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Album Review

As the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) had done a year earlier, Super Session (1968) initially ushered in several new phases in rock & roll's concurrent transformation. In the space of months, the soundscape of rock shifted radically from short, danceable pop songs to comparatively longer works with more attention to technical and musical subtleties. Enter the unlikely all-star triumvirate of Al Kooper (piano/organ/ondioline/vocals/guitars), Mike Bloomfield (guitar), and Stephen Stills (guitar) — all of whom were concurrently "on hiatus" from their most recent engagements. Kooper had just split after masterminding the groundbreaking Child Is Father to the Man (1968) version of Blood, Sweat & Tears. Bloomfield was fresh from a stint with the likewise brass-driven Electric Flag, while Stills was late of Buffalo Springfield and still a few weeks away from a full-time commitment to David Crosby and Graham Nash. Although the trio never actually performed together, the long-player was notable for idiosyncratically featuring one side led by the team of Kooper/Bloomfield and the other by Kooper/Stills. The band is fleshed out with the powerful rhythm section of Harvey Brooks (bass) and Eddie Hoh (drums) as well as Barry Goldberg (electric piano) on "Albert's Shuffle" and "Stop." The Chicago blues contingency of Bloomfield, Brooks, and Goldberg provide a perfect outlet for the three Kooper/Bloomfield originals — the first of which commences the project with the languid and groovy "Albert's Shuffle." The guitarist's thin tone cascades with empathetic fluidity over the propelling rhythms. Kooper's frisky organ solo alternately bops and scats along as he nudges the melody forward. The same can be said of the interpretation of "Stop," which had originally been a minor R&B hit for Howard Tate. Curtis Mayfield's "Man's Temptation" is given a soulful reading that might have worked equally well as a Blood, Sweat & Tears cover. At over nine minutes, "His Holy Modal Majesty" is a fun trippy waltz and includes one of the most extended jams on the Kooper/Bloomfield side. The track also features the hurdy-gurdy and Eastern-influenced sound of Kooper's electric ondioline, which has a slightly atonal and reedy timbre much like that of John Coltrane's tenor sax. Because of some health issues, Bloomfield was unable to complete the recording sessions and Kooper contacted Stills. Immediately his decidedly West Coast sound — which alternated from a chiming Rickenbacker intonation to a faux pedal steel — can be heard on the upbeat version of Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry." One of the album's highlights is the scintillating cover of "Season of the Witch." There is an undeniable synergy between Kooper and Stills, whose energies seems to aurally drive the other into providing some inspired interaction. Updating the blues standard "You Don't Love Me" allows Stills to sport some heavily distorted licks, which come off sounding like Jimi Hendrix. This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age and that gets the full reissue treatment every time a new audio format comes out. This is a super session indeed.

Customer Reviews

This Is One Of My Very Favorite Albums

This album is another example of how music was better in the '60s. It really exemplifies the raw talent that these musicians posess. Neil Young once said that good music does not come with hours of preparation, but that good music comes to you when it is ready. There is nothing else that makes that statement more true than this album. This entire album was recorded in less than twenty-four hours and Stills was not originally supposed to be on the album at all. He was only called after Bloomfield mysteriously disappeared. Nevertheless Stills's presence adds a versatility to the album that probably would not have existed if Bloomfield had stayed for the second half of the set. I have this album on LP and I boast to my friends about it every chance I get. This one of the best albums you will ever hear, guaranteed.

Marvelous

My very favorite version of Season of the Witch resides within this album. Not only is it my favorite cover, it is also my favorite song of all time. You Don't Love Me is great, as is It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry.

Smacks with an essential flavor of the late 1960's

I was 17 in 1982 and got my uncle to let me go through his massive box of albums from his college days.. Having already been a fan of CSN I was intrigued by this album from the moment I looked at the cover. Needless to say I had found treasure. I recorded it to tape and proceeded to blow away some of my friends over my boombox and a bag of goodies. Favorite tracks are His Holy Modal Majesty, Really, Albert's Shuffle, It Takes a Lot to Laugh, Season of the Witch.... oh well... you get the idea. It's a real gem.

Biography

Born: February 5, 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....
Full Bio
Super Session, Al Kooper
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