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Al's Big Deal / Unclaimed Freight

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Album Review

As an anthology, the humorously titled Al's Big Deal/Unclaimed Freight captures the stylistic essence of what has made Al Kooper such a vital addition to rock & roll. Although somewhat superseded in the digital domain by Rare + Well Done: The Greatest & Most Obscure Recordings, this title was available almost two decades prior to that 2001 two-CD set. This collection delves into Kooper's solo canon as well as his ensemble work with the Child Is Father to the Man version of Blood, Sweat & Tears. There is also a healthy sampling of his super sessions and collaborations with such luminaries as Michael Bloomfield, Stephen Stills, Shuggie Otis, and even Bob Dylan. The material is split into the self-explanatory subheadings of "The Songs" and "The Jams." The former incorporates shorter and more focused standout performances such as "I Can't Quit Her" and "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know" from BS&T. There are highlights from Kooper's solo discs as well. These include "Brand New Day" and the haunting cover of John Prine's "Sam Stone," as well as the respective title tracks from the LPs I Stand Alone and New York City (You're a Woman). Incidentally, the latter track is available here in a remixed form exclusive to this package. "The Jams" reveal the amazing instrumental prowess that Kooper brings to his collaborative efforts. As a musician, his ability to interact and improvise are no more evident than on "Albert's Shuffle" and "Season of the Witch" from the definitive Super Session album. However, at the center is Kooper's uncanny ability to support guitarists Stills and Bloomfield. In essence, he aurally corrals their sinuous and soulful fretwork with his tastefully pervasive organ leads. The 1989 CD pressing of Al's Big Deal/Unclaimed Freight omitted the tracks "Without Her," " "My Days Are Numbered," and "So Much Love" and added "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" — which was concurrently not available on CD elsewhere.


Born: 05 February 1944 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Al Kooper, by rights, should be regarded as one of the giants of '60s rock, not far behind the likes of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon in importance. In addition to co-writing one classic mid-'60s pop-rock song, "This Diamond Ring" (though it was written as an R&B number), he was a very audible sessionman on some of the most important records of mid-decade, including Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." Kooper also joined and led, and then lost two major groups, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears....
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Al's Big Deal / Unclaimed Freight, Al Kooper
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