October
1965

Live At The Gaslight

Folk singer Mark Cohen covers

Mark Cohen

"Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)"

Original Artist: Traditional

Release Date: September 20th, 2015

Listen:

Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)Mark Cohen
2015
00:00 / 04:44
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For the fourth instalment of our Live At The Gaslight series, we are proud to present singer/songwriter Mark Cohen, from Buffalo, New York, covering the traditional “Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)”.

The song dates back to the early twentieth century, with the first known recordings made in the 1920s by blues singers Blind Willie Johnson and Reverend Gary Davis. Since these early blues renditions, numerous artists have covered “If I Had My Way” including: Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bruce Springsteen and The Grateful Dead.

Mark Cohen has been performing his adaptation of the song since the mid-1960s. Cohen’s version is lyrically similar to the versions sung by Dave Van Ronk and Peter, Paul & Mary, and comes across as somewhat of a mix of the two. He had this to say of the comparison:

“Right on target. I only cover a song when it feels natural to me. Dave’s was Dave’s; and Peter, Paul & Mary’s version had such energy and their harmonies were so beautiful, I was really taken by it.

It wasn’t only the harmonies that grabbed me but the ways in which they used point and counterpoint - call and response, like a Gospel song.

On my arrangement, I was never aware of the way the guitar and vocal worked together until I listened back to the recording. I got to playing the first verse slowly and with a strong guitar rhythm. It sets up the rest of the story and the rest of the song. Each verse speeds up, the tempo taking it to another level. The song becomes a real killer at the final crescendo and chord strums.”

In this recording, Cohen has adapted the story of “Samson & Delilah (If I Had My Way)” to include a fourth and final verse that he wrote. His lyrics fit in as though they always existed within the song.

“The original song seemed incomplete to me and I just wanted to finish the story. To me, the song was asking for this verse to be written.”

Be sure to read more about Cohen below and have a listen to his original tracks, "Thank God For You", along with his instrumental cover of "Wildwood Flower".

Thanks for listening, and remember, don’t touch that dial...

Cover Photo Credit: Jack Hirschorn

Gaslight Records is a way of reviving and reliving the music of 50 Years Ago. Unlike any other music site, everything you'll hear or read about on Gaslight Records will be sourced from music that is at least 50 years old.

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More about Mark Cohen

After spending a year in Greece, Mark Cohen returned to New York City in 1972 and found his place in the Greenwich Village folk scene. He released two albums in the late ‘70s: Fare Well, Traveller (1977) and Plutonium (1979), for Folkways Records.

He still plays various venues in the New York region and regularly records with his band, The Spirits. For upcoming shows, check www.cohenandthespirits.net . We’ve included the title track from his latest album below, entitled “Thank God For You” (available here).

Web: www.cohenandthespirits.net

Original Tracks by Mark Cohen

Wildwood Flower   Cohen & The Spirits
2005
00:00 / 13:22
  • Wildwood Flower

    Cohen & The Spirits 2005

Original Tracks by Mark Cohen

Thank God For You   Cohen & The Spirits
2015
00:00 / 05:02
  • Thank God For You

    Cohen & The Spirits 2015
 


 

Cohen and The Spirits Offer "Moments of Grace"

by Robert Goldblum

In post-9-11 America, Mark Cohen's vision of the Land of the Free is like a salve on an open wound.  An homage to America's open spaces and its mythic places, "Moments of Grace" takes a listener from the "gritty sidewalks" of MacDougal Street in New York's Greenwich Village, "along the mighty Hudson" on a train to Buffalo, and out to the heartland on Memorial Day for our ritual rendezvous with speed, where "Engines roar as riders of the howling thunders drive / A blur of cars like shooting stars / It's the Indy 5."

Cohen captures the vast panorama of the American experience.  His journey through city and countryside reflects "the yearnings of a soul" (the impetus for the trip to Buffalo), the points on one's inner and outer maps "that hold a special place inside of you."

