In my dearly remembered days of seventies AM radio, one could tune into a station like CFRA for a music listener’s smorgasbord of everything from pop and its contemporary offshoots, to country, disco, folk, and the many flavours of rock. Back then, aside from listening to the older sibling’s album collection, radio was the only platform where one could discover new music or a new artist. It opened my world to some of the fuller instrumental bands like Chicago, Atlanta Rhythm Section, and ELO, that were also rich with vocals, and brought me to understand and appreciate what good songwriting was all about.
Enter Ottawa’s legendary, The Cooper Brothers, who after 44 years have maintained their own brand of thick sound, solid songwriting, and production expertise with their sixth studio release, Radio Silence. The album celebrated its official launch with a live show in 2017 and is now available on most streaming services. The title reflects on an era when the music industry was a different sort of animal than it is today.
Songwriter/guitarist, Dick Cooper talks to Apt613 about what has and hasn’t changed in the making of this album:
“The last two albums, my brother (Brian) and I had been out of it a long time, so we got other producers to come in. On In From The Cold, we had Colin Linden, and our last album, Southbound, we had Colin Cripps producing. Both of those guys were great, but this time, we felt confident enough to produce this album ourselves.
“We spent enough time in the studio that I think this one sounds a bit more like the old Cooper Brothers in some ways. But having said that, I have to say I learned so much from hanging around Linden and Cripps… watching them work really helped me and enabled me to see how recording has evolved. Basically when I was producing back then, everything was on tape, and now it’s all digital. On this album, everybody pitched in: Ed Bimm (keys) wrote all the horn charts and my brother put all the vocals together. It all really reflects what we’re about as a band.”
This album has something for everyone, showcasing their big instrumental style and signature multiple vocals in spectrums of country, southern rock, jazz, and latin flavours. The first single and title track injects you immediately with the smoky lead vocals of multi-instrumentalist Jeff Rogers in this very cool and catchy blues/jazz number.
Brian Cooper‘s voice is front and center in “Smuggler’s Moon” – a warm latin-flavoured piece loaded with smooth harmonies, varying keys, and deep guitar tones that bring on a wild west edginess. In “Straight Outta Nowhere”, Brian’s voice especially shines as he climbs to some higher notes. Imagine the bluegrass beauty of Union Station united with the ethereal voices of CSN, and you have “End Of The Day”. This tender life-reflecting song at once reels you in with pretty counterpoint melodies of acoustic guitar and mandolin, followed by a warm three-part blend of vocals led by Brian Cooper.
Another with contemplative lyrics is the slow swaying tune “Gone Are The Days”, drenched in the lazy warm glow of Rogers’ vocals. In the gorgeous piano ballad, “(There’s Gonna Be) Rain”, his rich voice fits the song’s earnest message of perseverance through the sometimes rockier slopes of love. But the one he sings that pulls my heartstrings the greatest is “Follow Your Heart”, spotlighting the lonely drone of a violin wrapped in words of a parent’s unconditional love for their child.
Full horns bring on some big band impact to contemporary country track, “I’m Not Afraid” – the band’s second single release, which features some nice banjo work, and strong gospel vocal flourishes. Horns are also present in “Mister One Percent”, which bears a rockier cadence, great guitar leads, and more of those vibrant backing vocals.
“You Don’t Have To Worry” is a textural ride of tempos, rhythms, and sax fills, while the twelfth and final track, “Getting Away With It”, finishes as the most rocking of the bunch, telling the tale of a young, free-wheeling rock ’n roll rambler… perhaps an outlaw waiting for the stage… or maybe a desperado from another age. The song seems to be a fitting end that carries on the musical legacy of The Cooper Brothers – where they came from, how they’ve evolved, yet thankfully how they’ve stayed the same. I was hooked after one listen to Radio Silence… you will be too.