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Sweet Smoke

Psychedelic/Space Rock

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4 stars At the beginning of the 1970s, a bunch of Jewish guys from New York (they're Jewish because they have names like Andy Dershin, Jay Dorfman, Steve Rosenstein, and Marvin Kaminowitz) moved to Germany (you can add SWEET SMOKE with The BLUES PROJECT and the J. GEILS BAND as another all or almost-all Jewish rock band). The music they played was jazzy prog/psych, and was not like what most other American bands of the time were doing. What they played seemed to have been better received in Germany than their native America. I am also reminded of NEKTAR (except they were British), because they too had to move to Germany because they were better received there.

"Just A Poke" was released on EMI/Columbia over in Germany. This album consists of only two side length cuts with Andy Dershin on bass, Jay Dorfman on drums and percussion, Marvin Kaminowitz on vocals and guitar, Michael Paris on saxes, flute, vocals, and percussion, and Steve Rosenstein on guitar on vocals. The two cuts are "Baby Night" (side one) and "Silly Sally" (side two), although side one was really "Silly Sally" and side two was really "Baby Night". Apparently the record company had it all messed up when they printed up the LP (and that problem was apparently not fixed when it was reissued on CD). Anyways, "Silly Sally" starts off almost medieval sounding, with recorder and acoustic guitar. Once the vocals kick in (by Kaminowitz), you can tell his voice does sound quite American. Eventually the song turns to electric guitar (without fuzz) and the get to some extended jams. As the jam ends, they go in to an uncredited version of the DOORS' "Soft Parade" (I guess they did not make any mention or give them credit, since they probably didn't ask for permission, and didn't want to get in trouble). Then at the end, the go back to a variation of the beginning theme, but with a different rhythm. "Baby Night" is a more bluesy piece, more relying on groves, before they go in to an extensive drum solo that reminds me of "In-a-Gadda- da-Vida", as well as all sorts of percussion.

Often SWEET SMOKE gets lumped in the Krautrock bunch, which is a bit weird, given these guys were actually New Yorkers, and they hardly sound like CAN, FAUST, ASH RA TEMPEL, AMON D: II, etc., and more stick in the traditional prog/psych vein. And because of lack of keyboards, it's basically the guitar and wind instruments that dominate. But strangely, another album from SWEET SMOKE wouldn't surface until 1973, and that album would be "Darkness to Light" and they were recording for Harvest Records by that time (and a lineup change). They also released a live album the following year, but since disappeared (I heard the guys from SWEET SMOKE had since returned to America, usually to some white-collar job). Well, anyways "Just a Poke" might fall short of being essential in my book, it's still a nice album to have in your collection.

Report this review (#30395)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is a stunning debut LP for the German-based American group, issued 1970, with lot of acid-rock/psychedelic jam improvisations in two side-long tracks. Power, energy, musicianship and atmosphere are comparable to the better live works of the Gratefuld Dead for example. Even the "stolen" part of the Doors' "Soft Parade" is somehow naturally melting into the general sound. Highly recommended album!
Report this review (#30393)
Posted Sunday, May 9, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars A real stunner (for stoners) this album is some kind of UFO really cruising in the smoke-filled realms of your dreamy mind. I was never shure that this titlte did not also mean Just A Joke (not really ) or Just A Toke (more likely - the censorship existed in big companies - EMI). Anyway , a real gem of the Psych/Proto-prog genre , those two long pieces are simply superb but not flawless and I also listened to this many times in a row , often the same side (as I was often too wasted or busy with girlfriend and wishing that this album could be the lenght of a Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream album. Then I got up and changed the album side and listened to it a few times in a row. I was never a fan of drum solos and this one is not too long but like all of them dispensable. The remarks that Mr. Proghead makes are also quite correct.
Report this review (#30394)
Posted Monday, May 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars SWEET SMOKE were a 70's Progressive Rock band who spent more time in Europe than in the Continental US. Along the way they managed to bump into Conny Plank who Co- engineered this album with Klaus Lohmer. SWEET SMOKE combine fusion jazz elements (aka Miles Davis) with German Krautrock elements and with the addition of flute and sax gives a Canterbury feel as well. Vocals are present and quite psychedelic sounding actually at times with some banter and chanting going on.

