JIMMY Copley, who died on May 14, 2017, is typical of the unsung, unknown drummers plying their trade at the highest level.
A brief stab at wider ‘fame’ came when he decided to record a song to raise money for the Bristol Hospital that was looking after him this year.
It made worldwide news headlines and his warmth and generosity in thinking about others is perhaps a legacy that outshines his undoubted drumming chops.
Before that, he was known to drummers and other musos, and never failed to impress. Tears For Fears, Go West, Killing Joke, The Pretenders, his CV spoke for itself. And he worked with rock royalty – Jeff Beck, Manfred Mann, Bernie Marsden, Tony Iommi and Paul Rodgers. You don’t get to do that by just being a nice bloke.
I first got to know of him through Rodgers’ Electric album, which came out in 2000. At the time I hadn’t got back into drumming and was out of touch with the musical world, apart from the CDs I bought. I had been so impressed with the ex-Free and Bad Company frontman’s Muddy Water Blues album several years previously, with Jason Bonham on drums, that as soon as I caught sight of Electric, in a music shop in Hull, I had to have it.
Copley’s playing is electric (pardon the pun) throughout. Thankfully the drums are high in the mix and his hi-hat work and rock groove on the opener, Deep Blue, must have had Rodgers thanking his lucky stars.
Walking Tall has an irresistible blues feel and Copley is not afraid to let loose, while keeping the feel enough to allow the walking bass line and guitar riff to hang on to his coat tails.
Find A Way is a glorious builder of a track, picking up steam along its five and a half minutes, with Copley now underpinning the vocals and riffs. It’s a rock ballad growing bar by bar and the playing is so tight and understated yet prominent at the same time.
A stand-out track with stand-out playing.
There’s some glorious ride cymbal and hi-hat playing on China Blue, a laid back ballad, while it’s a reliance on feel and groove that powers the next track, Love Rains.
He joins the party late on Over You, powering along a flute solo, of all things, but it’s back to driving the next blues rock track, Drifters.
Freedom is a sumptuous example of drumming. Busy, graceful and right in the pocket.
On the finale, Conquistadora, Copley’s right on the money, elevating the emotions perfectly, prodding the vocals, guitar and bass to the heights. Nothing too showy, nothing that detracts from the music.
It’s a wonderful album, with a wonderful performance by Copley. The type that gets overshadowed by the lead singers, the lead guitarists, the soloists – yet the skill he has in spades is giving them the platform to shine.