They took off before Voyager 2 and they are back from the ozone at no expense to the taxpayer because this was not a government funded operation. Too much fun was involved.
I neither saw Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen when they visited England in the 1970s nor heard any of their albums. The Mills music antennae were pointing elsewhere when their first record “Lost in the Ozone” appeared – just as it was for the ones that followed. In fact…aside from Hank Williams…very little country-orientated music had blipped on my radar at that time. Have mercy on me.
My first close encounter of the Cody kind was in the early 1980s when I was working in east London for a company supplying 45rpm singles to juke box operators. Several hundred copies of the Cody’s “Three Triple Cheese Side Order Of Fries” arrived in a job-lot of deleted records and I glommed one for myself because it sounded so different from anything else that was around in the UK at that time. I eagerly aimed my receiver into the ozone in their direction but, the Commander’s crew had disbanded - seemingly exhausted by their arduous mission.
I met Bill Kirchen in the 1990s. By then he was already established as a solo artist but was touring USA as part of Nick Lowe’s Impossible Birds. His stories of those years spent with the Commander were fascinating. Not long afterwards when I started releasing Bill’s albums on my own label, I often wondered if there was any likelihood of a Cody reunion that might be worth recording. There were indeed some reunions but they were not recorded. After the death of the Commander (George Frayne) in 2021, Airman John Tichy decided that he would round up all surviving Airmen who wanted to join the fun with a couple of other key Cody alumni and cut some tracks for an album in a recording studio. The ’22 crew on board for this comprised John Tichy, Bill Kirchen, Bruce Barlow, Andy Stein, Bobby Black, Peter Siegel, Austin de Lone and Paul Revelli.
Following the sessions, John sent me the mastered recordings and I couldn’t believe how great the musicianship was on every track. The twelve songs that made it onto the album perfectly represented the spirit of the old band spanning Western swing, boogie woogie, rock ‘n roll, jazz, R ‘n’ B, country and more. There was a nod to the old Cody repertoire with six songs that they must have played a thousand times in days of yore and six new songs, which could not have been written to better effect.
For me the killer track is “My Window Faces The South” where everyone gets a ride and the band whips it out like it’s 1971 again but ultimately, just like in the old days, there is something for everyone. As Dan Forte states in his liner notes for the CD edition of the album, “This may be a reunion, but it’s a supergroup. Now as then, it is stellar musicians having too much fun”.
Back From The Ozone is released worldwide on 27th October 2023. ~ Malcolm Mills