Cohen's vocal approach is the perfect vehicle for the search.  It's as much spoken as sung, and he's as much a storyteller as folk-rocker.  And his voice seems to come from a time far off, a pre-cynical America.  It's wistful, even sweet, stripped of irony.  But Cohen knows that the world is a dangerous place.  In "Kosovo," a haunting song that conjures up evil from the Balkans to Rwanda, "there's an enemy behind every tree," and "underneath the surface every day is Halloween."  And in the title song, "Moments of Grace," there is this chilling reminder, all the more evocative because it was written before September 11, of a new kind of evil: "In the distance buildings built to last / They tremble louder than the loudest tempest's rage / Sounding like a howling trumpet's blast / Being just the turning of a page."

Yet, as the title song conveys, there are moments of grace even "in the savage jungles filled with bruising brawls," and "in the storms churning inside of you."

 

Cohen, whose first band, "The Ingredients of Love," was a 12-piece soul group, is a veteran of the Greenwich Village music scene.  Having played the legendary Gerde's Folk City and numerous other clubs, and recorded two albums on the renowned Folkways label, he has assembled a first-rate group of musicians for "Moments of Grace."  Guitarist Jim Satten, the recording's co-producer and lead guitar player, was Bo Diddley's music director and has backed numerous music greats; keyboardist Rusty Cloud was with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, regularly plays with the Blues Brothers and backed Aretha Franklin; drummer Cliff Hackford has played behind the Shirelles and Sam the Sham, and Connie Harvey, on backup vocals, is one of The Chiffons and recorded her own Gospel cd, “If He Did It For Me.”  With other notable band members, they have they created a tight, distinct sound, a hard-to-pin-down but unmistakable blend of folk and rock traditions.

On love songs like "You'll Always Be With Me" and "Just One Night," Cohen makes memory, and its warm afterglow, a main character.  "Some nights keep their promises, some slip through our fingers," he writes in "Just One Night," "This one still belongs to us, it carries us, it lingers."  And in "You'll Always Be With Me," a sweet innocence - "Two lonely birds on ripples of a stream / Two wild horses on a Coney Island ride" - collides with a sense of loss that after September 11 resonates in unexpected ways, as Cohen wrote the song long before: "When we woke that morning / I didn't know you'd soon be gone / Now how I miss you but I got to carry on / You'll always be with me."

In "Patterns," Cohen finds "worlds that have evolved," "kaleidoscopic rainbows," and "the chaos of lovers" that are fleeting, but even in these, "The jigsaw notes all fit together / Every one sustained forever."

The one instrumental on the CD, the extended, 13-minute "Wildwood Flower," is classic.  Its symphonic, improvisational quality offers the oasis promised in "Moments of Grace," and is another tribute, through Cohen's soaring arrangement of this Carter family traditional country song, to the land "from sea to shining sea."

 

Cohen is at his best when he journeys into America, and keeps the evil at bay, if just for an instant.  He has a knack for capturing the essence of a place, and its defining spirit, where beauty is an unexpected find in an unlikely spot.  In "MacDougal Street," that bohemian boulevard in the Village, Cohen is rhapsodic: "The neon turns a-flickering all about the stores / Gypsies fingers beckon you to step inside the doors / Aromas from cafes rise pungent and sweet / Outside the Reggio and Borgia on MacDougal Street."  But he sees what lies beneath. "Cause it ain't so much to look at you surely can't deny / But there's more to MacDougal than greets the eye / Out where spirits swirl, where a thousand stories meet / Is on the gritty sidewalks of MacDougal Street."

In "Indy 5," which hurtles forward in staccato lines that build in speed, the great race becomes a metaphor for the kind of reassuring continuity that rolls around every Memorial Day: "Now the track circles like / A ribbon through the years / No one knows what it will bring / The victories, the clashes / The triumphs and the crashes / Yesterday's giants, tomorrow's kings."

