Child Is Father To The Man by Blood, Sweat & Tears

January 18, 2012

During the mid-1960s, when Al Kooper was a member of the Blues Project, he had the idea to add a brass section to the band. That dream never came to fruition but the seeds for Blood, Sweat & Tears were sown.

Kooper’s participation in the band he founded was short but sweet as the album it produced with him was one of the best of its era and far different from the mega hit albums that would follow after his exit. Child Is Father To The Man would fuse rock, rhythm & blues, jazz, and even some classical elements with a brass section into a unique sound. Rather than just using the brass to fill in the spaces and provide background sounds, he moved it up front to share center stage with the guitar, bass, and keyboards. It all added up to a release that made Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the Top 500 Albums Of All Time.

He surrounded himself with a stellar cast of musicians. He brought along guitarist/vocalist Steve Katz from the Blues Project and added drummer Bobby Columby, bassist Jim Fielder, pianist & sax player Fred Lipsius, and brass players Randy Brecker, Dick Halligan, and Jerry Weiss.

The music was a brilliant and eclectic hodgepodge that somehow all fit together. The album began with a short classical overture before sliding into Kooper’s first R&B-oriented piece. “I’ll Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know” was a sprawling, nearly six-minute track that introduced all the elements of the Blood, Sweat, & Tears sound. They were followed by a cover of Tim Buckley’s “Morning Glory,” which was changed from a folk tune into a brassy blues piece.

The album’s best track was “I Can’t Quit Her.” Kooper’s gritty and soulful vocal, in front of the big brass sound, was one of the better performances of his career. Close behind was their cover of Harry Nilsson’s classic pop tune, “Without Her,” which the group took in a bossa nova beat direction. When you add in the organ-driven “Something’s Goin’ On” and the classical-influenced “The Modern Adventures Of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud;” you have an album filled with delights.

Child Is Father To The Man remains an interesting piece of music history. It was a vastly different album from most of what was being released during the last half of the 1960s and remains an essential listen today.

Read more:

Like A Rolling Stone 45 by Bob Dylan

November 22, 2010

ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE selected “Like A Rolling Stone” as the number one song of all time and I can’t argue with the choice.

Bob Dylan was 24 when he recorded the song. It was an unusual single release because of its six minute length, but nevertheless, it would spend two weeks in the number two position on The United States singles chart.

In the studio All Kooper would provide the memorable gospel type organ part and Mike Bloomfield would play the legendary guitar parts. Dylan told Bloomfield not to play the blues but just do it the way he was told. Pianist Paul Griffin, bassist Russ Savakys, and drummer Bobby Gregg completed the studio band.

Dylan was mainly known as a folk artist at the time, but “Like A Rolling Stone” was rock ‘n’ roll at its best. It has stood the test of time and remains one of the best creations and definitive songs in music history.

This Diamond Ring 45 by Gary Lewis and The Playboys

January 26, 2010

Gary Lewis had a built in advantage at the beginning of his career. He was the son of comedian Jerry Lewis and so he debuted his first single on The Ed Sullivan Show which was seen by millions of Americans. “This Diamond Ring” promptly shot to the top of The American singles charts for two weeks in Jan. of 1965.

His records all contained simple melodies with with uncomplicated lyrics and Lewis’ voice is pleasant. It was typical inoffensive radio fare and his singles sold in the millions.

His backing group was the Playboys and consisted of guitarists Al Ramsey and John West, keyboardest David Walker, and bassist David Costell. Lewis played the drums during the early part of his career.

Gary Lewis and The Playboys would place 15 singles on the American charts between 1965 and 1969 with seven entering the top ten.

He would be drafted into the army in early 1967 and give a farewell performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. By the time he was discharged the music world had changed drastically and he quickly faded from the scene although he remains active on the oldies scene.

“This Diamond Ring,” written by Al Kooped and with arrangements by Leon Russell remains a nice relic of a simplier time.

Super Session by Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Stephen Stills

January 1, 2010

Every once in awhile what seems like a good idea at the time actually turns out to be a great idea. Such was the case with the concept behind what would become the Super Session album.

The sixties found Al Kooper backing Bob Dylan on tour plus joining him in the studio. He provided the keyboards for “Like A Rolling Stone,” and would go on to play with The Blues Project and form Blood, Sweat, & Tears which he would leave after one album. In 1968 he came up with the idea of recording his friend Mike Bloomfield by gathering some back-up musicians and just jamming. He felt this type of recording technique would fit the style of Bloomfield well.

Mike Bloomfield was an addict who died at the age of 37 in 1981. He also was one of the most talented guitarists to ever walk this earth. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him at number 22 on their list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time. He was an original member of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and a part of the short lived but brilliant Electric Flag. He met Al Kooper while playing for Dylan.

Kooper and Bloomfield entered the studio in May of 1968 backed by bass player Harvey Brooks and keyboardist Barry Goldberg from Bloomfield’s Electric Flag days plus session drummer deluxe Eddie Hoh. Bloomfield’s performance would be everything Kooper hoped for and more. The music buying public would agree as the album would become a big hit at the time.

Side one of the original vinyl release contains five of the finest performances Bloomfield would record during the course of his career. He was always exciting and creative when playing live as his ability to innovate and improvise were impressive. This free form session with Kooper freed him from the usual studio constraints and allowed him the freedom of a live type environment.

Three Bloomfield/Kooper improvisational compositions are perfect vehicles for his exploration of the blues. “Albert’s Shuffle” “His Holy Modal Majesty,“ and “Really” contain some of the finest electric rock/blues fusion music this side of Eric Clapton. The band lays down a foundation as Bloomfield explores the rhythms and basic song structures. His interplay with Kooper is both intricate and energetic. Curtis Mayfield’s “Man’s Temptation” and the Jerry Ragovoy/Mort Shuman song “Stop” provide a little more structure and take the music in a more funky direction.

Everything seemed to being proceeding according to plan until Bloomfield did not show up for any more recording sessions. His heroin addiction made him unable to continue. Enter Stephen Stills who agreed to fill in at the last minute. It proved to be an interesting and ultimately brilliant choice. His side of the original album release is far different from Bloomfield’s as he brought his rock guitar to the mix. When Stephen Stills is in the mood he is a superb guitarist as his number 28 ranking among Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitars Of All Time shows.

He gives Dylan’s “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry” a nice workout but it is an eleven minute version of Donovan’s “Season Of The Witch” which allows him to stretch out and provide some of the best playing of his career. “Harvey’s Tune” takes him in a jazz direction. “You Don’t Love Me” is the only failed track and they may have been out of ideas by this time.

Super Session was a unique stop in the careers of Stills, Bloomfield, and Kooper. Stills would go on to a credible solo career and super stardom with Crosby, Stills & Nash. Al Kooper teaches music at a college in Boston and continues to tour. This album would mark the height of Mike Bloomfield’s commercial popularity. He would continue his musical relationship with Al Kooper but his recording and live concerts would become increasingly erratic. This release remains a highlight of his career and is well worth hearing over forty years after its release.