Sweet Smoke

American prog-rock band
who played in Europe in the early 70s

Sweet Smoke

Photo from back cover of 'Just A Poke' album.

Introduction

My name is Brian Currin and I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I first heard the album 'Just A Poke' sometime in the late 70s and fell in love with its progressive, well-produced and experimental sound. After years of fruitless search for the CD or any more info on this obscure band, I eventually found both (and much, much more) thanks to the Internet and the band members themselves!

Since putting up this page in October 1997, I have received e-mail from Andy Dershin, Mike Paris, Jay Dorfman and Rick Greenburg, all ex-members, who have been very generous in supplying more information and answering my questions.

I have also received many e-mails from Sweet Smoke fans around the world, who have helped with info for this webpage.

Bulgarian fan: Sweet Smoke is totally unfamiliar in Bulgaria. Year after year I tried to gather some news about the group but my efforts were fruitless. I didn't even know that the members of the band are still alive, because once a friend of mine told me they had died in a helicopter crash in the early 70s...
Thanks God this is not true!
So, perhaps, you could imagine my great joy and excitement which I am trying to share with you...
For a first time I heard the album "Just a Poke" in 1986 when I was 17 - in a cold winter morning I found a lost old record dropped by someone in the street ... I took it home and played it at my record-player - I found the music really great and magical and up to now this album is one of my favourite!!!
-- Zornitza "Ronny" Harizanova, Bulgaria, July 2001
Hi Brian, I found your Sweet Smoke site when doing a search for the band. I lived with them in late '69 and early '70 in Emmerich - actually the village of Huthum. Steve Rosenstein was a good friend of mine at college and he gave me the address of the band when I went to Europe. Steve wasn't in the band yet - Victor Sacco was the lead guitar - very fast, chilly style - excellent musician though. Steve had a brilliant, very warm musical sense - been trained in classical violin, could turn anything into a beautiful, melodic piece. He played fiddle with some very good Irish bands in the mid-70s in Boston. The crew was very much like the main web pages say they were - we had a lot of fun, everyone was very close and supportive, and the music - which I had nothing to do with other than as a listener - was great. I remember that winter the Rhine was in the basement of the house a lot, and every morning we ate oatmeal with cinnamon and delicious fresh milk we'd get from the manor house a few hundred yards up the path. The Kuhn family - the father, who was a fairly renowned sculptor, mother, and a number of kids included Rochus and his brother and two girls, one of whom married Jay later on - I don't think they're still together. But the relationship with the Kuhns was very close and it was a great family - they had Afghans, one of which, Rita I believe, was the only dog to ever bite me - she was nursing at the time.

They all were great musicians - Mike's solos, of course, would drive the crowd wild - fantastic on the recorder. When I went back to NY, I brought Steve the message that they wanted him in and Victor out - he was astonished and left that summer, I believe, or perhaps sooner, to join the band. It's strange to read that none of them made a profession of music because there was a lot of experimental energy and imagination coursing through the instruments. With all their Brooklyn accents, they thought my Bronx accent hysterical and thought no one else could speak that way till my sister visited them in the summer of 1970. Last I saw of them was in the mid-70s - ran into Marvin when he was at Berklee, Mike came up to visit, Steve was around Boston, etc., but haven't seen any of them since. However, a friend of mine about 6 years younger than me had a childhood friend visiting her last year, and both of them remembered Sweet Smoke quite well. So as you can see, your web site has stirred up some memories and it is much appreciated, because you are keeping a bit of history alive.

Best wishes, Barton Kunstler, November 2002
For more detailed info on the band and their history and reviews of the albums, visit Thibault Ducray's excellent Unofficial Sweet Smoke Web page which is half in French and half in English. Well worth a visit.

Where are they now?

Rick Greenberg: My name has changed a few times since 1974 when 'Sweet Smoke Live' was released. I was Rick Greenberg then. I just wanted to let you know I've enjoyed seeing your web-tribute to the band. I played some gigs with Sweet Smoke in early 1970, a few years before I joined the group full-time. I was studying music in London and traveled to Holland and Germany for concerts. My first exposure to a Sweet Smoke stage forever transformed my take on music - driving rhythms with sweet exciting solos soaring, and all with a trademark chaotic mix of humor and heart.