This album is essentially 2 long epic tracks oscillating between blues, jazz, rock, funk and psychedelia. Band was Andrew Dershin (bass), Jay Dorfman (drums and percussion), Marvin Kaminowitz (solo guitar, vocals), Michael Paris (Tenor sax, alto recorder, vocals, percussion), Steve Rosenstein (rhythm guitar, vocals). With the length of the 2 tracks there is lots of room for exploration and an almost improvised feel to the movements. On track 2 "Baby Night" there is a simply killer percussion solo which sounds like solar drums and will absolutely blow your mind. This is truly awesome music and is heavily recommended to lovers of prog-psych rock.

Report this review (#30396)
Posted Saturday, July 3, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars A great debut by American hippie band that moved to Germany! The album consist of two long jazz- rock tracks. To make things interesting they make a sudden change in mood and rhythm. This could be interpreted as a prog element in their music. I don't hear any krautrock influence as stated by one reviewer. The group has a lot of energy best presented in extended jams. The best part is when all band members start improvising including vocal and percussion. They know how to groove! The atmosphere is coloured with nice flute and sax playing. Drums and guitars are also excellent. I usually don't like improvised music with long noodling but this band makes it haunting and pleasant to the ear. This album is closer to jazz-rock than prog but a lot of prog listeners find it compelling!
Report this review (#30397)
Posted Friday, January 21, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
4 stars so close to being a classic but this leaves me wanting more! The cd is just to short (at 32 minutes), nonetheless it gets a 4.5. These guys really remind me of the dead on the second track but they also sound a little more mature, not to say the dead stink, i looove the dead, distinct style. The music of sweet smoke has a certian complexity that I respect a lot. The drum solo, as mentioned above is a little much. But besides that, these are two side long jams and two songs you can listen to many times in a row. psych prog with some fusion elements thrown in. Totally recommended!!!
Report this review (#39531)
Posted Friday, July 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Just a what?

Sweet Smoke were a fairly short lived band formed in Brooklyn New York the late 1960's. While success was hard to find in their native USA, they found a more receptive audience in Germany and Holland, relocating there in 1969. The band are described as "jazz rock" in the album's sleeve notes, but jazz is clearly the dominant influence. Sweet Smoke released just two studio albums, both on the EMI progressive rock label Harvest in the UK. "Just a poke" (no explanation is offered for the rather strange title) was their first album, released in 1970.

The album consists of just two long tracks, each occupying a side of an LP, the overall length being a paltry 33 minutes. The first piece, "Baby night" is the most rock orientated number of their entire output, and undoubtedly their best. It is reminiscent at various times of IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY's "White bird", with a relaxed West Coast feel. The track features pleasant stereo flute (if anyone has heard "Autumn grass" by CONTINUUM, that is a good reference point), and various jazz guitar sounds. As the pace develops the track becomes more improvised, and the sound gets rockier, until it is pulled back to the soft West Coast feel. After apparently ending, the main vocal theme returns for a final refrain.

The other track, "Silly Sally", leans much more towards traditional jazz. There are echoes the early music of jazz rock band CHICAGO, but the music is more improvised, with bursts of scat, and dominant saxophone. Some fine stereo wah wah guitar leads into an extended drum solo section. While the phasing effects during the solo make it slightly more bearable, it rapidly becomes tedious and indulgent. When the drums section eventually ends, the track reverts to a more orthodox piece of jazz fusion, along the lines of Colloseum or King Crimson.

In all a decent first release, with a strong first side and an adequate second one, let down by the inclusion of an unnecessarily long drum solo. The album comes complete with a suitably abstract sleeve illustration.