"Buffalo" has about it the echo of Steve Goodman's American train epic, "The City of New Orleans."  Cohen loves the American landscape - the sweep and the grandeur of it - and it shows in "Buffalo": "From the rocky wooded mountains springs the old Erie / That carried barges from the west to bring them to the sea / Cutting through the most enchanted land you might find / Cutting through the pathways that ring inside my mind."

But there's a double meaning to "Buffalo" that gives the song its bittersweet quality.  The buffalo, of course, are gone, as is the city that was "the border of the sprawling frontier."  But Cohen hops the rails, as Whitman hits the highway in "Song of the Open Road," to "inhale great draughts of space ... to know the universe itself as a road - as many roads - as roads for traveling souls."

In the end, the roads Cohen travels in "Moments of Grace" offer a hint of salvation just around the bend.  "I have a reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland," Paul Simon wrote, heading down the Mississippi to Memphis.  Mark Cohen, in a different time and a different place, puts it this way in "Moments of Grace": "On the road in each direction, perfection awaits, it's true / Moments of grace for you / Moments, moments of grace."

"Moments of Grace" belongs in every collection.  Redemptive, yes.  And after September 11, I'll take it.

Robert Goldblum
New York City, 2005

Celebrating Indie Artists

Such Cool Stuff

Cohen and The Spirits

http://www.suchcoolstuff.net/

April 11, 2011

 

Mark Cohen's first band was "The Ingredients of Love," a late-1960s twelve-piece soul group.  He played funky rhythm guitar.  Based in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, the band included four singers, one of whom, Albert Jamison, is now Bishop Albert Jamison, chairman of the Gospel Music Workshop of America.

Two-time Grammy winner Tyrone Williams was one of the Ingredients of Love, as was Michael Jones, now known as Kashif, who later produced Kenny G and Dionne Warwick, among others.  Founded by Robert Wedlaw, "The Ingredients of Love," a formative experience for each of its members, played colleges and New York clubs and theaters, including the Apollo, the Lloyd Price Turntable, and the Peppermint Lounge.

After travelling through Europe and living in Greece for nearly a year, Cohen returned to the states in 1972 and became a denizen of the Greenwich Village music scene, playing many of the city's clubs and performing in 1975 in "The Best of the Best: The Village's Undiscovered Stars" at Gerde's Folk City.  Cohen recorded two albums for the world renowned Folkways Records label, “Fare Well, Traveller ,” and “Plutonium .” 

Cohen played in numerous concerts and radio broadcasts, appearing with Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, Willie Nile, Steve Forbert, Tom Paxton, the Roches, Phoebe Snow, Janis Ian and Richard Lewis, among others, and was hailed as a "recent discovery" by Broadside Magazine.  He opened for Richie Havens at The Towne Crier Cafe in Pawling, New York, on the 39th anniversary of Woodstock in 2008, for Nenad Bach in 2011, at the 100th birthday celebration at the Towne Crier of Mike Porco, Folk City’s founder and guiding spirit, and at the East Village’s Sidewalk Café, where he was featured at the 2015 debut of the Gerdes Folk City Songwriters Showcase.

Cohen’s recent cd’s include “Moments of Grace” (2005) and “Thank God For You” (2015),   co-produced by Cohen and arranger/guitarist Jim Satten.  In addition to Mark and Jim, band members include Rusty Cloud and Jivie on piano and organ; Kevin Jenkins and Tony Tino on bass; Tommy Price and Cliff Hackford on drums; Dan Cipriano and Michael Blake on sax; Bob Prewitt on his Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar, and Connie Harvey, who sings stellar backup vocals.  Leslie Wagner, Bil Kurz and Darryl Perreti also sang backup vocals, and others contributed to individual tracks. 

