An Album so Good that to Play it Over and Over CD's Had to Be Invented
Beginnings, or Really Having the Blues in the Blues Project
Brooklyn born (02/05/44) singer and keyboardest Al Kooper, with the Blues Project in dissolution after two years and three records, decided to perform a fundraising concert for relocating and starting recording projects in England. He already had fellow Brooklyn native, Steve Katz (b. 5/9/45), and they are joined by his guitarist's friend, jazz drummer Bobby Colomby (Both of whom had already been talking together about forming a new band.) This sole performance took place at NY's Greenwich Village Café Au Go Go with Al's addition of former Buffalo Springfield and Mothers of Invention bassist, Denton, Texan, Jim Fielder (10/04/47). Al, with the Blues Project, had met Jim in the the Buffalo Springfield (and at the same time his earlier comrades, the Mothers were there, too) while both played Bill Graham's Fillmore in Frisco.
But, the serious discussion of post Blues Project project was seeded when as Jim's temporary Laurel Canyon neighbor got a chance to pipe dream in earnest. The big event had Judy Collins and Paul Simon joining in, and the audience is treated to two new Kooper compositions, that will be mentioned later, "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know", "My Days Are Numbered," and "I Can't Quit Her," but the take at the door was insufficient for Al's big dream, but there is another one on the horizon.
Nameless Project until Cash
Colomby, wanting something unique --fusing his jazzier tastes with his friends' rock, folk and blues interests, asked Al to join Steve in a band that got its name born out of necessity while Kooper was talking with a potential producer on the phone, and, conveniently in a nominclature epiphany he spotted a Johnny Cash album titled, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, and spat out the words only Winston Churchill had made more famous. The quartet played at the Café Au Go Go, but eventually they wanted to add horns a la the Buckinghams as exampled on Time and Changes. They gathered a brass section that started with buddy New Yorker saxophonist Fred Lipsius (11/19/44) who helped them open up for the James Cotton Blues Band as a quintet at the Fillmore East (while it still was the Village Theater). Freddie went on to recruit Philadelphian, trumpet players, Randy Brecker (11/27/45) New York bred ((05/01/46) Jerry Weiss, and rounded it out with trombonist Troy, NY's Dick Halligan.
Fred Lipsius at this time started helping Al with the arrangement of the constant new material as they debuted with this personnel at NYC's the Scene. The concept of an album is not brought to fruition until after a sucessful night starting before the Moby Grape at the Café Au Go Go they achieved three labels interest, and furthermore Kooper's affiliation with Columbia pays off with a contract.
November 11, 1967 the first work in studio begins, starting with an instrumental, "Refugee from Yuhupitz" (which will not be released until a special CD of this album is made around three decades later.) They get production work by John Simon, who helps with the string and horn arrangements, and who can play piano or organ as well. Columbia successfully released this melange of folk-blues-rock-jazz-psychedelic-symphonic on February 21, 1968. The three months project was not only music magic, but a whole lot of fun, and the first cut, "Overture" shows it with the hilarious laughing at its end before blending, Sergeant Pepper- style into "I Love You More than You'll Ever Know."
Masterpiece in the Studio, Or Sergeant Pepper Gets Some Soul
Child Is Father To the Man
The cover of the Album is a portrait of the band, wearing casual wear sitting in chairs against a black background holding children who have identical heads on their bodies. The rest of the album is red with white splashes upon which is put the black print.
Blood Sweat and Tears (this incarnation later known as BS&T1):
Al Kooper - Piano, organ, ondioline, vocals
(The liner notes order of personnel is: Lipsius, Fielder, Katz, Kooper, Colomby, Weiss, Halligan, and Brecker)
Steve Katz - Guitar, (electric and acoustic), vocals
Jim Fielder - Bass (Fender)
Bobby Colomby - Drums, percussion, vocals
Fred Lipsius - Alto saxophone, piano (and the liner notes add: 'good judgement')
Randy Brecker - Trumpet
Jerry Weiss - Trumpet, fluegelhorn
Dick Halligan - Trombone
(John Simon (of Past, Present and Future Productions) is given title of 'overseer' as well as producer and arranger).
'friends and reinforcements' (as introduced in the liner notes:)
The BS&T String Ensemble
The BS&T Engineering Department
'Mr Fred Catero without whom
this album would not be listenable.'