The two Sweet Smoke studio albums, "Just a poke" and "Darkness to light" are now available together on a single remastered CD.

Report this review (#45496)
Posted Sunday, September 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars This is a band I wish I'd have known about when I was a kid, because they have a well- constructed, fascinating early seventies psychedelic sound but unfortunately broke up more than thirty years ago. But I didn't discover them until many years after their demise, and now these disks are pretty much impossible to find, although the CD versions can be had.

Don't know a whole lot about these guys beyond what has been committed to different web sites, but it seems they were some Americans from New York who relocated to Germany and established a kind of ex-patriot Haight-Asbury communal existence, lighting up and dropping out (as evidenced by the band's name). As far as I know none of these guys are active musicians today: one is a lawyer, a couple others are IT engineers.

And speaking of Haight-Asbury, the music on this album has a decidedly San Francisco feel to it, despite the band members being from the west coast. The rhythms remind me a lot of early Santana, although of course with guitar work is nowhere near the precision of Carlos Santana's. The album consists of two sixteen-minute plus tracks, both rather similar with lengthy, jazzy instrumental jam sessions, punctuated by a recorder, saxophone, and occasional drum solos. The vocals are reminiscent of bands like Argent, Donovan, It's a Beautiful Day (the male portions), and the Pentagle (ditto). This is a great album if you want to kick back in the park on a warm summer afternoon and listen to some laid-back music and otherwise zone out. I'm not sure how popular a pastime that is today, but back when this band was around it was a perfectly acceptable way to waste the day away.

I'm guessing "Just a Poke" was meant to have at least one different letter in the title, but this was probably a compromise to censors or the label. The album cover and liner notes leave little doubt as to the kind of music the listener is about to hear. One comment about the overall sound: there is definitely some Canterbury and just general western European influences, since most similar psychedelic bands from the U.S. at this time were either much heavier, or much more bizarre. These guys are much closer to what is today known as acid folk, very smooth and calm in their delivery as opposed to their slightly more angry and stoned American contemporaries like the Doors or Jefferson Airplane.

This isn't the kind of album that gets designated as essential, at least not by me. But it is a great half-hour of warm and rather tame psychedelic riffs set behind folk lyrics, and is worth a listen if you come across it. Three stars easily, but not quite four. Recommended if you can get the reasonable CD version, but probably not if you have to shell out big bucks for the vinyl.


Report this review (#114999)
Posted Tuesday, March 13, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This short record is only made of 2 epic songs lasting 16 minutes. There is a definite psychedelic influence, but the tracks are pretty loaded and dynamic. The songs are surprisingly progressive for 1970. The refined drums and the restless bass form a solid fusion rhythm.

The side 1 is filled with spacy flute parts that are absolutely elaborated and delightful. Some restless music parts really reach an impressive speed; the cadence progressively varies from lower levels to higher ones and vice-versa. The electric guitar sound and style are quite respectable, reminding Jimi Hendrix without the impossible wah-wah solos.

The catchy & ultra rhythmic side 2 contains a good debut & end full of excellent sax parts. The infernal rhythm is repetitive but how efficient! The lead vocals may remind Elvis Presley himself! There is a spacy jaw-dropping wah-wah electric guitar solo. The long rhythmic drum solo contains interesting krautrock echo & frequency drift effects, terminated by a joyful set of fiesta screams & carnival cowbells arrangements: the bumpless transition to the ordinary drums then is really a big success.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#123428)
Posted Saturday, May 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Before any thing,let us speak about the case of this album which is worth glance.Very coloured,she says a lot on the contents of the disc and music there that one will find ^_^ there what they can see above has left the eyes of a Hindu godhead and underneath the palace of milles are and one night.The calligraphy of letters is typical of period at the end ' 60 and at the beginning of 70 '.

