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.