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Image: Face to Face with Dick Cooper (YouTube)

Talking Albums: Dick Cooper

By John McDonald on June 15, 2020

Dick Cooper. Photo: Sandy Sharkey.

Dick Cooper has had quite a career. In the 1970s, he co-founded The Cooper Brothers with his brother Brian and their friend Terry King. They received many accolades with their country rock sound, including Best New Group in 1978, and Best MOR Group in 1979 by by Canadian contemporary music programmers. Three of their singles charted in the Billboard Hot 100. At the height of their career, they toured extensively with the likes of The Doobie Brothers, Joe Cocker, and Charlie Daniels.

When the group disbanded in the ’80s, Dick turned to television writing, directing, and producing. He also scored the soundtracks for industrial films, documentaries, and television shows. In 1997, he became the Creative Director of video-game developer Artech Studios. In 2006, Dick once again become involved with the Cooper Brothers when a Best Of album was released. Further albums were released in the 2010s. Since 2012, Dick also has been teaching songwriting and performance at Algonquin College.

A very busy and creative person, how is Dick Cooper spending his stay-at-home days?

Dick Cooper:

Before COVID-19 hit, I was having a pretty enjoyable start to 2020. I teach songwriting and performance at Algonquin College, and this year I had one of my best groups of “yutes” since I started working there. A really engaged mix of singer-songwriters, rappers, musicians and beat-makers that were a pleasure to mentor.

I had also been fairly productive on the songwriting front. I co-wrote some of the tunes on the last J.W. Jones album (High Temperature), so when he formed Horojo Trio with Jeff Rogers and Jamie Holmes, I wound up co-writing some songs with them. And like everyone else in town, I was pretty excited when they won the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis in late January.

The end of February, I was in Muscle Shoals at the famed Wishbone Studios with Steve Foley of Audio Valley, recording Jeff Rogers’ solo album. Jeff, who plays in the Cooper Brothers, and I had long talked about collaborating on a solo project. We co-wrote all the songs together, and were co-producing along with Steve. It was a fabulous experience. We got to work with some truly amazing musicians like Kelvin Holly (Little Richard, Greg Allman), Clayton Ivey (B.B. King, The Supremes, Glenn Frey), and Shonna Tucker (Drive-by Truckers).

That’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

When we got home from Alabama in early March, that’s when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

As far as Jeff’s album is concerned, we haven’t been able to get back into the studio to finish it yet. I was also looking forward to doing some more writing with Horojo Trio, and there was talk of an album. But most of the big festivals they were booked at were all rescheduled, so they are in a holding pattern at the moment.

The last five or six weeks at the college were a challenge as well, because I had to adapt to teaching online. I managed to get it done, but the experience certainly wasn’t ideal.

The Cooper Brothers also had a big spring and summer planned, but every gig was rescheduled, including Bluesfest, which was really disappointing because we hadn’t played there in years.

Personally, I guess I adapted okay to all the isolating, distancing, etc. I like walking anyway, so I did a lot of that. I hiked a bunch of the local nature trails and brought my camera. I did a lot of reading. Drank too much wine.

On a lark, I wrote a little ditty called the “Stay at Home Song” in about 10 minutes, which I then recorded on my cell and threw up on the Coops’ Facebook page. So far it has more than 100,00 views. Go figure. Must have touched a nerve.

Because I have been in writing mode during this craziness, I don’t listen to the kind of music I usually do—Jason Isbell, Tedeschi Trucks, Roseanne Cash. I don’t want to be influenced either consciously or unconsciously by stuff in a similar genre. So, I listen to jazz mostly. Lot of instrumental material.

Here are a couple that are always on high rotation—as they say in the biz—at Casa de Cooper.

A Twist of Jobim, produced by Lee Ritenour, is an all-star tribute to one of my favourite songwriters, Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. Besides Ritenour, it features pianist Dave Grusin, altoist Eric Marienthal, bassist Christian McBride, Ernie Watts on tenor sax, plus a bunch of amazing special guests. This is definitely one of my desert island discs.

Then there’s The Very Best of Acoustic Alchemy. Love these guys. Sometimes they get slotted into the smooth jazz thing, but that’s entirely misleading. Acoustic guitar-centric, beautiful melodies and arrangements. They embrace everything from the reggae-tinged and funky to progressive and exotic. It’s like really hip elevator music. On acid.

About Lee Ritenour – A Twist of Jobim

Guitarist Lee Ritenour leads this multi-artist 1997 tribute to the music of Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim. This was the first of Ritenour’s A Twist Of album series. He and various all-stars also revisited and reworked the music of Bob Marley (2001), Motown (2003), and his own music (2015’s A Twist of Rit).

About The Very Best of Acoustic Alchemy

Acoustic Alchemy emerged in the 1980s with a distinctive blend of jazz, classical, flamenco, and new age. Greg Carmichael, of the band, said of Red Dust and Spanish Lace, their 1987 breakthrough album, “(it) immediately started getting played on radio stations predominantly on the (U.S.) west coast, but spread fast to the rest of the country, so we suddenly had an audience to go and play to.” In 2018, they released 33 1/3 which reached the Top Ten on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart.

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