Wednesday, December 18, 2013

add 0641 Al Kooper

This is the fourth solo album from rock and roll wunderkind Al Kooper. He congregates two very distinct bands -- one in London and the other in Los Angeles -- to accompany some of his most emotive compositions to date. This is ironic when considering the title track is a paean to the Big Apple. The UK aggregate consists of musicians from Hookfoot, including Herbie Flowers (bass), Caleb Quay (guitar) and Roger Pope (drums). The band were fresh from several collaborations with Elton John, most notably his third studio effort Tumbleweed Connection. The LA sessions included legends such as Carol Kaye (bass), Paul Humphries (drums) and Louis Shelton (guitar). Also to Kooper's credit is his own talents as a multi-instrumentalist -- best exemplified on the title track, which is in essence performed by a trio since Kooper handles all the guitars and keyboards. His nimble piano work recalls the same contributions that he made to Blood Sweat & Tears' rendering of Tim Buckley's "Morning Glory." (Incidentally, an alternate version of the track "New York City (You're a Woman)" -- with significantly less mellotron in the mix -- is available on the best-of compilation Al's Big Deal/Unclaimed Freight.) "John the Baptist (Holy John)" could easily be mistaken for a long-lost composition from the Band -- right down to the Rick Danko-esque vocals. The upbeat number is similar to a pepped-up version of "Katie's Been Gone" or even "The Rumour." Although Kooper credits the Fab Four as his inspiration to "Going Quietly Mad," from the nasal-sounding lead electric guitar to the highly introspective lyrics, it has many of the characteristics of an early Joe Walsh composition such as "Turn to Stone." As he had done on the title track, Koopertastefully incorporates a string section without coming off as pretentious or sonically overbearing. Another song not to be missed is the cover of Elton John's "Come Down in Time". This version blends both backing bands as Herbie Flowers reprises his timeless basslines from the original, while Kooper and the LA all-stars provide the remainder of the instrumental.

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