Boomkat Product Review:
The first ever reissue of Mike Cooper's final songwriter record, originally released in 1974. Grabbing elements of glam and prog and rendering his songs with a South African jazz rhythm section and UK sax player Mike Osborne, 'Life and Death in Paradise' a peculiar fusion that was fully ahead of its time.
Cooper had retreated to the Costa Tropical of Grenada in Spain when he was coaxed into writing 'Life and Death in Paradise'. The British songwriter had already released a slew of experimental folk-rock records at this point, and was completely disillusioned - he was considering leaving music altogether. He passed his time by making leather bags, selling his art at a nearby market and painting swimming pools, and when producer Tony Hall drifted through, offering him a record deal, he agreed to do it only if he could assemble "the greatest rock and roll band in the world."
To Cooper, that was his South African jazz musician friends Harry Miller and Louis Moholo, Osborne, some "local Reading heroes" and singer-songwriter Terry Clarke, all of whom Hall appreciated. So the band made their way to London's Pathway Studios to record six mutant rock 'n roll epics that trace through blues, jazz, prog, glam and folk. Cooper's lyrics hint at his exile, and it was the last album he made as a songwriter, later embracing the free improvisation that would characterize his subsequent run of releases.
Listening back now it's interesting to hear the traces of his later work - the surreal, Pacific mood, the vivid pictures of coastal life, humid atmosphere. It's music that sounds familiar (we can hear Bowie, Bolan, Gram Parsons), but Cooper's songwriting peculiarities and his interest in complex instrumentation shuttles this into a space all of its own.