Throughout all the years the band lived in Europe, Sweet Smoke was a loving family of musicians and friends on a spiritual search for a state of musical expression where the ego lets go and the imagination plays with joy and spontaneity. That energy erupted on and off the stage (" . . . a vision of heaven in our hearts and the devil at our feet . . .” - Just a Poke). We had many names for it, "Light,” "Baba Nam Kevalam," even "Baloo," but the names were only passing thoughts, like sweet smoke itself, you take it all in, you let it all out and in a moment of creation the music gives you freedom and ecstacy.

Sweet Smoke lives on. At the reunion last summer, the same energy from the early Seventies immediately manifested and kept us joking, storytelling, laughing and playing music, and like smoke from a wizard's fire, the atmosphere was filled with magic.
-- Rick Rasa, April 2000
Jay Dorfman: I was the founding member and drummer of the band through all three recordings, this weekend we had a 30 year reunion where all members of the band regrouped, I have lots of rare orginal photos available and would like to make them available for the site... and yes feel free to post my e-mail on your site...
-- Jay Dorfman, Unherd Of Productions, 9th August 1999
Andy Dershin: I left Europe in '73 and returned to the US and I went to Berklee college of music in Boston. There I studied jazz and improvisation. I continued playing music up till 1980. At that point I got tired of not being able to play the creative style of music I had been accustomed to. In reality I also found it hard to earn a living. So I went into the crazy world of business. I still play but just for enjoyment of it. In the States if your not playing what's hot and popular, it's very hard to earn any money. But I have done OK in business and life is great. The other guys in the band have mostly done the same.
Jay is in the video production field.
Mike is a heavy computer programmer.
Steve is now a lawyer and lives in Los Angeles, but I'd hate to be one of his clients.
Marvin still plays but mostly just for weddings and such. He also sells advertising for cable TV.
Marty is a programmer and works with Mike.
John is a manager of a retail store.

So as life has gone on we still miss each other and the great music we created.
-- Andy Dershin, February 1998

Discography
Just A Poke
Darkness To Light
Live



Just A Poke

CD cover Italy LP

(Click on image for full cover scan)

  1. Baby Night (Sweet Smoke) (16:24)
  2. Silly Sally (Sweet Smoke) (16:22)

Released:
1970 (LP) Germany
1970 (LP) Italy
1996 (CD) Holland
2000 (CD) Germany
2000 (CD) Germany (with 'Darkness To Light')

Label: EMI Electrola

Catalogue numbers:
1C 064-28 886 (LP)
1C 244-28 886 (MC)
V.5001 (Italian LP)
CDP 538-7 48871 2 (CD)
7243 5 22641 2 4 (CD with 'Darkness To Light')

Musicians:
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

Sweet Smoke responsible for all manner of percussion

Rosie Schmitz and Winfred Ebert: Producers
Conrad Plank and Klaus Lohmer: Engineers

Cover art: Jan Fijnheer

Sweet Smoke - 2 albums on 1 disc CD re-issue 2000 Italy LP back cover - click for bigger picture

Italian album cover scans supplied by Gigi from Italy, June 2005.

Reviews:

Taken off the German Amazon website.

Sweet, sweet, sweet: First bought this as an album in 73-74 while in Germany as a GI. We all loved it then and now since I've turned-on my friends here in the States they all love it. I know of 2 others that have ordered it through Amazon since I got it on disc a couple months ago through Amazon. This album will bring you up when down, mellow you when needed and thoroughly blow your mind. Full of surprises and fantastic solos. Sweet, sweet, sweet; thank you for making this available Amazon!
-- Richard M Huff from Iowa, USA
Awesome: This has to be one of the most awesome albums I have ever heard, and I've been listening to rock music for more than 40 years! Excellent solos throughout, and even a cover of the Doors 'Soft Parade' hidden in there. I guarantee you'll love it!! --
A Music Fan from USA

