Liberty 1970-1972 / Esoteric 2013
The short-lived British country rockers’ entire output that’s much more than a guitarists’ springboard as it’s unjustly seen.
Far from Appalaches, Anglia never had any qualms when it came to linking American music back to its Albion roots and fusing it with rock, and, perhaps, no one did it better than this group. Mostly remembered today for the six-string partnership of B.J. Cole, whose guitar adorns hundreds of recordings now, and Mick Grabham, who’d join PROCOL HARUM, when COCHISE ran their course, there’s forgotten magic on their three albums, gathered here for the first time ever. Playing mostly the axemen’s originals, the band progressively polished their delivery from 1970’s self-titled LP to 1972’s “So Far”, although the punchy brilliance of “Cajun Girl” is on par with the psyched-up rawness of “Moment And The End” with its Yuletide otherworldly coda, but it’s unexpected turns that made the quintet’s music special.
If the voices of Stewart Brown and his successor John Gilbert rarely stray beyond the song’s dictate – Steve Marriott’s backing vocals on “Why I Sing The Blues” from the sophomore LP “Swallow Tales” stand out – Grabham’s arresting fusion solo on the title track transcends its overall prairie roll, while Cole’s pedal steel and cello rise above the dark dirge of “China”. Pieces such as the perky “Jed Collder” or the silky slow-mo “Another Day”, punctured with Rick Wills‘ buoyant bass, could blow BURRITOS out of their gilded palace, and when country and blues collide on spiritual soil, compositions like Robert Kirby-arranged “Thunder In The Crib” or “Past Loves”, possess a beguiling flow thanks to their dream-like unison and separate rides into the sunset.
Closer to home, “Painted Lady” packs a mini-drama which encompasses rockier strains of the ensemble’s sway as does their single cover of Buddy Holly’s “Love’s Made A Fool Of You”, where Diddley beat is wrapped in a sweet electric roll and soft harmonies. Sometimes it smells of Southern California, what with the Spanish fringe of “Lost Hearts” that begs for Mariachi brass, but “Axiom Of Maria” expands its instrumental experiments much more loosely than Cole’s vibrant cover of “O Come All Ye Faithful”. And if it gives a hint at the band’s concert sound the full live picture comes with the third album’s take on Neil Young’s “Dance, Dance, Dance” – surprisingly more sleek than their reading of Paul Simon’s “5th Street Bridge Song” on the group’s debut.
COCHISE could have progressed into real greatness, as the synthesizer-kissed cosmic funk of “Diamonds” and the deeply soulful “Midnight Moonshine” suggest, but commercial cul-de-sac made the band bury their hatchet and move on to pastures new. Their work still stands tall, and this compilation is a monument to the unjustly forgotten rock tribe.