The Smoke – It´s Smoke Time (1967)

LPFrontCover1The Smoke was an English pop group from York. They consisted of Mick Rowley (lead vocals) (born Michael Rowley, 29 June 1946, Scarborough, Yorkshire), Mal Luker (lead guitar) (born Malcom Luker, 3 March 1946, New Delhi, India), John “Zeke” Lund (bass) (born John Raine Lund, 13 November 1945, York, Yorkshire) and Geoff Gill (drums and compositor) (born Geoffrey Robert Gill, 15 May 1949, York).

The band originally performed around Yorkshire as “The Moonshots”, changing their name to “The Shots” when they moved to London. There were two bands playing R & B and other cover versions, one was called Tony Adams and the Viceroys, who included John ‘Zeke’ Lund on bass; Mal Luker on guitar and Geoff Gill on drums. The other band was The Moonshots, who included Mick Rowley on lead vocals and Phil Peacock on guitar. The band then came together as The Shots and made a single for Columbia – ‘Keep A Hold Of What You’ve Got’ which flopped. At some point Peacock left the band, who then changed their name to The Smoke.
The Smoke’s biggest hit was “My Friend Jack” (German Charts: #2, UK charts: #45); the BBC banned airplay of the song over its alleged drug references. Guitarist Lund later became a sound engineer for Boney M., who recorded a cover version of “My Friend Jack” (by wikipedia).
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Various Singles by The Smoke (so many fantastic colors)

And I guess many readers of this blog will agree, that their hot “My Friend Jack” was one of the finest Songs from the British Psych-Era:
“My Friend Jack” is a psychedelic pop song released by the English pop group The Smoke in 1967. It was included originally in their debut album It’s Smoke Time, and It was also included (among other compilation albums) in the collection Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964–1969 (Rhino, 2001).
It was credited to all four band members: Geoff Gill, Mal Luker, Zeke Lund and Mick Rowley. The song was covered by artists as Boney M. You Am I, The Wondermints, She Made Me Do It, Obimen and Dreg Machine.
“My Friend Jack” was the only one international hit by The Smoke. The song seems to suggest the use of psychedelic drugs (LSD) in lines such as “My Friend Jack eats sugar lumps” and travels the world inside his mind (such as “Been on a voyage, across an ocean”).

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The song was pulled off the U.K. market due to the drug connotations and never succeeded in their own country. The original content of the song was so unacceptable that “My Friend Jack” had to be rewritten before EMI would touch it; finally, it was released in February 1967. The single only made it to number 45 before being banned by the BBC, limiting it to three weeks on the U.K. charts.

The first version (somewhat slower and almost entirely modified except for the chorus) featured a more obvious content related with the hallucinogenic effect and incomprehension of the others. Lines such as “oh what beautiful things he sees” which had to be re-recorded as “Sugarman hasn’t got a care”. The demo is available on some CD compilations, as Real Life Permanent Dreams. A Cornucopia Of British Psychedelia (1965-1970) (Castle Select, 2007).

In mainland Europe, however, the final version of the record sold well; the group and their song was supported after appearing on an installment of the successful German television show Beat-Club, alongside Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers.
Because of this fortunate circumstance, “My Friend Jack” ended up riding the German pop charts to the #2, and earned the Smoke a place on a tour with the Small Faces and the Beach Boys in 1967. The single charted high in Switzerland, France, and Austria as well, and suddenly there was demand for a Smoke LP in Germany, entitled later “It’s Smoke Time”.

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The song is characterized by a march beat and mix of shimmering and crunchy reverb-laden guitar (its most notable sound). It presents an aggressive riff like the most delightfully subversive piece of freakbeat, heavily influenced by The Who’s power-chord and the trippy cheerfulness, like some songs with drug references from that era.
According to Matthew Greenwald in Allmusic: “The song opens with a tremolo-laden slide guitar riff from Mal Luker, which creates a trippy, unsettling but wholly interesting hook. The main melody is a bouncy, mid-tempo slice of pop-psychedelia, filled with a buoyancy that equates this to an English version of the Turtles on psychedelic drugs. The effervescent chorus is a fabulous singalong affair, making it instantly accessible”.

