Saturday, September 20, 2014

Forgotten Musicians Of The 70's-Gene Cotton

Radio doesn't want you to remember every singer songwriter out there, just the ones they tend to overplay.  This artist is not one of them.

Gene Cotton started out as a gospel artist, the early stuff for Impact is really Gospel praise music, although I'm sure it's not bad, it grates on the nerves  for the ones not into gospel. Cotton then moved over to Myrrh, actually having a number 79 single hit with Sunshine Roses.  Moving away from gospel country rock, he signed with ABC Records and had a 73 chart showing of Damn It All, taken From All The Young Writers which I never heard. 

My first encounter with Gene Cotton was his 1977 single of You Got Me Runnin' which was penned by Parker McGee who wrote hits for other folk, Dan Seals and John Ford Coley.  Before that he was a folk gospel singer that recorded for Myrrh.  Sunshine Roses  (# 70 1974) shows a Don McLean influence with a oddball chorus something like American Pie including a Ethan Allen reference) A 1975 single Damn It All popped up to 73 on the charts.  His sound echoes   Lobo.  ABC Records picked up his contract from Myrrh and his first album was For All The Young Writers.  While Damn It All did okay, the followup single Let Your Love Flow flopped (uncharted), The Bellamy Brothers would cover it the next year for a number 1 hit and a start to their career.  Comparing the songs, The Bellamy's version is much better, the Cotton number lacking a distinct hook.

His second album Rain On which has You Got Me Runnin' is a product of the soft rock times, rarely rocking out, more or less content with MOR, nothing else on the album grabs you like the hit single and the title track was ignored as a single.  Me And The Elephant would have been the better followup but ABC Records issued it as an import.

Moving over to Ariola America Cotton released what is considered his best album Save The Dancer, and album that I got on cassette in 1978 but in an era of disco and rock my classmates were favoring, they didn't think much of hearing this in the car.  His highest charting single Before My Heart Finds Out (#23) continues the soft rock sound that got him airplay and Ariola followed it up with a duet when a then unknown Kim Carnes with You're A Part Of Me (#36).  The best song Like A Sunday In Salem (#40) showed that Cotton could rock out.  And I suspect that he liked it so much he put it on the 1979 album of No Strings Attached an album that his backing band was American Ace.  For the first time, Cotton decided to go with more uptempo rocking numbers and a lot of songs were catchy.  Anytime Down might have worked as a single, but then at that time Ariola America was going under and the record never took off.  Another missed single Make Time For Love, was later covered by Prog rockers Trillion, which also didn't chart.

His last album of that time Eclipse Of The Blue Moon returned him back into soft pop once again and despite being on a independent label Knoll with little promotion clout he did squeak out another minor hit with If I Could Get You Back Into My Life (#76).  In the 1990s, Cotton issued 2 albums and a best of for People Song which all are out of print.

Still, Like A Sunday In Salem (The Amos And Andy Show) to me remains his signature song and perhaps to him to, since he ran for congress in the early 2000s and lost.  Since then, he's kept a low profile on the music scene and at age 70 semi retired.  The only CD reissue that has come out was Save The Dancer (Renaissance 2008) but you can find some Cotton LPs on MP3, the most interesting is the Edgehill File (People Song 1983) a collection of songs he says that the labels wouldn't let him record, which shows more or a darker and humorous side of him that was rarely shown on the albums.  A shame that the majors wouldn't record him in this way.

Albums of note: (incomplete)

For All The Young Writers (ABC 1975) B
Rain On (ABC 1976) B
Save The Dancer (Ariola 1978) B
No Strings Attached (Ariola 1979) B+
The Eclipse Of The Blue Moon (Knoll 1981) B-
The Best Of Gene Cotton (People Song 1995) B
The Edgehill File (People Song 2008) B+

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