POETRY & FAIRYTALES – Lol Cooper Band
Certainly the most exciting and innovative release of 2018 is ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ by the Lol Cooper Band. You’ve probably not come across either, but it’s worth checking out both. ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ is a sumptuous, multi-media, progressive rock extravaganza; beautifully crafted and well delivered, the package contains a seventy-minute CD and an opulent (and more expansive) DVD that combines live footage, stunning imagery and out-of-this-world graphics, presented in a hardback book featuring lyrics, poems, background information, photos and imagery. The performances from the singers and musicians are straight from the top drawer, the songs are catchy, and whole thing bears the hallmark of a labour of love. A true banquet for the senses, ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ is stunning, in every sense of the word.
“I would say that ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ is a fusion of all that has driven my career,” explains Lol Cooper: “music, video, art and theatre. To have the opportunity to create this after so many years’ experience has been a complete joy. For me, it’s a complete work of art encompassing everything that sparks the imagination through sight and sound in a fantastic tactile package. From cover to cover every page is a visual feast for the mind, which mirrors the concept of the DVD, so this is in fact our New Musical Experience.
“The book idea is something I have wanted to do for a while, but the ‘right time, right place’ only came about in recent years. All the people and material had to be in place before realising such an adventure. When my previous band fell apart I sat down with our wonderful two singers Leighanne Laming and Kirsten Wilson and just said ‘what shall we do now?’, and three years later the result was this magnificent book. I had seen a great live video album by Mostly Autumn many years ago and I was inspired by their book style presentation. So with my fledgling band we started to put the music together. I had no musicians at this point so had to play all the instruments myself. A chance meeting with John Bradshaw led to him joining the band on guitar and immediately adding breath-taking poetry to the mix. I was completely sold with the fusion of poetry being recited within the music. Soon afterwards I jokingly suggested to Tim Duncan that he could play bass for us. He is a marvellous audio mastering engineer, with classical background and a fabulous bass style. To my surprise he accepted the offer and came on board with the added bonus of introducing me to our drummer, Rick Farrow. So, with all the pieces of the jigsaw in place, what followed was months of dedication, recording and rehearsing for the live show, as well as, of course, acquiring all the assets to formulate an 80 page book, an achievement in itself. ‘Remember the book is a window, through which you can see, a river resource, in a cipher of poetry’,” he adds, quoting the opening line of John Bradshaw’s introduction.
“The music came first; I just love starting a song and letting it take me on a journey wherever it wants to go. The visuals are a different cup of tea. I collect arty things, and imagery in this form is no different. In fact, it took years to compile all the scenes and backdrops for the DVD. The book was last but by no means least. We were very fortunate to have Elspeth Mary Moore doing live photographs for us – the previous week she was working with Nile Rodgers – and coupled with screengrabs and digital art the book took shape.
“Our aim was purely to make a quality offering to the best of our ability, and I don’t think we merely achieved what we set out to do – I would say that we surpassed it at every level. The poetry alone came out of nowhere, not to mention the wonderful narration by David Meller. Neither the poetry nor its rendition was in our plans at the start but what a phenomenal difference this made! We brought in people who were sympathetic to what we were trying to achieve, and their skills greatly complemented what we were doing. Everyone was pulling in the same direction to realise our ambition.
Cooper is quick to credit “the perseverance and endurance of the band, and particularly Leighanne and Kirsten who are wonderful people and singers and have been with me through thick and thin. I think a massive strength was our experience in making a multitude of video productions, in music, sport for TV and the corporate world. I’ve had a career in music and video spanning forty years from early demos for Mick Hucknall and the like to multi-camera shoots at Wembley Stadium. And the main highlights for me have to be the live backdrops and the crowd. I hadn’t put on a show like this before and hiring in the screens was an obvious risk, the dimensions of the background films had to be identical to the shape of the screens. The footage had to be imaginative, vibrant and engaging. I remember our fantastic lighting technician Andy Kennett suggesting I watch the show from the rear of the theatre during one of the rehearsals – and what I saw was truly jaw-dropping, an experience our audience would never forget. As we walked on stage you could sense the energy in the theatre, the atmosphere was electric and the crowd were buzzing.”
Unfortunately, the live performance of ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ was a one-off. “Oh, how we would like to tour it,” says Cooper. “However, we can only perform at one level and that level is what you witness live in the theatre. At this time we do not have the financial muscle to put this show on nationwide. For us it is the whole show, or no show!” he adds.
There is, however, much more to come from the Lol Cooper band. “We hope to release three books in this style, and are already well on with the second one called ‘Jacksons Edge’. It will be in a similar format as before but this time the book will contain a 50,000 word novel written by the prolific John Bradshaw. There will be more emphasis on our intended theatre show and less greenscreen.”
Count me in! For more information, stunning visuals and to order a copy of ‘Poetry & Fairytales’ go to www.lolcooperband.co.uk
© John Tucker August 2018
All photographs (c) Elspeth Mary Moore