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Plain and Fancy

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper, Steve Stills - The Super Sessions (1968 us, psych blues jazz rock masterpiece, 2014 Hybrid Multichannel SACD 24/88)



In the space of mere months, the soundscape of rock shifted radically from two- and three-minute danceable pop songs to comparatively longer works with more attention to technical and musical subtleties. Enter the unlikely all-star triumvirate of Al Kooper (piano/organ/ondioline/vocals/guitars), Mike Bloomfield (guitar), and Stephen Stills (guitar) -- all of whom were concurrently "on hiatus" from their most recent engagements. Kooper had just split after masterminding the definitive and groundbreaking Child Is Father of the Man (1968) version of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Bloomfield was fresh from a brief stint with the likewise brass-driven Electric Flag, while Stills was late of Buffalo Springfield and still a few weeks away from a more or less full-time commitment to David Crosby and Graham Nash. 

Although the trio never actually performed together, the long-player was notable for idiosyncratically featuring one side led by the team of Kooper/Bloomfield and the other by Kooper/Stills. The band is ably fleshed out with the powerful rhythm section of Harvey Brooks (bass) and Eddie Hoh (drums) as well as Barry Goldberg (electric piano) on "Albert's Shuffle" and "Stop." The heavy Chicago blues contingency of Bloomfield, Brooks, and Goldberg provide a perfect outlet for the three Kooper/Bloomfield originals -- the first of which commences the project with the languid and groovy "Albert's Shuffle." The guitarist's thin tone cascades with empathetic fluidity over the propelling rhythms. Kooper's frisky organ solo alternately bops and scats along as he nudges the melody forward. The same can be said of the funky interpretation of "Stop," which had originally been a minor R&B hit for Howard Tate. Curtis Mayfield's "Man's Temptation" is given a brass-fuelled soulful reading that might have worked equally well as a Blood, Sweat & Tears cover. 

At over nine minutes in spin time, "His Holy Modal Majesty" is a fun trippy waltz and includes one of the most extended jams on the Kooper/Bloomfield side. The track also features the distinct hurdy-gurdy and Eastern-influenced sound of Kooper's small electric keyboard-manipulated ondioline, which has a slightly atonal and reedy timbre much like that of John Coltrane's tenor sax. Because of some physical health issues, Bloomfield was unable to complete the recording sessions and Kooper contacted Stills. Immediately his decidedly West Coast sound -- which alternated from a chiming Rickenbacker intonation to a faux pedal steel -- can be heard on the upbeat version of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry." One of the album's highlights is the churning and scintillating cover of "Season of the Witch." 

There is an undeniable synergy between Kooper and Stills, whose energies seems to aurally drive the other into providing some inspired interaction. Updating the blues standard "You Don't Love Me" allows Stills to sport some heavily amplified and distorted licks, which come off sounding like Jimi Hendrix. This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age and that gets the full reissue treatment every time a new audio format comes out. 
This is a super session indeed.
by Lindsay Planer


Tracks
1. Albert's Shuffle  (Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield) - 6:43
2. Stop  (James Ragavoy, Mort Shuman) - 4:23
3. Man's Temptation   (Curtis Mayfield) - 3:25
4. His Holy Modal Majesty (Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield) - 9:13
5. Really  (Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield) - 5:29
6. It Takes A Lot To Laugh It Takes A Train To Cry  (Bob Dylan) - 3:30
7. Season Of The Witch (Donovan) - 11:07
8. You Don't Love Me   (Willie Cobb) - 4:12
9. Harvey's Tune  (Harvey Brooks) - 2:09

Personnel
*Mike Bloomfield - Electric Guitar (Side 1 Only)
*Al Kooper - Piano, Organ, Ondioline, Vocals, 12-String Guitar, Electric Guitar, Horn Arrangements
*Harvey Brooks - Bass
*Eddie Hoh - Drums
*Steve Stills - Electric Guitar (Side 2 Only)
*Barry Goldberg - Electric Piano
*Joey Scott - Horn Arrangements

Al Kooper
1968-69  I Stand Alone / You Never Know Who Your Friends Are
1969  The Kooper Sessions With Shuggie Otis
1970  Easy Does It 
1973  Naked Songs ( Japan remaster)
with Blues Project
1966  Live At The Cafe Au Go Go (2013 Japan SHM double disc set)
1966  Projections (2013 Japan SHM two disc set)
1967   Live At Town Hall (Japan SHM edition)
1973  Reunion In Central Park (Japan SHM edition)
with Blood, Sweat And Tears
1968  Child Is Father To The Man

Mike Bloomfield's tapestry
1964  The Original Lost Elektra Sessions
1965  The Paul Butterfield Blues Band
1966  East West
1966  The Butterfield Blues Band - East-West (2014 Hybrid SACD limited adition) 
1966-68  Strawberry Jam
1967  Electric Flag - The Trip
1968-69  Electric Flag - An American Music Band / A Long Time Comin'  
196?-7?  The Electric Flag - Live
1968  Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield - The Lost Concert Tapes, Filmore East
1969  Mike Bloomfield And Al Kooper - The Live Adventures
1969  Michael Bloomfield with Nick Gravenites And Friends - Live At Bill Graham's Fillmore West
1969  Nick Gravenites - My Labors
1973  Bloomfield, Hammond, Dr.John - Triumvirate (Japan remaster)
1976  KGB - KGB
1976-77  Michael Bloomfield - Live at the Old Waldorf
1977  Prescription For The Blues

Steve Stills
1970  Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills (debut album, 2008 japan SHM remaster)
1972  Stephen Stills - Manassas (2006 HDCD)
1971-73  Manassas - Pieces (2009 release)
1975-76/78  Stephen Stills - Stills / Illegal Stills / Thoroughfare Gap
1976  The Stills Young Band - Long May You Run

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1 comment:

ayb see said...

A wonderful vibrant album,full of highlights and a reminder that Michael Bloomfield played some of the sweetest clean notes that were ever heard. He left us way too soon. This SACD release is worth hearing loud,the separation and clarity is astounding. The Quad release of this album is also well worth finding for the longer versions of a few tracks. thanks