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He’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony): RPM Reissues Famed Songwriter Roger Cook’s “Study”

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Even if you don’t know the name of Roger Cook, chances are you do know his songs: “You’ve Got Your Troubles,” “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” “My Baby Loves Lovin’,” “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” just to name a few.  But like so many of his contemporaries, the songwriter harbored aspirations of a solo career, too.  This wasn’t so far-fetched; as half of the duo David and Jonathan (with Roger Greenaway, co-writer of all those aforementioned songs), Cook was already a bona fide hitmaker in front of the microphone.  Along with the ubiquitous Tony Burrows (Edison Lighthouse, White Plains, The Brotherhood of Man and The First Class), Cook was also a frequent session vocalist.  Between 1968 and 1971, Roger Cook recorded for EMI’s Columbia label, and his entire output for Columbia has been collected on RPM’s expansion of his 1970 album Study.  The title was apt, as many could have learned a thing or two studying Cook’s hit songs!  It was issued under the name of “Roger James Cooke” (“a load of old bull feathers,” confirms the man actually born Roger Frederick Cook) but the songs are pure Roger Cook.

Study was recorded concurrently with Cook’s work as a frontman in Blue Mink alongside fellow session vocalist Madeline Bell, not to mention his work with White Plains and other studio outfits.  His familiar voice is pleasingly expressive, often with a folk-ish lilt.  It might be surprising that all of the songs aren’t from Cook’s pen, but he had always had an ear for great material.  Cook was an early proponent of Elton John, and his first solo single was dedicated to Elton and Bernie Taupin’s “Skyline Pigeon.”  With a subtle arrangement from John Cameron (Donovan’s Sunshine Superman, the musical Les Miserables), “Skyline” was also included on Study.   The young Albert Hammond and his lyrical partner Mike Hazelwood wrote about the tantalizing, teasing “Teresa,” very much in the catchy Cook/Greenaway mode.  David and Jonathan had scored a major hit with The Beatles’ “Michelle,” and Cook returned to the Fabs’ catalogue with George Harrison’s oft-covered “Something.”

Seven of the album’s thirteen tracks came from the two Rogers.  These songs were drawn from their back catalogue other than the freshly-penned single, the frenetic “Stop.”  The big pop hook of “Not That It Matters Anymore” is quintessential Cook/Greenaway (or “Cookaway,” as their publishing company was called).  Though Radio One overlooked the song, it still has “hit” written all over it.  “Ain’t That a Wonderful Thing” is lower-key, though it still has a boisterous chorus; it’s also Cook’s favorite track on the LP per Kingsley Abbott’s new liner notes.  Cook also reveals that “Today I Killed a Man I Didn’t Know” is most reflective of where his style was circa 1970.  The song was also recorded by P.J. Proby and White Plains.  The most atypical of the Cook/Greenaway songs might be “3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol.”  The slice of autobiographical nostalgia from the Bristol-born Cook warmly recalls his formative days: “Clever boy, you’ve done so well since you were there/But you can still remember 3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol and all those family names, familiar still…”

What bonus tracks will you find?  Hit the jump for that, and more!

The thirteen tracks from Study are joined by nine single sides.   A duet with Eve Graham, “Smiling Through My Tears,” is another big, dramatic pop ballad that could have been written for Cilla Black, while “Someday” has a bit of a Four Seasons groove.  “Jubilation” has a tougher feel to it, with its electric guitar and forceful vocal, and it was also recorded by Blue Mink.  (All of the above are Cook/Greenaway songs.)  Harry and Roland Barter’s “Anticipation Grows” has a wistful Burt Bacharach feel to it, and Cook accurately describes it as “a strong song with a strong little melody.”

In addition to Kingsley Abbott’s essay, the booklet for Study also includes numerous label scans and photos of Cook in action, including shots with fellow songwriter Tony Macaulay (“Baby, Now That I’ve Found You,” “Build Me Up, Buttercup,” “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”), Andy Williams and Madeline Bell.   Producer Mark Stratford has assembled a top-notch package here, and apparently it’s just the first for Mr. Cook.  The artwork indicates that Cook’s subsequent Meanwhile, Back at the World and Minstrel in Flight will be paired for a future RPM release.

Study is out now in the United Kingdom, and arrives on July 31 in the United States.  You can order it below!

Roger James Cooke, Study (Columbia (U.K.) SCX 6388, 1970 – reissued RPM RETRO 913, 2012)

  1. Primrose Jill
  2. Black Paper Roses
  3. Teresa
  4. Something
  5. Ellie
  6. Not That It Matters Anymore
  7. Skyline Pigeon
  8. Today I Killed a Man I Didn’t Know
  9. Is It You That Has the Power?
  10. My Home City
  11. 3 Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol
  12. Ain’t That a Wonderful Thing
  13. Stop
  14. I’m Burning
  15. Paper Chase
  16. Smiling Through My Tears
  17. Someday
  18. Jubilation
  19. Anticipation Grows
  20. If You Would Stay
  21. Mama Packed a Picnic Tea
  22. People, I’ve Gotta Dream

Written by Joe Marchese

August 9, 2012 at 09:55

Posted in News, Reissues, Reviews, Roger Cook

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