Darkness To Light

Darkness to Light

(Click on image for full fold-out cover scan)

  1. Just An Empty Dream (4:20)
  2. I'd Rather Burn Than Disappear (4:15)
  3. Kundalini (13:25)
  4. Believe Me My Friends (4:29)
  5. Show Me The Way To The War (5:30)
  6. Darkness To Light (12:51)

Released:
1973 (LP) Germany
1997 (CD) Germany
2000 (CD) Germany
2000 (CD) Germany (with 'Just A Poke')

Labels: EMI Electrola (Harvest) (LP, MC & CD) / OSA (CD)

Catalogue numbers:
1C 062-29 471 (LP)
1C 244-29 471 (MC)
941041 TSP (OSA - CD)
8326802 (EMI Harvest Rarities - CD)
7243 5 22641 2 4 (CD with 'Just A Poke')

Musicians:
Michael Paris: Sax, Flute, Vocal
Marvin Kaminowitz: Guitar, Vocal
Steve Rosenstein: Guitar, Vocals
Rochus Kuhn: Violin, Cello
Jeffrey Dershin: Piano, Percussion, Vocals
Andrew Dershin: Bass
Jay Dorfman: Drums

Inside cover

Inside of CD cover

Live

Sweet Smoke Live album cover Live Live

1974 original album

1997 CD re-issue

2000 CD re-issue

  1. First Jam (Sweet Smoke) (19:15)
  2. Shadout Mapes (Rick Greenberg) /
    Ocean Of Fears (Marvin Kaminowitz) (18:02)


  3. Bonus tracks on 2000 CD re-issue:

  4. People Are Hard
  5. Schyler's Song
  6. Final Jam

Released:
1974 (LP) Germany
1997 (CD) Holland
2000 (CD) Germany with bonus tracks

Labels: EMI Electrola (Harvest) (LP & MC) / Disky (CD)

Catalogue numbers:
1C 038 15755701 (LP)
1C 244-29 513 (MC)
DC 869952 (CD)
7243 5 22683 2 0 (CD with bonus tracks)

Musicians:
Rick Greenberg: Rhythm guitar, Sitar
Marvin Kaminowitz: Lead guitar, vocals, percussion
John Classi: Percussion, sound effects
Andrew Dershin: Bass guitar, percussion
Jay Dorfman: Drums, percussion
Martin Rosenberg: Tamboura, percussion

John M÷ring: Producer
Wolfgang Thierbach: Engineer
Heidi Janik: Cover photo

Recorded live in Berlin, Musikhochschule, 1974, for the benefit of Ananda Marga Yoga Society.

Shadout Mapes was a character in Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel "Dune".

1974

Sweet Smoke in Southern Germany, 1974.
Photo supplied by Rick Rasa, September 2000.

Buy CDs

29 April 2000:
My name is ValÚrie and I'm very fond of Sweet Smoke music. I have great news for you (if you don't already know it!). The live album contained only three pieces of music of the Berlin concert in 1974. But now the complete version has just been released and it has been available in Europe since March. The background of the cover is the cover of the original live album, and there is a caricature of the musicians.
-- ValÚrie de Clerck
18 April 2000:
My contacts at EMI tell me that a new release of 'Sweet Smoke Live' with previously unreleased cuts will soon be available on CD.
-- Rick Rasa (Greenburg)
February 2000:
All CDs of Sweet Smoke are available again via
Amazon Germany.
Search for "Sweet Smoke" and you will find all you need.
-- Rudolf Techert


Links

The Unofficial Sweet Smoke Web page
Thibault Ducray's excellent website which is half in French and half in English. Well worth a visit.

ProgRock Archives This extensive website includes some cool Sweet Smoke album reviews.

Vagabond's World
My general rock music trivia site

Send any comments to: Brian Currin

Graphics from Diana's Free Graphics website which seems to have disappeared.

This website is part of the
South African Rock Encyclopedia.

The South African Rock Encyclopedia

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