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The Crazy world of Cook Records…

cover_4One of those accidental finds today that has opened up a whole world of strangeness and intrigue…

Cook Records was founded in the early 1950’s in the USA by Emory Cook, an inventor, sound engineer and all round one off, from what I can tell. In the 14 years the company existed, Cook, under the names of either Sounds of Our Times or Cook Laboratories released more than 140 vinyl LP’s, covering everything from Calypso, spoken word, classical, folk music and sound effects to the just plain weird…

Cook Records is possibly most famous for releasing the very first stereo record in 1952. Cook developed a system he called binaural that involved two separate grooves and double headed needles, the full details of which are explained in minute detail here on Wikipedia should you be interested.

BuckminsterTo me though, the interest is more in the rather fine sleeve designs and the content of the records themselves. There is one on which the architect Buckminster Fuller “speaks his mind”… All well and good, but Fuller’s mind is so full of complex ideas, that only a fellow mathematical genius will be able to follow the conversation.

Or how about Speed the Parting Guest, which consists of difficult to listen to percussive tunes designed to clear your house of stragglers at the end of the night… Or maybe 16 minutes of Thunder and rain over Hells Half Acre is more your thing as can be found on Voice of the Storm from 1957. There are also some wonderful sound effects records with everything from machines to animals to people sawing and one Voices of the Sky is devoted to the sounds of an airport…

cover_5But the best, most bonkers thing I think I’ve ever heard committed to record is the second side of A Double Barrel Blast. Entitled Listening in on Computer Conversations, I have honestly no idea what it’s about, if it’s serious and who it was aimed at. Originally released in 1962 at a time when computers were in their infancy, there was obviously some leeway as to what might be covered in such conversations, and Emory Cook took full advantage of this opportunity…

One final, serious aspect to this unique individual is his contribution to Reggae, Jamaican, Calypso and Caribbean music generally. Emory Cook’s pressing process for vinyl was compact and low volume and as such, lent itself to the use of individual machines in shops, rather than mass production at a plant, and by the late 1950’s Cook had sent out machines to many of the Caribbean Islands. Local musicians and labels then sent their master tapes to Cook in the USA, where a metal master was made, sent back to the shop and from which could be pressed up as many copies of the records as required, helping to spread the sounds and keep the costs and outside interference to a minimum…

The Cook collection was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institute in the 1990’s where you can find a catalogue of these wonderful gems.

Many of these records are also on Spotify (where I found them) and can be found be typing or pasting  label:Cook  into the search bar, top right, hitting return and then clicking on the words “see all” also top right on the following page. Enjoy the madness…

   cover_11      sound_2

   Kilts       cover_14

   cover_6       cover_15

   planet      cover_12

   cover_8      cover_2





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