” My Friend Jack” was included in the documentary film John Peel’s Record Box, made by Elaine Shepherd, released on 14 November 2005 on Channel 4 (British public-service television). The film was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award. (by  wikipedia)
Listen to a classic from the past !
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Personnel:
Geoff Gill (drums)
Mal Luker (guitar, keyboards, sitar)
Mick Rowley (vocals, guitar)
Zeke Lund (bass)
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Tracklist:
01. My Friend Jack (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 3.03
02. Waterfall (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.41
03. You Can’t Catch Me (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 3.17
04. High In A Room (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 3.00
05. Wake Up Cherylina (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.19
06. Don’t Lead Me On (Reno/Brown) 2.17
07. We Can Take It (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.43
08. If the Weather’s Sunny (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.50
09. I Wanna Make It with You (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 3.10
10. It’s Getting Closer (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.33
11. It’s Just Your Way Of Lovin’ (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.25
12. I Would If I Could But I Can’t (Gill/Luker/Rowley/Lund) 2.14

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The James Cotton Band – Live & On The Move (1976)

FrontCover1James Henry Cotton (July 1, 1935 – March 16, 2017)[1] was an American blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter, who performed and recorded with many of the great blues artists of his time and with his own band. He played drums early in his career but is famous for his harmonica playing.
Cotton began his professional career playing the blues harp in Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the early 1950s.[3] He made his first recordings in Memphis for Sun Records, under the direction of Sam Phillips. In 1955, he was recruited by Muddy Waters to come to Chicago and join his band. Cotton became Waters’s bandleader and stayed with the group until 1965.[4] In 1965 he formed the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, with Otis Spann on piano, to record between gigs with Waters’s band. He eventually left Waters to form his own full-time touring group. His first full album, on Verve Records, was produced by guitarist Mike Bloomfield and vocalist and songwriter Nick Gravenites, who later were members of the band Electric Flag.
In the 1970s, Cotton played harmonica on Waters’s Grammy Award–winning 1977 album Hard Again, produced by Johnny Winter.
Born in Tunica, Mississippi, Cotton became interested in music when he first heard Sonny Boy Williamson II on the radio. He left home with his uncle and moved to West Helena, Arkansas, finding Williamson there. For many years Cotton claimed that he told JamesCotton01Williamson that he was an orphan and that Williamson took him in and raised him, a story he admitted in recent years is not true. However, Williamson did mentor Cotton during his early years. Williamson left the South to live with his estranged wife in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, leaving his band in Cotton’s hands. Cotton was quoted as saying, “He just gave it to me. But I couldn’t hold it together ’cause I was too young and crazy in those days an’ everybody in the band was grown men, so much older than me.”

Cotton played drums early in his career but is famous for his harmonica playing. He began his professional career playing the blues harp in Howlin’ Wolf’s band in the early 1950s. He made his first recordings as a solo artist for Sun Records in Memphis in 1953. In 1954, he recorded an electric blues single “Cotton Crop Blues”, which featured a heavily distorted power chord–driven electric guitar solo by Pat Hare. Cotton began working with the Muddy Waters Band around 1955. He performed songs such as “Got My Mojo Working” and “She’s Nineteen Years Old”, although he did not play on the original recordings; Little Walter, Waters’s long-time harmonica player, played for most of Waters’s recording sessions in the 1950s. Cotton’s first recording session with Waters took place in June 1957, and he alternated with Little Walter on Waters’s recording sessions until the end of the decade.
In 1965 he formed the Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet, with Otis Spann on piano, to record between gigs with Waters’s band. Their performances were captured by producer Samuel Charters on volume two of the Vanguard recording Chicago/The Blues/Today! After leaving Waters’s band in 1966, Cotton toured with Janis Joplin while pursuing a solo career. He formed the James Cotton Blues Band in 1967. The band mainly performed its own arrangements of popular blues and R&B from the 1950s and 1960s. Cotton’s band included a horn section, like that of Bobby Bland’s. After Bland’s death, his son told news media that Bland had recently discovered that Cotton was his half-brother.

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In the 1970s, Cotton recorded several albums for Buddah Records. He played harmonica on Waters’s Grammy Award–winning 1977 album Hard Again, produced by Johnny Winter. In the 1980s he recorded for Alligator Records in Chicago; he rejoined the Alligator roster in 2010. The James Cotton Blues Band received a Grammy nomination in 1984 for Live from Chicago: Mr. Superharp Himself!, on Alligator, and a second for his 1987 album Take Me Back, on Blind Pig Records. He was awarded a Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album for Deep in the Blues in 1996. Cotton appeared on the cover of the July–August 1987 issue of Living Blues magazine (number 76). He was featured in the same publication’s 40th anniversary issue of August–September 2010.
In 2006, Cotton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame at a ceremony conducted by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. He has won or shared ten Blues Music Awards.
Cotton battled throat cancer in the mid-1990s, but he continued to tour, using singers or his backing band members as vocalists. On March 10, 2008, Cotton and Ben Harper performed at the induction of Little Walter into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, playing “Juke” and “My Babe” together; the induction ceremony was broadcast nationwide on VH1 Classic. On August 30, 2010, Cotton was the special guest on Larry Monroe’s farewell broadcast of Blue Monday, which he hosted on KUT in Austin, Texas, for nearly 30 years.

