At the heart of Courage: The Atlantic Recordings (2006) are the four out-of-print LPs that multi-instrumentalist Rufus Harley (bagpipes/flute/sax) cut for the label during the mid- to late 1960s. Also featured are a previously unissued cover of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as well as "Pipin' the Blues," a Harley/Stitt duet from Sonny Stitt's Deuces Wild (1967) platter. Although criminally dismissed by many as a novelty, Harley successfully integrated the seemingly limited B flat and F drone of the bagpipes into the realm of (concurrently) modern jazz. Harley's early life was a struggle with poverty, during which his alcoholic mother would often pawn his treasured C-melody sax for liquor money. Proving his sincerity to the music, Harley without fail would retrieve his instrument via odd jobs. However, his focus changed on November 25, 1963 as Harley – along with the rest of the free world – tuned in to the memorial of President John F. Kennedy. When Harley heard the pipers from the Black Watch of the Royal Highlanders Regiment during the funeral procession, the sound struck him as producing the same tonality that he had been unsuccessfully trying to coax out of his sax. It was then a matter of hooking up with Joel Dorn, a fellow Philly resident and local jazz disc jockey.
Although he created a decadent glam rocker image through early albums like The Human Menagerie and The Psychomodo, Steve Harley soon revealed a romantic heart beating beneath all the artsy sleaze on singles like "Judy Teen" and "Make Me Smile (Come up and See Me)." This 1976 album, the last studio outing Harley would record under the Cockney Rebel banner, allowed him to give full vent to his romantic thoughts via lushly crafted songs about the travails of love. Love Is a Prima Donna features two of Harley's finest songs in the title track, a bracing song that features the writer waxing comical about the pitfalls of love over a briskly paced pop tune that fleshes out its pub-piano melody with flamenco guitar and a choir, and "(Love) Compared With You," a delicately orchestrated love ballad that manages to be touching and heartfelt without lapsing into sappy sentimentality. This album also produced one of Harley's biggest hits with an arty, synthesizer-laced cover of the Beatles' classic "Here Comes the Sun".
Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel are an English rock band from the early 1970s. Their music covers a range of styles from pop to progressive rock. Over the years they have had five albums in the UK Albums Chart and twelve singles in the UK Singles Chart. Steve Harley (born Stephen Malcolm Ronald Nice, 27 February 1951, Deptford, London), grew up in London's New Cross area and attended Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College. His musical career began in the late 1960s when he was busking (with John Crocker aka Jean-Paul Crocker) and performing his own songs, some of which were later recorded by him and the band. After an initial stint as a music journalist, the original Cockney Rebel was formed when Harley hooked up with his former folk music partner, Crocker (fiddle / mandolin / guitar) in 1972.