The abum is comparatively short (33min) and only composed of two pieces,few groups have the period had boldness to try to make such long pieces,result is no less than very good quality...

The 1st piece (Baby Night) starts with an air of flute,this one taking a very important place in the piece,over the beginning it contributes to give the tempo.It remains rather calm until 2'35 almost or the flute up little by little before '4 where rhythm changes suddenly,in 4'40 the flute disappears to leave place in a long stage of improvisations in any types punctuated notably with some small shouting and rather exotic muttering.In 8'45 music becomes again more calm and the voice of Marvin does again its appearance,then towards 11'35 a small solo of guitar of very short-term finds its place perfectly here,its at this instant that they really realize that a big party of the piece is rest on improvisation. At 13'25,no doubt,its a snake charmer whom one hear and who goes perfectly with the exotic and unaccustomed style of this piece. The flute does again surface and after a last rise gets lost in steam...

Silly Sally is really jazz over the beginning with an an ubiquitous saxophone and a rather light rhythm which reminds of the case of the album.Come then the evil-minded voice of Marvin and this small shouting of thrill which certain Jim had popularized some years earlier.The singer starts then a speak a language was so small place later in a solo with a guitar very distorted.They arrive finally has the party has most interesting of the piece,little before the '7 a splendid solo of battery which puts to sleep literally,they are dealing here with a pure gliding passage who is really very taking,they can determine the strange likeness that whizz this solo with noise of reactors of plane,one understand the inspiration so of or in scooped out summer for the video.Come then a party or one hear maracasses and the noise of a criquet,with voices which seem Hindu and that seem to pronounce words,hardly audible... The battery and the saxophone close this piece always on this same air of return to it,it all the same Michael Paris has a lot of breath because to hold his notes so for a long time,I take off to him to my hat!!! Last seconds are also very sought-after,very jazz and Jay Dorfman marks deliberately with time of pause what marks the end of the piece,that undoubtedly does not seem to want to end ^_^ The firsts time when I have listening this piece I was so much taken by music that I literally left myself taken. Of other one counted only this piece,the rest was equal to me,the first listenings in actual fact I was really taken a slap,its in wonders how a simple song can bring this feeling of abatement and relaxation!

Although I consider Silly Sally as being distinctly better than baby Night,Just a poke remains however a very good album,to listen in peace and without being pressed!

Report this review (#175045)
Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Very enjoyable music from 1970 that is trippy and often Jazz flavoured. Two side long suites make up "Just A Poke" that clocks in at 33 minutes. Not a big fan of the vocals, but I love the jams.

"Baby Night" opens with lots of peaceful flute with drums, bass and vocals arriving a minute in. It turns jazzy before 3 minutes as flute continues. Tasteful guitar 7 minutes in as they continue to jam. The tempo slows down 8 1/2 minutes in as percussion then vocals come in. The tone of the guitar sounds great 12 1/2 minutes in. Flute and vocals lead the way for the last 3 minutes.

"Silly Sally" is jazzy with prominant sax. Jazz styled vocals after a minute. The tempo speeds up 3 1/2 minutes in with guitar leading the way a minute later. Bass solo 6 minutes in. The drumming 8 minutes in is very interesting to listen to. Percussion 10 minutes in until a full sound returns with sax 12 minutes in.

A low 4 stars for me but certainly recommended.

Report this review (#176186)
Posted Sunday, July 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sweet Smoke - Just A Poke (1970)

One just has to wonder; what's behind this artistic, yet provocative artwork?

Sweet Smoke is real child of it's time, playing slightly psychedelic rock tracks with long sections with improvising soloists. Along the way the band embraces some nice flute-playing, soulful lyrics, jazz influenced chord progressions, relaxing atmospheres and long rhythmical sections. The overall atmosphere is that of a serious, yet playful rock-band that explores it's boundaries. The emphasis is on the steady rhythmical section of the band.Though most passages are relaxing or highly rhythmical, Sweet Smoke also treats us on some tasteful heavy rock passages and extended guitars solo's. Some have mentioned that one can hear a hippi-mindset at work here and I have to agree on that only partially, because I think Sweet Smoke also has a intellectual way of composing the parts with lyrics. Besides that, Sweet Smoke has a very professional sound for the year of release; easily out-playing and producing Zeppelin for instance.