Jim Satten (guitars) was Bo Diddley's music director and guitar player.  Jim appeared with Bo Diddley on the Johnny Carson show and HBO's "Giants of Rock and Roll" live broadcast from Rome, Italy.  Jim played guitar behind Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, Ben E. King, Chuck Berry, Ronnie Spector, Lesley Gore, Del Shannon, Sam and Dave, Lloyd Price, Wilson Pickett, the Coasters, the Platters, Lou Christie, Jerry Lee Lewis, and other greats.

Rusty Cloud was keyboard player for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, in Bo Diddley’s world tour band, and plays keys for the Blue Brothers, most recently at an international jazz festival in Odessa, Ukraine.  He's played behind Aretha Franklin, Gary U.S. Bonds, the Cotton Club Orchestra, and numerous other artists.

Cliff Hackford played behind Vicki Sue Robinson, AK-47, Mack Guitar Murphy of the Blues Brothers, Cadillac Moon, Sam the Sham, The Shirelles and numerous reggae artists and tabla players including Ken Booth, Pablo Moses, Augustine Pablo. Cliff is also a student of the tabla and is a master player, studying with Indian maestros Dr. Krishna Kant Shulka, and Abhik Mukherjee, among others.

Dan Cipriano was a regular sax player behind Wilson Pickett, and has played with the Allman Brothers, Michael Bolton, Southside Johnny, Gary U.S. Bonds, Phoebe Snow, Ben E. King, NRBQ, The Tokens, The Shirelles, The Chiffons, Lou Christy, Leslie Gore, and The Coasters.  Dan was also in the cast of the off-Broadway musical "Love, Janis," about the life of Janis Joplin.

Connie Harvey (backup vocals) is one of The Chiffons.  Connie has also recorded her own Gospel CD and sung backup vocals with Teddy Pendergrass and other artists.

Bob Prewitt built and owned New York’s Magnagraphics Studios, which became a recording studio for John Lennon and for KISS in its beginnings.

 

[THE SCS INTERVIEW:]

How do you describe your music to people, Mark?
Short answer:  Uniquely mine.  My songs and a sound coming from a Folk-Rock tradition.

From a promotional brochure written by Michael Lydon, author of "Rock Folk," "Ray Charles: Man and Music," and a founding writer for Rolling Stone Magazine:

"Moments of Grace " is well-named - a sensitive collection of fine songs in fine settings, all suggestive of the evanescent sweetness of life and love, and all by Mark Cohen, a songwriter whose roots reach back to the vibrant Greenwich Village music scene and to the soul group that was his first band.

Cohen, a curly-headed sprite with a big warm smile, played Folk City in those days, put out two albums on Folkways (now collector's items), and swapped songs with mentors and friends including Phil Ochs, Willie Nile, and other MacDougal Alley irregulars.

Through the years, Cohen, like many of his pals - those who survived! - kept his music alive.  The result is "Moments of Grace," an album in which every track is infused by the strength of Cohen's love of music and all he's learned through the decades.  This is an album rich in gorgeous sounds and rich in insights.

Co-produced by Cohen and guitarist/arranger Jim Satten, "Moments of Grace" has a classy production quality, the synths, guitars, piano and drums creating a fresh sounding blend.  The textures of the tunes are pleasing, melodic and varied, with good arrangements that build from solo guitar and small groups to big ensembles and choruses of background vocalists.  Cohen's distinctive and unusual voice puts his lyrics across with a subtle but passionate clarity.


Tell me about how you originally got into your craft.
Have played all my life.  My first band was a 12-piece soul group. After living in Greece for nearly a year I returned to New York and three nights later was playing at the Gaslight on MacDougal Street.  Years of club work and studio recordings followed, great days that included two albums released by Folkways Records - "Fare Well, Traveller " and "Plutonium”.  Two cds followed -"Moments of Grace " and "Here On Earth " (Street Scenes Music).

What is your favorite thing to do in the whole wide world?
Playing, performing, writing songs, and hanging with friends.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to running your business?
I don’t look at any of it as a challenge.  I love it all.