The BS&T Soul Chorus:
Valarie Simpson (sic)
Songlist: Child Is Father To the Man
I'll Love You More Than You'll Ever Know (Al Kooper)
Morning Glory (Tim Buckley and L. Beckett)
My Days Are Numbered (Al Kooper)
Without Her (Harry Nilsson)
Just One Smile (Randy Newman)
I Can't Quit Her (Al Kooper)
Meagan's gypsy Eyes (Steve Katz)
Somethin' Goin' On (Al Kooper)
House in the Country (Al Kooper)
The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes, and Freud (Al Kooper)
So Much Love (Gerry Goffin, Carol King)/Underture
As one can see, Al Kooper wrote seven of the eleven tracks, Steve Katz wrote one, and they covered four written by accomplished and unparalleled songwriters, Tim Buckley -- who Fieldler played for --(and L. Beckett), Carol King (with Gerry Goffin), Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman.
(Harry Nilsson was a childhood friend of Al Kooper). They actually played Smiling Phases, You've Made Me So Very Happy, and a solo from Something Goin' On that turned into Blues Part 2 that went on the second album, albeit sans Al who left to be A&R man ffor Columbia (and worked on Super Session with Stephen Stills and Harvey Brooks).
The Critics Loved It, but, Will They Buy It?
It was not only Jan Wenner, writing for his own Rolling Stone who was throwing out accolades higher than the Himalayas, as other critics, too likened the sound as a new landmark direction using horns as more than an afterthought. Getting a Grammy nomination for 1968, this album to this day has no equal, and after Al Kooper left the same year of this endeavor was put on the market, the group that reformed trying to compete with the Chicago Transit Authority is not the same. The organ's sweet chirp blends with soulful sax, Katz' sustained hum of his axe, and mellowed brass coming in with smooth emphasis, never grating; but demanding replay over and over until time rudely demands our attention to other mundanities that in life unfortunately always interrupts us.
Let us go into some detail. I'll quote where pertinent, and then add what should be added with comment.
(The Second Page of the liner notes) has at the top of the page:
'Everyone plays what he is listed a playing but this helps it all to make sense.'
'Overture/Performed by BS&T String Ensemble (the laugher wishes to remain anonymous).
Arranged by John and Al
Conducted by JS.'
As mentioned before, not only was this classy and innovative, but full of their enjoyment.
'I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know They mention the scream 'well alright' as inspired by Janis Joplin in San Francisco. My take is that this is the best song on the album, infectous, meaningful to anyone to has ever been, or is in love. I enjoy Al's falsetto mixed in with his semi contra-tenor smooth voice interdispersed with slight subdued growl for emphasis. The lyrics are more street wise and soulful than Dylanesque:
"When I wasn't makin' too much money, you know where my paycheck went,
you know I brought it home to baby and never spent one red cent."
But, mixing topicality does reach into the folks roots with:
"I'm only flesh and blood,
but I can be anything that you demand.
I could be president of General Motors,
or just a tiny grain of sand."
Of course the horns are kicking in a just the right time, sassy and syrupy with just the right mix until the chorus asks:
"Is that any way for a man to carry on, to think he wants his 'lil love one gone?
I love you Baby, more than you'll ever know."
It swells, horns blasting fully, with a key change in
"I'm not tryin' to be any kind of man;
I'm tryin' to be somebody you can love, trust, and understand.
I know that I can be, yeah yeah
a part of you that no one else could see,
I just gotta hear, hear you say....
It's all right"
(here is the high piercing falsetto) Yeah, yeah Yeah!"
And then the sax screeches in agony until the GM to dust line explains. The beep beep beep of the Hammond B3 keeps time while Fuzz tone drones arabesque fashion until the beginning words are repeated, again
: "If I ever leave you, you can say I told you so, and if I ever hurt you baby, you know I hurt myself as well"
and then into the chorus. While the end is an angst filled cry repeated
"I love you. I Love you."
Morning Glory is sung by a pleasant sounding Steve Katz and it has typical folksy poetic words of a dialogue between a hobo and the curiosity seeking dweller on his street:
"Tell me stories, I called to the hobo,
Stories of Cold, I smiled to the hobo;
stories of old, I knelt to the hobo.....
No, said the hobo..." .
My Days Are Numbered
Has guest guitarist Ztak Evets on another great song, prophetic feelings fueled by fickle females.
"I woke up and found no one beside me,
no hand to hold onto,
and no lips to guide me.
