Friday, December 11, 2009

Al Kooper - Easy Does It (1970)

After his unceremonious ouster from Blood Sweat & Tears Al Kooper embarked on several different projects including a handful of concerts with Mike Bloomfield and a string of critically acclaimed but generally commercially unnoticed solo albums.

Easy Does It a double LP set, was Kooper's third solo endeavour. Starting with a bang on Brand New Sunshine, an upbeat uplifting track that gives glimpses of what Blood Sweat & Tears might have sounded like had Kooper not be ousted. Horn fills pepper the song and there's an infectious catchy groove that's as good as anything on Child Is Father to the Man.

The fact that this is not only a double album, but also an exceptional one without a single track that would be described as "filler" is a testament to Kooper's many talents. Singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and master arranger-- all hats that Kooper wore for this exceptional set.

In addition to showing of his own songwriting talents, Kooper's arrangements of Ray Charles I've Got A Woman and the blues classic Baby Please Don't Go show Kooper's talents for taking well established classics and putting his own stamp on them. Kooper's I've Got a Woman is a slower more laidback affair than the Ray Charles original. Kooper's arrangement is different enough to make the song sound fresh, but thematically similar enough that it's recognizable. Baby Please Don't Go sounds as if it could just as easily have been recorded by the Blues Project. And at nearly twelve and a half minutes long it really allows Kooper to stretch out and jam. The song is peppered with various different instrumental solos, many of which performed by Kooper, but Paul Fetta's bass solo is also quite notable.

Kooper also shows his musical adventurousness by tackling not only rock and blues but also dabbling in country on songs like Kooper's cover John Loudermilk's A Rose and a Baby Ruth and his own I Bought You the Shoes (You're Walking Away In). And Buckskin Boy, a hard driving rocker addresses the plight of Native Americans, one of the key social issues of the early seventies.

What makes this album so enjoyable is that it's so consistently interesting. It doesn't stick to any musical theme long enough to bore the listener. Where many double albums come across sounding over-indulgent and rife with sub-par filler material, Kooper bucks that trend. But with a man as talented as Kooper it can also be said that anything less than a double album would be selling him short. The man just had (and continues to have) too much talent to be limited to a single LP.

Whether you're new to Kooper or already familiar with his work, Easy Does It is an excellent album to begin your Koopucation! Along with Blood Sweat & Tears Child Is Father to the Man I'd argue that this album is equally essential to any classic rock collection.

Related Links
Al Kooper (official site)
Al Kooper (wikipedia)
Easy Does It (wikipedia)


drewzepmeister said...

I never really "heard" of any of Al Kooper's stuff, although, I'm familiar with his dealings with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Doug Smith said...

Al Kooper has produced a lot of great work, and while his collaborations with Mike Bloomfield are cetainly noteworthy, I keep returning to "Easy Does It" as Al's masterpiece. It still sounds fabulous after all these years...