'Just a Poke' is short album, running for 32 minutes, but it plays non-stop. Both sides have one long track with in the beginning some composition and song-writing and a long middle/end- section with jamming and rhythmical improvisation. Both tracks 'Silly Sally' & 'Baby Night' are equally rewarding.

Conclusion. If you like the sound of seventies rock and have no problems with some improvisation this is a great record. The music never get's very psychedelic or progressive, but Sweet Smoke really proves to be a very professional and inventive rock act. If the record would have a catchier or more experimental approach I would have given it four stars, but for now I think three and a halve stars is enough.

Report this review (#439993)
Posted Thursday, April 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars My friend stumbled upon this album and showed it to me and I gotta say, it's quite a treat. While not essential, this album offers several elements that prog rockers would find interesting. It's split into two long songs, the album cover is bursting with color and psychedlicness, and the music is just sweet.

I really do mean sweet because while listening to this album, one gets the impression of biting into a juicy piece of fruit. The rhythm guitar seems to be the center of this phenomenon, caressing the listener and guiding them through the many different sections of psychedelic jamming. Each song is distinguishable yet work together the same way one would imagine a Yin-Yang. Fans of jazzy/blues rhythms might favor the first, though it is hard to deny the succulent drum solo delivered in "Silly Sally" (I love that name).

Whether you need to relax or you just altered your mind in some way, this album will brighten your day and will never fail to deliver a catchy beat that just can't be hated. Not altogether progressive enough for five stars, but it would fit in well with any Prog rocker's collection next to Nektar or Pink Floyd or even many of the Canterbury bands. Definitely worth checking out.

Report this review (#1156581)
Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Firstly, I feel compelled to take exception at a previous comment. That the performers are Jews from New York is totally irrelevant. Apart from that most of their works were recorded in the very Germany, in a musical sense it matters not if they were from the Italian fishing village of Brescia, or Kiev in the Ukraine. Short of reporting the comment, I'd welcome that person - if he/she is still with us - to edit that comment.

Now, onto the music. If you have never visited, or lived in a hippie village, it'll represent the closest you can get to impromtu jamming every other night and in numerous Cafes after dark - on a good day/night. I lived in such a place for many years and such music is something that I remain very fond of, be that coming from New York, or elsewhere. Your next door neighbour could appear and blow your head off with his skills on saxes, or backpacker "chick" doing spirited work on her congas, you'd never know what was on offer. I never forget of going to sleep on the outskirts of the village. Music wafting through the air was very comforting, indeed.

This album represents perhaps of a taste of people coming together with their various instruments and create virtually instant magic. I've also heard much better Jamming by faceless locals, never having a chance to be recorded.

This album - whilst hardly the best ever representation - remains a pretty good example of times still treasured by die-hard alternatives - like myself.

Report this review (#1158993)
Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Hey, man! Get that crack pipe outa here!! That's not where these cats are coming from. The year was 1970 but these dudes were bringing the 60s into the new decade and this ain't no Indica Purple Kush going on with all that paranoiad head trippin' and all but this SWEET SMOKE is a nice cerebral high that only comes from sacred mother Sativa and look at those hippie chicks dance! Groovin' outa Brooklyn, NYC these cool cats really knew how to have the ultimate backyard party with their fine and fan-damn-tastic spacey, jammin' jazz fusion band. With only two tracks their first album JUST A POKE, they really know how to pull you into a groovin' vibe from the start. These cats fire you up and keep your love light turned on for the whole half hour you put into it. Don't burn out and crash! You might miss something :)

