Mike Cooper

Places I Know

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Mike Cooper's third album for Dawn/Pye was to have been a double album, one which revealed his country-folk side, and the other was his rock-jazz/freak-out side. Management decided to issue Places I Know first, and withheld the release of its second half (and the original title for the entire project), The Machine Gun Co., for two years. Fans of early- to mid-'70s West Coast Americana -- Randy Newman, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Tim Buckley, Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Bob Dylan -- circa 1965-1969 -- will have little trouble finding the majority of this album thoroughly enjoyable. Tracks such as "Night Journey" are almost apes of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" -- the only time in Dylan's recording career that he ever directly copped from another songwriter; we could argue all day about where Dylan ripped the melody off from, but it's pointless. Cooper here apes the lyrical style and even the tone of the piano. However, it's of little consequence since the rest of the disc is a gorgeous blend of acoustic and electric guitars (with wah-wah pedals pumping), bleating R&B saxes, and psychedelic British country music. Notable tracks -- and based on the above you already know what they sound like -- are "Goodbye Blues, Goodbye," the title track, and the amazingly heart-rending country blues "Paper and Smoke." Places I Know stands alone as a wonderful collection of songs, but listened to along with The Machine Gun Co., it is an introduction to another dimension of Mike Cooper. While the album is different from his previous Dawn/Pye recordings, it's not that much of a stretch musically from there to here. From Places I Know to The Machine Gun Co. is a huge leap within the same recording session. Places I Know is a tender, moving, and frightfully solid set -- it's a goodbye, in a way, because Cooper would never make a record remotely like this again.

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