Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills – Super Session

   One of all time legends of blues and psychedelic rock of late sixties is Super Session album recorded for Columbia in 1968 by Al Kooper and musicians he hired especially for this occasion. He did this with Mike Bloomfield, born in Chicago, one of greatest masters of blues guitar for two decades before his premature death at the age of 37 in 1981 and Steve Stills, born in Dallas blues and folk guitarist and singer, well known for his work with Buffalo Springfield, group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and numerous  performances. It’s interesting Bloomfield and Stills didn’t meet in studio while recording this album.
   The history of Super Session is one and only. In spring 1968 Kooper proposed Bloomfield to record together. They knew each other from sessions to Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited and some other projects. Kooper always was under great impression of Bloomfield playing. This was the period Bloomfield’s band Electric Flag was breaking-up and guitarist was tired of endless quarrels, rivalry and ready to draw out from the group he created himself. He agreed to have joint session with Kooper who earlier left Blood, Sweet & Tears, just after their debut album. In may 1968 Al Kooper, working this time for Columbia, appointed studio for two day session. He picked also two members of Electric Flag, pianist Barry Goldberg and bass player Harvey Brooks. Quintet was completed by well known session drummer Eddie Hoh. First day they recorded five songs, but morning of the second day, when all came to the studio, Bloomfield didn’t show up. Looking for substitution Kooper called Steve Stills whom he also highly esteemed. May 6, 1968 in Long Beach Arena Stills gave final concert with his group Buffalo Springfield and was in moment of changing plans.

Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills – Super Session (1968)

   First day quintet led by Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield recorded five tracks for A side, mostly straight 12-bar blues like opening the session Albert’s Shuffle, a classic Chicago style blues credited both Kooper and Bloomfield. After few minutes of guitar exposition, we have great organ solo ended with some dialogs with guitar. Stop written by Jerry Ragovoy and Mort Shuman, is once again instrumental blues with two leaders’ improvisations. Men’s Temptation by Curtis Mayfield is rather soul than blues. Sung by Al Kooper it gives some rest in the middle of blues jam. First day of the session were recorded also His Holy Modal Majesty, which is rare example of psychedelic blues and classical electric blues Really – both compositions by Bloomfield and Kooper.
   While first side of the Super Session album is blues, the B side is more rock and folk rock. Electric version of It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry, remains about Dylan controversial appearance in Newport Folk Festival with Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield in supporting band. Highest point of second day session was Donovan’s Season of the Witch, 11 minutes song with extended vocal and instrumental improvisations by Al Kooper. Willie Cobb’s You Don’t Love Me is distorted psychedelic blues that few years earlier could be seen as scandalous. In the Harvey’s Tune a kind of short epilogue, composed by Hervey Brooks saxophone melody with horn section sounds clear and remains emotionally closer to jazz than to any other genre. Horn section was arranged by Al Kooper and recorded later to make sound of the album more reach and to meet actual trends in blues band sound.

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