This is fun bouncy music that never for once takes itself too seriously. This is music you can zone out to while the world is spinning after too many pokes of smoke or it's music you can tune into and feel the space rock jazziness invade your psyche. "Baby Night" will really get your horn fetish fly its freak flag with a hat's off to "The Soft Parade" from The Doors and all and "Silly Sally" gets the percussion super hoppin' like a dog gnawin' on its bone. This band just knows how to keep a groove going good and smooth and i'm sure they had a help from their dealer keeping them fueled up in the process of recording! The jazzy horns mixed with the clean rhythmic guitars with the occasional tasty solo is worth the price of admission alone but the dreamy and seriously optimistic feel coupled with those cool ass recorders that sound like Native American music are icing on this cake. SWEET and smooth, sensual and satisfying. This band knows how to hide their talents behind a thick cloud of SMOKE but if you listen for a while you can penetrate the hazy brume and savor the SWEETness.

Both JUST A POKE and the second album "Darkness To Light" are now available together remastered on a single disc! Groovy!

Report this review (#1326983)
Posted Sunday, December 21, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Nobody could accuse Sweet Smoke of being coy or subtle about their interests - with a band name, album title, and cover art like that, you know you're in for a jam so psychedelic that you can almost smell the bong smoke. Emerging from that early 1970s era where the border between psychedelic rock and progressive rock wasn't especially well-established, the group sits on the psychedelic side of the line whilst taking ample influence from the progressive side, with jazzy touches spicing up their performance and the album consisting of just two side-ling jams.

It's very much a product of its time, but it's a pretty decent product at that. There's a bit towards the end of the side 1 jam, Baby Night, where the performers coalesce into this great little cover of the Doors' Soft Parade, which I actually think is better than the Doors' own studio rendition of the song; their loose jam band take on it reinvests it with the acid rock wildness that the rather overpolite production on the Doors album of the same name robbed the composition of. Delicious stuff.

Report this review (#1683795)
Posted Monday, January 23, 2017 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review #79

Two days ago I was walking home and I ran into a store that sells Marihuana accessories (like pipes and that kind of stuff) and there was a really interesting song playing from there. I walked into the store to ask what song it was and the girl that was working in the store (who was all high) showed me what she was listening to; we started to talk a little bit about music and she asked me what my tattoo was and I told her that it was the cover of a KING CRIMSON album (it's "Discipline") so she asked me to show her my favorite song of that band and I told her to listen to "21st century schizoid man", I said goodnight and got out of there. Last night I entered to say hello again and to ask if she had liked CRIMSON and she told me "oh, yeah, I liked it a lot and right when it ended an album called "Just a poke" by SWEET SMOKE started and I really liked it too".

I haven't heard "Just a poke" in like six or seven years, so thanks to that girl I'm re-discovering it and oh, man! It is so much better than I remembered. This album has a very hippie weed smokey atmosphere. The first song is the one I like the most: the flutes are hypnotic and the incessant guitar riff is quite enjoyable. The reference to THE DOORS' "Soft parade" is great (so great that it sounds way much better than THE DOORS).

"Silly Sally" is a very nice jamming song too: the percussion section and the saxophone lines give it a jazzy but yet very psychedelic sound (Psychedelic Jazz, I'd say). Actually I was surprised when I read this band is considered into the Psychedelic/Space Rock sub-genre, I thought it would be more related to Jazz Rock/Fusion since it reminds me a lot to some JRF bands such as COMA, MISSING LINK or even NUCLEUS.

I thought that my rate to this album would be only three stars, but now that I'm listening to it all over again I believe it deserves one more. Absolutely recommended to fans of jazzy, hippie, psychedelic and bluesy late sixties and early seventies bands.

About the girl I'll only say that I'll visit her more often because she's insanely cute and it is always nice to meet somebody to talk about cool music.

Report this review (#2487523)
Posted Thursday, December 24, 2020 | Review Permalink

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