What a hard world to face in the light of an angry sun.
Ain't it hard to get on, if ain't got that someone.
And it seems that my days are numbered, down to a precious few...
'cause I can't get it back together without you."
I particularly think Al's imagery is great here
: "I see the heaven moonlight,
see it drippin' down my window,
flowing like a river through the tears that I have cried.
I gotta find myself, eh,
a reason to go on livin';
but you can't breathe life into somethin' that's already died."
The horns and Al's poignant high notes accenting every bit of pain that is eloquently evoked.
Without Her Harry Nillson's tune is given a jazz lounge feeling and features Al Gordon guesting on guitar.
Just One Smile written by ofttimes humorous Randy Newman was done by Gene Pitney in one cover, but becomes a real smash hit as done with Al's moving organ work and pleading vocals --even uses a lute. How can one keep a dry eye with:
"Love is a beautiful thing
when it knows how to swing
and it grooves like a clock,
but the hands on the clock
tell the lovers to part,
and it's breakin' my heart,
to spend another day without her."
Chorus: Just one smile, pain's forgiven
Can I cry a little bit, there's nobody to notice it. Can I cry if I want to, no one cares.
Why can't I pretend, that you'll love me again?
All I had has been taken from me
Now I'm cryin' and tears don't become me
Just one kiss, girl
Now the hurt's all gone
Just one smile to...
make my little life worth livin'
a little dream to build my world upon.
I Can't Quit Her This is another favorite, not because of Doug James' shaker work, but because Al's shoutin' (and falsettoing) the blues:
"I can't quit her
She's got a hold on me
She got her hand on my soul
I can't quit her
'cause I see her face everywher I go
In the city streets,
In the country fields
In the back of my mind
I know it can't be real
For a woman to possess
all the tenderness she had.
The horns punch, puncuate, and their break takes you somewhere else. Drawing out, stretching perfectly until boom bam boom and kick back into the chorus.
Meagan's Gypsy Eyes is a song "purple drops of rain, the sun shone around me..." helped by Leslie Gurgle, Allen Explorer Organ, and marching drums is very sixties sounding featuring a overly tremolo laden Katz vocals.
Somethin' Goin' On Fred's alto squawk complimenting Al's in this most traditional blusiest lament about one's woman's suspicious behavior: "I went on down to the mailbox
seems I got the phone bill yesterday
charging me for some hour conversations
from someone in L.A.!" (He's in NY, you know.)"You know that somethin' goin' on.
I better get to the bottom of that."
The haunting "Now wait a minute!" is where Lipsius answers in affirmation. Kooper rebuts:
House in the Country reminiscent of "Our House" by CSNY, this one has all the sound effects of "Animal Farm." The liner notes explain:
"Go ahead, go ahead
I want you to blow for all the men
whose women who don't keep a true love now...
Go ahead, blow one for yourself
Blow one for me, too!"
Vocal by Al (with Bobby and babies). Arraged by Al and Fred. Backwards tambourine by Bobby; backwards cowbell by John Simon. Hisses by "Harrison" and Larry Waterman. BARROOM SEQUENCE starring Glotzer, featuring John Simon on tack piano, Fred Lipsius on sweet alto, larry Waterman on music stands (falling), scream by Penny Gladstone. All the little children are played by real little children. All the animal sounds are not played by animals. They are in fact, Al Kooper, Bob Colomby, Fred Lipsius, John Simon.
It speeds up until the manic business culminating the piece.
The Modern Adventures of Plato, Diogenes and Freud 'This song concerns the professions of psychiatry and Messiahtry.' "Now climb ye to the mountains
as the sun is almost gone
escaping from your other selves." The mind was an important part of this sixties intelligensia, as much of it that was not blown.
So Much Love
"So much lovin'
I'm a natural man
So much lovin'
More than enough
to last the whole night through
and it's all for you."
"There's so few women, nowadays
who understand the soul of a man
and who under stand
they're only always taken in
never are free,
of a helpin' hand, yeah
I know that you,
yes, know you know what to do, girl."
I guess Carol King's lyrics either were written for men, or were changed, but always the consummate poet, this song ends the album (along with the Underture orchestral finale).
About this time, I would start it over again, but now, we have the repeat button (something I didn't have in 1968).
Sources: Many BS&T links, and Fieldler's site
My own Copy of the CD, of course, and my multitudinous experience with same.