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Cotton’s studio album Giant, released by Alligator Records in late September 2010, was nominated for a Grammy Award. His album Cotton Mouth Man, also on Alligator, released on May 7, 2013, was also a Grammy nominee. It includes guest appearances by Gregg Allman, Joe Bonamassa, Ruthie Foster, Delbert McClinton, Warren Haynes, Keb Mo, Chuck Leavell and Colin Linden. Cotton played harmonica on “Matches Don’t Burn Memories” on the debut album by the Dr. Izzy Band, Blind & Blues Bound, released in June 2013. In 2014, Cotton won a Blues Music Award for Traditional Male Blues Artist and was also nominated in the category Best Instrumentalist – Harmonica.
Cotton’s touring band includes guitarist and vocalist Tom Holland, vocalist Darrell Nulisch, bassist Noel Neal (brother of the blues guitarist and harmonica player Kenny Neal) and drummer Jerry Porter.

Cotton died at a medical center in Austin, Texas from pneumonia on March 16, 2017 at the age of 81.(by wikipedia)

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James Cotton, live 2015
I’m usually not a big fan of live recordings, but these mid-70’s recordings really catch the spirit of James Cotton “live & on the move”, while still in his prime! Sure, there may be sentimental reasons for my liking this disc {often caught Cotton during this period at the club where these recordings were made} but putting all sentimentality aside, I’ve gained a whole new level of appreciation for these cuts. Listening to these tracks with fresh aged ears {the first time in 20 some years} I can’t help but be impressed by Cotton and company’s tightness as a unit. A tough act to follow, there weren’t many shows rolling down the proverbial blues pike that packed as much punch as a James Cotton performance in it’s heyday, and these cuts certainly can attest to that. Cotton’s band, consisting of seasoned vets such as Matt “guitar” Murphy, know how to lay and hold down earthy funkified grooves, build energetic boogie’s, shuffle and swing without ever losing so much as a beat. If I had to criticize one thing, it would be Cotton’s choice of material. James Cotton had written some fine numbers while a recording artist for both the Sun and Vanguard labels, it’s too bad that he doesn’t showcase a few of them here. Instead, Cotton is content rekindling old chestnuts such as “Got My Mojo Working” and “Help Me”. What would a review of a James Cotton disc be without mentioning his harmonica playing? James Cotton shows why he’s earned the nickname “Mr. Superharp”, especially on tunes such as, “One More Mile”, “All Walks Of Life” and “Boogie Thang”, where the deep tonal qualities and grittiness of his harp work can be heard to full effect. A nice slice of what a James Cotton live show sounded like back in the 70’s, complimented by one of the tightest and hardest working bands in the blues biz, Recommended! (unknow amazon custiner)
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Recorded live in 1974 at the Shaboo Inn in Wlllimantic, Connecticut

Personnel:

Charles Calmese (bass)
James Cotton (harmonica, vocals)
George T. Gregory (saxophone)
Kenny Johnson (drums)
Matt Murphy (guitar)
Mike “Captain Z” Zaitchik (Keyboards)

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Tracklist:
01  Cotton Boogie (Cotton) 3.01
02. One More Mile (Cotton) 2.34
03. All Walks Of Life (Cotton) 2.22
04. Born In Missouri (Cobbs) 4.45
05. Flip Flop & Fly (Calhoun/Turner) 5.06
06  Mojo (Ervin) 4.15
07. Rocket 88 (Brenston) 2.27
08. Goodbye My Lady (Klingman/Smart II/Rundgren) 4.38
09. I Don’t Know (Mabon) 3.35
10. Caldonia (Moore) 5.11
11. Boogie Thing (Murphy) 4.50
12. Good Morning Lil’ Schoool Girl () 3.20
13  Oh Baby You Don’t Have To Go (Reed) 2.32
14. Help Me (Watson) 4.12
15. Fannie Mae () 4.03
16  Hot ‘N Cold (Toussaint) 3.59
17  Teeny Weeny Bit (Whitcomb) 2.48
18. Blow Wind Blow (Dickerson) 4.43
19. How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong (Cotton) 7.15
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20. Next Time You See Me (Forest/Harvey) 3.03
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James Henry Cotton (July 1, 1935 – March 16, 2017)