When you were a kid, what did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
A musician

In what way has your community impacted your development as a musician?
Everything I have ever done, everyone I have ever met, and every place I have ever been have influenced my words and music.

What other artists out there do you love?
Many artists and many genres - Leonard Cohen, The Rolling Stones (my favorite band), Chuck Berry, Chicago Blues, Leadbelly, Wes Montgomery, Bobby Dylan.

What does your future hold?
Lord knows.

 

[second profile/interview from www.SuchCoolStuff ]

celebrating indie artists

Such Cool Stuff!

Mark Cohen and The Spirits

April 10, 2011

Folk – da- fied : Mark Cohen and The Spirits – I will admit that I am a sucker for a Supergroup.  Supergroups aren’t the easiest thing to come by, and just the way I would be first in line at the alledged Guns and Roses reunion, I am fascinated by musicians who have carved successful careers in this incredibly hard industry not once, but twice.  Mark Cohen has created a uniting of musicians from Bo Diddley’s former music director and guitarist (Jim Satten) to Connie Harvey (vocals, and a Chiffon) within Mark Cohen and The Spirits.  In fact, the careers of his large live band are so impressive, I really could go on and on.  Visit their website www.cohenandthespirits.net  for a complete line-up and pedigree of the group. 

Q:  How old were you when you first started to play music?
A:  I’ve been playing all my life.  My dad was a pianist, and his younger brother played horns with Benny Goodman and had his own band, from the big band era till his death.
 
Q:  What instruments can you play? Which is your favorite?
A:  Electric and acoustic rhythm and lead guitars, harmonica, keyboards.  My favorites?: the driving punch of a Martin acoustic dreadnought guitar and the slicing beauty of a Les Paul electric.
 
Q:   How old were you when you played your first show?
A:  Beyond shows in school years, my first professional show was with The Ingredients of Love, a 12-piece soul group including four front singers and a backup rhythm and horn section in which I played a funky electric Epiphone, from the vintage Epiphone Kalamazoo, Michigan, years.  I was 21.
 
Q:  What was it like to be named as one of the select artists in “The Best of the Best: The Village’s Undiscovered Stars” for Gerdes Folk City?
A:  We were a community of musicians and friends, and this was a natural part of the lives we lived.  Collectively all members of “Cohen and the Spirits” have played with all of the folk music giants, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Willie Nile, Phil Ochs, Steve Forbert, Tom Paxton, just to name a few.

Q:  Which artists have been your favorite to share a bill with?
A:  I would begin with Willie Nile who was and is a close and dear friend.  We played a week together at Gerde’s Folk City, at The Bottom Line, and have stayed in touch and seen each other through the years.  To name favorites amongst the artists mentioned is impossible.  Each gig is unique, and it is always an honor to play for a listening and attentive audience.  This holds true with both “name” artists and those whose names are not as well known but whose talent and commitment are parts of their being.
 
Q:  If you could play with anyone who would it be?
A:  I would reframe the question.  If I could play for any audience, what would it be, and the answer is an appreciative collection of music lovers.
 
Q:  What was it like to open for Richie Havens on the 39th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival?
A: Very cool.
 
Q: What are some of your goals for 2011?
A: Write, play, record more songs, perform as much as possible, reach a wider audience, end world hunger and bring peace on earth.
 
Q:  On your latest album, “Here on Earth” name three songs that you would say are “must hear” ?
A:  “Here On Earth,” “Moments of Grace,” and “Buffalo,” and, on my previous cd (“Moments of Grace”), “Wildwood Flower.”

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I’ve seen Mark play and listened to his songs over and over. They have power, poetry, and passion. I agree with Mark’s selections for the “must hear” songs (although I’d put just about any of them in that category), but I do have a favorite. It’s “Wildwood Flower,” a work of astonishing beauty, performed with brilliant technique and profound sensitivity.  --   Nancy White

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