Al Kooper has had his hand in so many projects, it’s hard to choose which ones to feature. He’s been a solo artist since the late ’70’s, so much of his activity is in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Let’s have a look.
- Bob Dylan, "Like A Rolling Stone": Al was working at Columbia Records when Bob Dylan recorded his Highway 61 Revisited album, and ended up playing the organ on this piece. Al also backed Dylan at Newport in 1965, when Dylan made his first electric appearance.
- Blues Project, "I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes": Al joined Blues Project when singer Tommy Flanders left and stayed with them until 1967. He was also responsible for initiating Blues Project’s Central Park Reunion Concert in 1973, which was recorded and issued on Al’s label, Sounds of the South Records. "I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes" was written by Blind Willie Johnson and updated by Kooper, whose updated version was recorded by Alvin Lee (with and without Ten Years After) and The Staples Singers.
- Blood Sweat & Tears, "I Can’t Quit Her": After Blues Project issued their Projections album in 1967, Al heard The Buckinghams (from Chicago) and their ability to blend horns in with rock music. He and guitarist/harmonicist/vocalist Steve Katz left Blues Project and formed Blood Sweat & Tears, which included a full horn section. Al was with them for their first album, 1968’s Child Is Father To The Man, from which "I Can’t Quit Her" is taken. Like many people, I had no idea BS&T had an album before their first with singer David Clayton-Thomas…
- Al Kooper with Mike Bloomfield, "His Holy Modal Majesty": We’ve talked about the Supersession album a couple of times already, with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. "His Holy Modal Majesty" was done with Bloomfield. It’s in 3/4 (waltz) time and uses the G mixolydian scale, as a tribute to John Coltrane, who was known for his modal playing. (If anyone really wants to get into what all of that means, Rick Beato has a number of good videos on the topic.) During the first part of the song, Al is playing the ondioline, an early synthesizer that occasionally sounds like a theremin.
- Al Kooper, "I Love You More Than Words Can Say": This is from his most recent solo album, 2008’s White Chocolate. Fifty years on, he’s still in fine voice.
Al Kooper, your Five For Friday, December 11, 2020.