by Robert Wilkinson
I’ve always found it interesting the two amazing and unique talents who have somewhat the same name were born on consecutive days. Both were completely unique, WAY ahead of their time, and gave us some great tunes! For our closing act on this musical weekend, today we celebrate the great work of the legendary Al Kooper.
Al Kooper (born Alan Kuperschmidt February 5, 1944) is a major league record producer and performer. He’s played on hundreds of records, and was THE organ on Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” He was the keyboard player for the mid-60s folk-rock jazz fusion group the Blues Project, which morphed into the original Blood Sweat & Tears when they actually were a unique, pioneering sound.
From there he brought Mike Bloomfield (the guitarist for that session) and Stephen Stills together in the groundbreaking first “Super Session” album, followed by the second one with Shuggie Otis. After that he discovered and produced Leonard Skynyrd, and went on to a thousand projects.
In my opinion, one of the greatest things he ever did was get CBS to release “Odessey and Oracle,” the masterwork by the Zombies consistently voted as one of the best albums of all time, when he was a staff producer for CBS. (Correction: Thanks to an alert fan of the site, though Al played with the Royal Teens as a guitarist, it was after their hit “Short Shorts,” featuring the great Bob Gaudio in his pre-4 Seasons days on keyboards! :-))
He performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965,and in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Kooper also played the Hammond organ riffs on Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone." It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar-playing he admired. He worked extensively with Bloomfield for a number of years. Kooper played organ once again with Dylan during his 1981 world tour.
So on with the show! For this year’s tribute, I’ve chosen to focus on his early work, since it’s all too good for words!
From his days with the Blues Project,
Here’s a site where going to the first link takes you to the entire album in sequence.
From the Projections album, the original studio version of “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”
“Wake Me Shake Me” (Not the 4 Tops song!)
Blues Project Live!
At the legendary 1967 Summer of Love Monterey Pop Festival, the Blues Project performing “Flute Thing” (Last year I had “Wake Me Shake Me” but this year it’s disappeared.)
I did find their audio-only entire 22 minute set! The Blues Project at the Monterey Pop Festival 1967
From Steve Paul’s television show “the Scene” in Sept 1967, some pretty psychedelic camera work! “Wake Me Shake Me”
From sometime in 1967, the Blues Project in a live performance of Steve Katz’s beautiful “Steve’s Song”
And from the same time period, another great live performance of “Flute Thing”
From here we move on to an album I consider a masterpiece to this day! He was the driving force behind an idea to fuse a rock and roll band with a big band horn section, and created Blood Sweat & Tears. Their first album is not honk. “Child Is Father To The Man” is a masterpiece, a one of a kind effort at creating a sound that has only been approached by Chicago since then. A great work of blending rock and roll, jazz, blues, psychedelia, and whatever into a unique piece of work!
Here’s the entire album! Last year I had the whole thing on one clip. This year they’re in one place as separate clips that have ads. That said, since they’re in sequence It’s really worth the time, since it’s a 50 minute unique piece of work that stands the test of time. “Child Is Father To the Man”
For those who don’t have the time right now, here are a few of the better tunes!
One of Al’s truly great compositions, “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know”
Another AK composition, “My Days Are Numbered”
The great Harry Nilsson tune, “Without Her”
Here’s a great arrangement of the equally great Randy Newman tune “Just One Smile”
Al Kooper co-wrote this great rocker, “I Can’t Quit Her”
Here’s the closer, written by Carole King and Jeff Goffin, the beautiful “So Much Love/Underture”
Now to a few clips from Super Session!
Written by the great Bob Dylan, “It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry”
And what I consider to be the high point of the album, the incredible Donovan tune “Season of the Witch”
From his 1969 “Super Session” with 15-year old Shuggie Otis, “Shuggie’s Shuffle”
I found a great live performance by Al at BB King’s in NYC at his 2012 birthday celebration! For your enjoyment, Al Kooper and the Funky Faculty sending up “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.”
We’ll close this tribute where we began! It’s Al Kooper reunited with Danny Kalb knocking out a great performance of “I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes”
For the encore, Al's organ work is all over this iconic tune that broke down the barriers in countless ways! For your enjoyment, the great keyboard work of Al Kooper on Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone."
Al, I’ve been one of your biggest fans since the beginning! Thanks for all the tunes across the years, and mos def thanks for the Zombies! And if you want to keep this tribute rolling, for your enjoyment, the brilliant and unique “Odessey and Oracle”
© Copyright 2017 Robert Wilkinson