked female breast on the cover of this compilation of the underrated British rock act Cochise, taken from their 1970 self-titled debut and done by none other than the famed Hipgnosis. Probably pretty shocking for the time, but by today's standards we've seen much worse. Back to the music and band, Cochise released three albums from 1970-1972, Cochise, Swallow Tales, and So Far, and Velvet Mountain contains all three releases in one 2CD set. The band unfortunately became more well known for what their members did after Cochise broke up; guitarist Mick Grabham joined Procol Harum, pedal steel player B.J. Cole went on to work with Elton John, Joan Armatrading, and many others as well as a solo career, bassist Rick Wills hooked up with Foreigner, and both he and drummer John "Willie" Wilson recorded with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

Cochise are a hard band to describe; on one hand, they do a great job playing US styled country rock made famous by acts such as The Eagles, Poco, and The Flying Burrito Brothers, much in part thanks to Cole's nimble pedal steel licks and the smooth vocals of both Stewart Brown (who appears on the debut) and John Gilbert (who sings on the final two albums). However, and this is probably due to the presence of Grabham, the band also unleashes some fine British hard rock on their albums as well. So, there's this constant battle brewing on all three of their albums between the hard rock side and the country rock side, but it all makes for an intriguing listen with plenty of variety.

The debut is filled with some really enjoyable fare, like the emotional "Past Loves", complete with yearning pedal steel from Cole, Grabham's Clapton inspired licks, and a great vocal from Brown. "Velvet Mountain" and "Trafalgar Day" are catchy rootsy rock tunes, and "Moment and the End" is a powerful rocker highlighted by Grabham's tasty riffs. The band pull off a real fun take on the Simon & Garfunkle hit "59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" , and "Painted Lover" is possibly the most metallic hard rock tune on the album, featuring some great riffs and blistering tradeoffs between Grabham & Cole. Swallow Tales continued on with the same trends, though it's more consistently in the country rock vein along the lines of The Eagles On the Border, so there's a lot of meaty rock guitar playing alongside the soaring pedal steel and groove laden rhythms. "Love's Made a Fool of You", "Jed Collder" and "Why I Sing the Blues" (featuring backing vocals and piano from none other than Humble Pie/Small Faces legend Steve Marriott) are some of the albums highlights, with Gilbert's vocals really standing out. "Axiom of Maria" is another solid number, a lengthy, jammy track complete with plenty of sizzling axe work from both Cole and Grabham, and "Can I Break Your Heart" is a hook laden, country rock/pop tune that probably could have had radio potential back in the day.

1972's So Far basically was the result of a band that was on its last legs, but the music is actually a bit looser and funkier in spots, with "Cajun Girl", "Dance, Dance, Dance" mixing rock & funk, while "So Many Times" is a soaring country rocker that will appeal to any fan of the Flying Burrito Brothers or early Neil Young. "Diamond" evokes images of The James Gang with its hard rocking guitars and funky rhythms, "Wishing Well" is a quirky country rocker with some nimble fretwork, and closer "Midnight Moonshine" has some Southern Rock tendencies along the lines of Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

All three albums have been gloriously remastered by the folks at Esoteric Recordings, so the sound quality is spectacular, and the 2CDs come housed in a great digipack adorned with original artwork from all three albums and a lengthy booklet with photos and history of the band. Though Cochise worked their asses off on the live circuit opening up for many of the top acts of the day, by 1972 their time ended and the members all moved on to bigger and better things. It's a shame that they never broke through the mainstream, as there is plenty of great material on these three albums that should have been better received than it was. Thankfully it's now been made available once again, so if you missed out on Cochise the first time around, now's the time to make that initial discovery. 
by Pete Pardo
Disc 1 Cochise 1970
1. Velvet Mountain (Mick Grabham) - 03:25
2. China (Mick Grabham) - 03:52
3. Trafalgar Day (B.J.Cole) - 05:08
4. Moment And The End (B.J.Cole) - 05:53
5. Watch This Space (Stewart Brown) - 03:54
6. 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) (Paul Simon) - 03:38
7. Past Loves (Stewart Brown) - 03:38
8. Painted Lady (Mick Grabham) - 07:01
9. Black Is The Color (Traditional) - 00:57
A-Side Of Single
10.Love's Made A Fool Of You (Buddy Holly) - 02:50
Swallow Tales 1971
11.Jed Collder (Mick Grabham) - 03:18
12.Down Country Girls (Mick Grabham) - 01:48
13.Home Again (Mick Grabham) - 03:40
14.Lost Hearts (B.J.Cole) - 03:25
15.Strange Images (B.J.Cole) - 02:01
16.Why I Sing The Blues (Mick Grabham) - 04:07
Disc 2  Swallow Tales 1971
1. Another Day (Mick Grabham) - 05:13
2. Axiom Of Maria (B.J.Cole) - 06:59
3. Can I Break Your Heart (Mick Grabham) - 04:59
4. O Come All Ye Faithful (Traditional) - 01:15
B-Side Single
5. Words Of A Dying Man (Mick Grabham) - 04:21
So Far 1972
6. Cajun Girl (Roy O’Temro) - 03:27
7. Blind Love (Dave Elliott) - 04:39
8. Dance, Dance, Dance (Neil Young) - 03:57
9. So Many Times (Rick Wills) - 03:15
10.Diamonds (Mick Grabham) - 03:23
11.Thunder In The Crib (B.J.Cole) - 03:56
12.Up And Down (Roy O’Temro) - 05:39
13.Wishing Well (Mick Grabham) - 03:01
14.Midnight Moonshine (Mick Grabham) - 06:12

The Cochise
*Mick Grabham – Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Piano, Organ, Vocals
*B.J Cole – Pedal Steel Guitar, Resonator Dobro Guitar, Cello
*Ricky Wills – Bass, Percussion, Vocals
*John Gilbert – Lead Vocals
*Stewart Brown – Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
*Roy O'Temro – Drums, Percussion
*Willie Wilson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals
*Caleb Quaye - Piano, Guitar
*Steve Marriott - Piano, Vocals
*Nigel Olsson - Vocals
*Tim Renwick - Guitar
*Robert Kirby - Cello, Woodwind

1970  Cochise - Cochise

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