Sweet Smoke - Just a poke (1970)

Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 2:20 AM

Just a Poke is the first album by the band Sweet Smoke, released in 1970, engineered by Conny Plank.
The song Baby Night is the perfect introduction to the band, displaying their progressive jazz fusion style at the time. The song can be divided into three main sections, the highlights being the instrumental sections.
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 albums 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. By Easy Livin'.
Tracks
1.Baby Night (16:36)
2.Silly Sally (16:31)
Listen track 1
Listen track 2

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