Monday, January 21, 2008

Al Kooper - Album of the Week & UK Tour

Al Kooper's name is always a guarantee of class. When I bought the first Blood Sweat and Tears album, ‘The Child is Father to the Man’, on CBS, way back in 1968 I was hooked. The opening overture with its classical overtones was right up my alley - I was always looking for ways to convince sceptical older people that rock and pop was meaningful. The album then becomes an eclectic mix of Al's originals and some great covers including Harry Nilsson's ‘Without Her’ and Randy Newman's 'Just One Smile.' There's also the brilliant 'I Can't Quit Her' that Al co-wrote and one of my favourite piece of brass rock 'My Days are Numbered." BS&T had metamorphosed out of Blues Project, which highlighted Al's love of the genre.

Al's days have been a long way from numbered. He left BS&T shortly after this album and embarked on an impressive solo career as well as enjoying some collaborations with many of the best musicians of the last forty something years. Even before his BS&T success Al had written, 'This Diamond Ring' for Gary Lewis and the Playboys, as well as playing organ on Bob Dylan's infamous appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. He also played organ on Dylan's ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ LP; he's well to the fore on 'Like A Rolling Stone'.

Al has played with a huge number of artists is session, including the Stones, The Who, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and BB King (just check out his discography on his web site and prepare to be amazed). He played with Mike Bloomfield on 'the Live Adventures of....' He also played with Mike and Steve Stills (on separate sides) of the ‘Super Session’ album. Later Al became a producer and numbers amongst his many successes Lynyrd Skynyrd and their iconic 'Free Bird'.

Somehow along the way Al found time to make some brilliant and eclectic solo albums. My favourite of which is, ‘New York City (You're A Woman)’. I originally bought it when it came out in 1971. Having sold most of my vinyl during a financial crisis in the early 1990s I was able to buy it in Japan on CD - thank goodness because it is one of those albums I cannot live without. The opening track is the title track and it is pure Kooper. Great lyrics, great hook and a fabulous rising melody. It has the added advantage of having a mellotron as the lead instrument - back when I bought it this was for me a guarantee of a class record. The whole album is chock full of great songs, most of which were composed by Al. ‘Going Quietly Mad’ is brilliant and could be a Beatles song, ‘Someone's on the Cross Again’ is anthemic and Al's cover of Elton John's ‘Come Down In Time’ is fabulous.

‘New York City (You're A Woman)’appears to be import only in the UK, but you can get it from Amazon. Al also has a great web site HERE. Most important of all I've just heard from Al that here's touring the UK. We've never met but I'm off to Newcastle in April to change all that as well as listen to one of rock's real talents.

April 2008
9 - Glasgow, UK / The Ferry
10 - Newcastle, UK / Newcastle Academy
12 - Ebbw Vale, UK / Beaufort Theater
13 - Holmfirth, UK / Picturedome
15 - Belfast, IE / Spring & Airbrake
17 - Woverhampton, UK / Robin 2
18 - London, UK / Mean Fiddler
20 - Southampton, UK / The Brook

Al's book, the witty and wonderfully titled, Back Stage Passes and Back Stabbing Bastards is being re-released in May this year. It's a superb expose of the music business and one of those very few books that actually make you laugh out loud when you're reading it.


Ellee Seymour said...

I wonder how many records you have in your collection, whether you have bought them all in cds too, your collection must be vast.

Richard Havers said...

Well Ellee, some may say too many! I have 50,000 tracks on my itunes, the vast majority put there from CDs, with a few downloads. Music has always been my weakness, I'm just lucky to be able to (now) earn a chunk of my living from it.

I play music all day, every day and my life would be incomplete without it. It anchors mine and many other people’s lives – their first date, the wedding, their first child or some tiny detail of their life. It’s music that puts us all in a time and place. Music has brought a huge amount of fun and pleasure into all of our lives, whether it’s Motown, or soul, blues or punk (not my favourite!), psychedelia or country. One thing’s for sure, rock and pop music is the most appreciated art form in the world today.

r morris said...

First of all, I agree with you totally that music is the key to sanity, at least for some people. I couldn't live without it, literally.
I am lucky to still have most of my vinyl, though I've had a few financial crises myself. My biggest loss was selling my baseball card collection in '86 so i could buy a tire for my car. What a bad idea. I kick myself every time I think of it.
As to Al Kooper, I'm going to look into him. I don't know much about him or his music.
Did you ever find out if your friend's $900.00 photo book was going to be released in a less expensive version?

Ellee Seymour said...

That sounds a very impressive collection. I find it very distracting to work with music playing or the radio on. But I love music too, I wish I listened to it more, but I always seem to be rushing around. Perhaps I should buy an iPod, both my sons have them and adore them. Mmmm....

Richard Havers said...

Rob, No plans as yet to release a cheaper version.

Elle, don't get a regular ipod get an ipod touch it is brilliant.