C.O.B. (Clive’s Original Band) was an English folk-rock band that released the album Spirit of Love on CBS in 1971, followed by Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart on Polydor in 1972. Frontman Clive Palmer was a founding member of the Incredible String Band.
Members: Clive Palmer (guitar, banjo, vocals), John Bidwell (keyboards, banjo, dulcitar, vocals, balalaika), Mick Bennett (percussion, keyboards, vocals)
Clive Palmer assembled C.O.B. in 1970 after stints in the Incredible String Band and backing work on albums by Hamish Imlach and Ralph McTell.
Palmer (1943–2014) co-founded Scottish folksters the Incredible String Band but left soon after the late 1966 release of their debut album. In 1967, he cut an album of traditional material at London’s Central Town with backing by folk guitarist Wizz Jones. (The album went unreleased until 2005 when archivists Sunbeam Records issued the material as Clive Palmer’s Banjoland.)
In 1969, Palmer moved to Cornwall, where he shared a caravan with poet Mick Bennett and cut one album (Sunshine Possibilities) with the Famous Jug Band. Bennett (aka “Whispering Mick”) played washboard on McTell’s 1968–69 Transatlantic albums Eight Frames a Second and Spiral Staircase. Bennett and Palmer interacted on “Blues In More Than 12 Bars,” a track on McTell’s December 1969 release My Side of Your Window.
Meanwhile, at Cornwall’s Folk Cottage, Palmer befriended multi-instrumentalist ‘Little’ John Bidwell, who cultivated a dulcimer–sitar hybrid dubbed the ‘dulcitar.’ (In 1971, Kentucky bluegrass luthier Homer Ledford built a namesake instrument: an upright dulcimer–guitar hybrid.)
Bidwell and Palmer formed the Temple Creatures, a short-lived trio with local singer–percussionist Demelza Val Baker. On September 10, 1969, they presented their Eastern-tinged act at the Guildhall in St. Ives. Soon after Palmer, Bidwell, and Bennett formed another trio. They impressed McTell’s manager, Jo Lustig, who named the act Clive’s Original Band.
Spirit of Love
C.O.B. released their first album, Spirit of Love, in November 1971 on CBS. It features seven group-written originals and new arrangements of the traditional pieces “Banjo Land,” “Scranky Black Farmer,” and “Wade In the Water.”
Producer Ralph McTell guests on guitar (title track) and drums (“Wade”). McTell sideman Steve Bonnett plays bass on four tracks, including “Serpent’s Kiss” and “Sweet Slavery,” which feature Third Ear Band cellist Ursula Smith.
1. “Spirit of Love” (4:03) features four female backing singers, including Daylight’s Chrissie Quayle and Irish singer–songwriter Gillian McPherson (a third, Reina Sutcliffe, co-wrote Mary Hopkin‘s 1969 song “Water, Paper and Clay”).
2. “Music of the Ages” (3:53)
3. “Soft Touches of Love” (4:51)
4. “Banjo Land” (3:35)
5. “Wade In the Water” (4:34)
6. “Scranky Black Farmer” (4:36)
7. “Evening Air” (3:26)
8. “Serpent’s Kiss” (3:59)
9. “Sweet Slavery” (5:11)
10. “When He Came Home” (3:58)
Vocals, Guitar, Banjo – Clive Palmer
Voice, Washboard, Organ, Percussion – Mick Bennett
Organ, Voice, Strings [Dulcitar], Recorder, Banjo, Organ [Indian Hand Organ] – John Bidwell
Spirit of Love is housed in a gatefold designed by the team of Ann & Penny. It shows a watercolor portrait of the trio (front) and a photo-spread of lyrical notebook sheets (inner), plus liner notes by McTell.
“Sweet Slavery” and “Music of the Ages” appear on the 1972 CBS release A Folk Sampler, a six-track EP with songs by Anne Briggs and Therapy.
In July 1972, C.O.B. released a standalone single: “Blue Morning” backed with “Bones,” both Palmer–Bennett–Bidwell songs produced by Ralph McTell. On this release, they welcome reedist–percussionist Genevieve Val Baker, the sister of Bidwell and Palmer’s Temple Creatures bandmate Demelza Val Baker.
A. “Blue Morning”
Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart
C.O.B. released their second album, Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart, in 1972 on Polydor. It features ten originals joint-written by Palmer, Bidwell, and Bennett, including two (“Sheba’s Return – Lion of Judah,” “Chain of Love”) that feature Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson. Saxist–percussionist Genny Val Baker appears as a fourth member. Her sister, Demelza, adds percussion and backing vocals on four tracks (1, 4, 5, 10).
1. “Sheba’s Return – Lion of Judah” (4:31)
2. “Let It Be You” (3:52)
3. “Solomon’s Song” (3:05)
4. “Eleven Willows” (2:26)
5. “I Told Her” (4:05)
6. “Oh Bright Eyed One” (3:42)
7. “Chain of Love” (4:26)
8. “Pretty Kerry” (4:34)
9. “Martha & Mary” (4:46)
10. “Heart Dancer” (2:50)
McTell produced Moyshe McStiff at London’s Sound Techniques and Air Studios with engineer Roger Mayer, a soundman on 1970–72 albums by CMU, Dr. Strangely Strange, Gerry Rafferty, The Humblebums, Mick Softley, Steeleye Span, and Palmer’s former String Band colleagues Mike Heron and Robin Williamson.
Guitar, Banjo, Vocals, Balalaika, Clarinet, Violin – Clive Palmer
Keyboards, Banjo, Dulcitar, Vocals, Balalaika, Guitar, Organ, Whistle – John Bidwell
Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals, Whistle, Gong – Mick Bennett
Percussion, Saxophone – Genny Val Baker
Moyshe McStiff is housed in a gatefold illustrated by Paul Whitehead. The image depicts a struggle between a mountain valley serpent and three medieval knights. Whitehead’s artwork also appears on 1970–72 covers to albums by Genesis (Trespass, Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot), High Tide (Sea Shanties), Peter Hammill (Fool’s Mate), Renaissance (Renaissance), Steamhammer (Speech), and Van Der Graaf Generator (H to He Who Am the Only One, Pawn Hearts).
C.O.B. disbanded in March 1973 due to musical differences.
Bidwell joined veteran folkie Wizz Jones in Lazy Farmer, which released a 1975 eponymous album on EMI Electrola, recorded in Germany with Kraut soundman Conny Plank.
Palmer resurfaced in 1980 with a solo album, Just Me, on the German Autogram label.
- Spirit of Love (1971)
- “Blue Morning” / “Bones” (1972)
- Moyshe McStiff and the Tartan Lancers of the Sacred Heart (1972)
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