Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cochise - 1971 - Swallow Tales

Swallow Tales

01. Love's Made A Fool Of You (02:51)
02. Jed Collder (03:18)
03. Down Country Girls (01:49)
04. Home Again (03:41)
05. Lost Hearts (03:25)
06. Strange Images (02:03)
07. Where I Sing The Blues (04:09)
08. Another Day (05:16)
09. Axiom Of Maria (07:02)
10. Can I Break Your Heart (05:03)
11. O Come All Ye Faithful (01:20)

– John Gilbert – lead vocals
– Mick Grabham – acoustic & electric guitars, vocals
– B.J. Cole (Brian John Cole) – pedal steel guitar, dobro
– Ricky Wills – bass, percussion, vocals
– John “Willie” Wilson – drums, percussion, vocals
– Tim Renwick, Cal Batchelor – solo guitar (08)
– Caleb Quaye – piano (04,06,10)
– Steve Marriott – piano & backing vocals (07)
– Nigel Olsson – harmony vocals (06)
– Dick Taylor – producer

Cochise was largely the brainchild of former Plastic Penny lead guitarist Mick Grabham.  When Plastic Penny folded Grabham started recruiting for a new band,  Formed in 1969 the original Cochise lineup featured the talents of former Bluesology singer Stewart Brown, pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole, ex-Taste drummer John 'Willie' Wilson, and former Jokers Wild bassist Ricky Wills  Having played the college and club circuit, they found a backer in the form of Andrew Lauder who helped get them a contract with United Artists.
Following a personnel shakeup that saw original vocalist Steven Brown replaced by former Might Joe Young singer John Gilbert (Brown decided to retire from music and head off for a life in the Mediterranean), the band returned with their sophomore release - 1971's "Swallow Tales".  Self-produced the album found  B.J. Cole and Mick Grabham picking up all of the writing duties which meant the band's overall sound remained largely unaltered with another heavy country-rock feel to the bulk of these eleven tracks.  If you were into early 1970's country-rock/Americana groups like The Band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, etc., then tracks like 'Jed Collder' and 'Another Day' were probably going to be right up your aural alley.  I certainly didn't have a problem with those efforts, but I'll readily admit that I was partial to the group's more commercial (read rock) oriented songs like 'Home Again' and 'Why I Sing the Blues'.  That said, even on their best efforts these guys lacked a certain originality that would have served to segregate them from the tidal wave of competitors.

- If their 'toughened up' cover of Buddy Holly's 'Love's Made a Fool of You' served as your introduction to the band, you probably weren't going to be all that impressed.  The performance itself wasn't bad, but simply didn't have enough going for it to make you forget the original (or the score of other cover versions).  Not the smartest choice of a US single
- Penned by Grabham, 'Jed Collder' was a straight-ahead country-rocker that's always reminded me a bit of what The Band might have sounded like had they decided to record a truly commercial album.  
- Kicked along by Cole's pedal steel guitar, 'Down Country Girls' had an even stronger country-rock influence.  With an up-tempo melody it was one of the tracks that actually grew on me the more I heard it.
- 'Home Again' was a pretty pop ballad that also served as one of the album's most commercial offerings.  While the track served to showcase Gilbert's voice (he had a nifty haunting edge in his delivery), the secret weapon on this one was actually Rick Willis' dynamic bass.
- Largely because it found them stepping away from country-rock, 'Lost Hearts' was a welcome change of pace.  Musically this one had an interesting Spanish influence.  Wilson's pounding drums and Grabham's acoustic guitar solo actually gave the song what was almost a Flamenco feel to it.  Very nice !!!      
- Kind of a bluesy ballad, 'Strange Images' was okay, but never really kicked into gear.
- Dropping the country-rock influences for another straight ahead rocker, 'Why I Sing the Blues' was side one's best performance.  Once again, the rock genre served to showcase Gilbert's likeable voice and while the song wasn't the most original offering you've every heard, if sounded surprisingly rugged and pounding.  Maybe it's just my ears, but I think you could hear the late Steve Marriott's ragged voice on backing vocals.
- 'Another Day' started side two with the album's prettiest melody and the song that was actually best suited for commercial airplay (which probably explains why United Artists ignored it).  Imagine a really good Rusty Young and Poco song and you'll get a feel for this one.  
- I've never been sure what to make of 'Axiom of Maria'.  The song started out with a weird instrumental segment and then drifted into a odd country-tinged number that never really found a groove to settle into.  The church bell closing didn't do a great deal for me other, though I will admit that Grabham turned in the album's best solo on this one.
- 'Can I Break Your Heart' was another country-rock number, but this one had a great melody, showcasing the band's tight knit harmony vocals.
- Arranged by Cole and clearly intended to showcase his pedal steel guitar, the album ended on a pretty instrumental version of 'O Come All Ye Faithful'.



  2. interesting to hear this band again - thanks for posting