Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper

   When in July 1968 was released Super Session album being an outcome of joint project by Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills, it became immediately the success. Shortly it occurred to be the precise indication of the direction toward the new era in rock music. The idea of connecting folk blues with improvised instrumental music and psychedelic rock was revolutionary and in next months it was implemented by many artists with different results. On the wave of artistic and commercial success of Super Session album, Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper played with the band series of concerts at the Fillmore West. Live recorded during September 26 to 28, 1968 material was released as double album next year.
The title of double LP life recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper shows the story of how it was created. The title adventures are main subjects in narration on how album was recorded. With Al Kooper playing organ, ondioline (second solo in Dear Mr. Fantasy), piano and singing, Mike Bloomfield playing guitar and singing, there were two more band members John Kahn playing bass guitar and Skip Prokop on drums. In concert performances some more musicians were engaged like Elvin Bishop and Carlos Santana on guitars. Those two were listed on album cover. But it is unclear what kind of appearance made Steve Miller and Dave Brown. What can be interesting for trivia chasers, second song on side three, called Sonny Boy Williamson is Carlos Santana’s recording debut. 

The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (1969)

   In linear notes Al Kooper explained lineup changes. When after first two days of insomnia Mike Bloomfield was taken to hospital, “in an amazingly short time Elvin Bishop, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller and Dave Brown had volunteered their services and had arrived at the Fillmore”. In effect three days of San Francisco performances become the document of music seen in wide cultural aspect. Producers made it CBS feature product with cover painting by great Norman Rockwell. In 1969 Rockwell was already recognized painter, illustrator and the master of Americana, raising his voice in public discourse towards political and social issues. Wikipedia author states CBS Art Director, John Berg grab the painting to hang it on the wall, but later sold it against the Kooper’s will.
   Program of double record set is both nice artistic exposure and documentary of the project. Songs and themes iconic for the music of late sixties, like Green Onions by Booker T. Jones or Sonny Boy Williamson by Jack Bruce and Paul Jones, This gave the firm base for jamming in a new way.  Base for soloing was rather folk blues and jazz than rock and roll expressions. The same rules applied to vocals where rough style expression was more important than singing skills. In best part of recorded material this album is pith and marrow for spirit of the sixties and a foundation of modern blues-rock style. Four stars for its perfection and spirit.

UK – Danger Money

   The band U.K. became the progressive rock legend when punk was already on the run for high positions on charts and popular music was active probably more than ever. I could be the strong evidence the real greatness doesn’t need too many reasons to be recognized. Only two studio albums of the band, recorded with two lineups in 1978 and 1979, were enough reason to be remembered. The band has achieved great fame in the group of progressive rock listeners which was at those times already fast diminishing subculture. Reflections of society exhausted with depraved politics and economic recession were explicitly pronounced in many artistic and popular media. Danger Money in 1979 was the statement many considered their own. And it was not an isolated voice. In the same 1979 Pink Floyd published their anti-system manifesto The Wall and The Clash recorded London Calling.
   U.K. was absolute super group in terms of historic progrock ideas and in experience. Musicians created their own sound and new generation of musical improvements in post-disco era. The band was formed by John Wetton playing bass and singing and Eddie Jobson playing keyboards and electric violin. Wetton was known for his work with King Crimson and Uriah Heep, Jobson was remembered from Curved Air and Frank Zappa’s band. Both were playing in Roxy Music. First lineup was formed by Wetton with Bill Bruford, drummer of Yes, King Crimson and Genesis who recruited Allan Holdsworth, guitarist of Soft Machine and Gong. 

UK – Danger Money (1979)

   After self titled debut U.K. album, the quartet had split as the consequence of artistic disagreements. Allan Holdsworth parted the band and Bill Bruford shortly goes after him. John Wetton and Eddie Jobson hired Terry Bozzio, phenomenal young drummer already known for great appearances in Frank Zappa’s bands. As the trio U.K. became one most famous progrock bands, it is worth to remember the whole fame came with the one studio album Danger Money. Recording sessions took place in London AIR Studios between November 1978 and January 1979. After European tour in December 1979 trio was disbanded as a consequence of differences between Wetton and Jobson. In 2011 the band was reformed with the same trio lineup for reunion world tour.
   Between many progressive bands of late 70’s, the U.K., especially in its second embodiment, was quite exceptional project. Unlike other bands of these times, this trio was playing with some radical ideas of early progrock. With steady rock riffs and appealing melodies, close harmony vocals, harmonic coloristics and complex, changing and often odd time signatures, music of U.K. was well established in progressive style, perfectly done and enriched with expressive solos. Special place took art of Terry Bozzio who was probably most influential drummer of late seventies generation. What made this trio and it’s record so famous was the style which those times was quite unique, but even the style wouldn’t be enough if not the personalities of artists. Four stars for this album means featured position in the history of rock.