Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, And
Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes
Review by Steve Guttenberg
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CD Stock Number: Columbia/Legacy CK 63406 and CK 85278
Let’s start with some introductions. Al Kooper came into my life when I heard
the Blues Project in ’65, and a couple of years later he was the first to fuse jazz and rock with his new band, Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Bloomfield was
already a major guitar hotshot when he hooked up with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in 1965. Kooper and Bloomfield initially bonded when they met in
the studio to back up Dylan on a little record you may have heard of, Highway
61 Revisited. Kooper showed up at the session toting his guitar, but spotting
Bloomfield, abruptly became an organist.
Super Session was originally released in 1968 and mixed up Kooper and
Bloomfield with Stephen Stills -- around the time he exited Buffalo Springfield, but before Crosby Stills & Nash made him a mega star. Super
Session was a clean break from all that came before -- it’s more a jam record. Now it's remastered and tweaked, back in the vinyl era the first side
of the LP was a Kooper/Bloomfield suite; the Kooper/Stills second side was more of a laid back, late night crawl. The combination of the two is
Bloomfield’s fierce Chicago blues chops are leavened by Kooper’s pop sensibilities and elastic falsetto vocals. The tunes feel improvised, but
don’t meander, they’re tightly focused excursions. The interplay between
Kooper and Bloomfield is awesome, and still sounds fresh after all these years.
Stephen Stills’ contributions aren’t too shabby either. His stinging fretwork on “Season of the Witch” is a radical break from his past (and
future) sound. Maybe he heard the Bloomfield tracks before he played, but his
performance was inspired by something. Oh, and I’m a stone sucker for the super cool flanging effects on “You Don’t Love Me.”
The bonus tracks are pretty special; we get to hear “Albert’s Shuffle” and
“Season of the Witch” stripped of their overdubbed horn parts – I much
prefer the lean 'n' mean new versions. Better still, “Blues for Nothing”
captures Bloomfield churning out one soaring solo after another. He wasn’t a
speed freak -- he played with a lot of soul -- the guy was one of the great white boy blues masters. “Fat Grey Cloud,” recorded live at the Fillmore
West, is a funky organ fueled groove. Bloomfield, again, ignites a torrid series of solos. Whew!
Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes was also recorded in 1968, but the
tapes were indeed lost, and just recently rediscovered. Kooper and Bloomfield
front a completely different group of players. No matter, the band is rarin’
to go. “One Way Out” -- you all remember the Allman Brothers version, made
famous at their own Fillmore session -- kicks off the show. Then on “It’s My
Own Fault,” Bloomfield introduces the audience to new young talent, a skinny
albino named Johnny Winter -- and the two men blow the house down! The only original
Super Session tune covered is “Season,” which doesn’t quite jell,
but Bloomfield’s harder edged sound replaces Stills’ twitchy treatment.
The sound of both discs, by the way, is excellent. Wide open and dynamic, just wish Columbia did these as SACDs.
Sound Quality: 85
Sound Quality: 85