Thursday, March 25, 2010

Forgotten Music Thursday: Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield - Fillmore East: The Lost Concert Tapes 12/13/68

While this show was recorded in December 1968 with the full intention of being released shortly thereafter, it instead sat long forgotten and presumed lost until 2001 when Al Kooper was going through some old tapes in his possession stumbled upon this show. He cleaned it up a bit and finally almost thirty-four years after it had originally been performed and recorded it was finally released.

Sometimes when musicians team up there’s an undeniable, unmistakable, and absolute electric chemistry between them, such was the case with Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper. Teaming up initially for the SuperSession album, a series of concerts were scheduled on both the East and West Coasts at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and West venues.

While that chemistry is certainly enjoyable in the studio, it’s even more tangible in a live setting. In addition to exhibiting Bloomfield’s virtuosity on guitar, Johnny Winter also guests on It’s My Own Fault. Hearing Bloomfield and Winter playing side by side is an enjoyable treat in and of itself.

The electric energy of Kooper and Bloomfield I’d argue rivals the considerably more famous Steve Winwood/Eric Clapton/Ginger Baker collaboration, Blind Faith. There’s an honesty and a respect between Bloomfield and Kooper that is evident on each song. Rather than rival egos challenging one another as was the case of many supergroups since then, Bloomfield and Kooper play homage to each other and do a tremendous service to one another’s talents—because of, not in spite of their mutual respect and apprectiation of one another.

Perhaps the weakest link on the album are Al Kooper’s vocals and the sub-amateurish drumming of Johnny Cresci. While his voice is enjoyable when he remains within his range, on 59th St. Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Kooper attempts to sing outside of his range with less than enjoyable results. This is a minor quibble as the concert was largely instrumental and was more a display of Kooper’s talents on keyboard and Bloomfield’s undeniable abilities as a blues guitarist firmly in tune with Chicago’s brand of urban electric blues. Johnny Cresci was woefully under-talented compared to the talents of Kooper and Bloomfield whose playing was strong enough to overshadow much of Cresci’s drumming—unfortunately not quite enough to completely eclipse his sub-par playing.

Forgotten for thirty-four years this concert was well worth the wait and it’s a blessing to fans of Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, Johnny Winter specifically and of great music in general that once found by Kooper he had the good sense to share this release with the listening public.

Related Links
Al Kooper (official site)
Mike Bloomfield (official site)

Al Kooper (wikipedia)
Mike Bloomfield (wikipedia)
Johnny Winter (wikipedia)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link. Here's another essential Bloomfield site:

Evan Lewis said...

Found "Season of the Witch" from this album on YouTube. Nice.

Charlie said...

Kooper really is a genius. It's a shame he's had such a low profile for most of his career.

George said...

Loved Al Kooper on Dylan's LIKE A ROLLING STONE. Classic.

MrBill said...

Blame Kooper for hiring the wrong drummer. Johnny Cresci was actually a decent jazz drummer who played on records by Lena Horne, Joe Wilder, Helen Merrill and others, but he was completely wrong for this type of music.

I think most working musicians have the occasional gig where things just don't click or you realize you probably shouldn't have taken the gig, but you try to be a professional and get through it the best you can, maybe learn something from it, and move on. Unfortunately, 40 years after the fact, poor Cresci's reputation is besmirched by the release of a bad gig that was probably best left forgotten.

Ian said...

How weird is that? I was sitting here listening to the CD and thinking how much I was enjoying the drumming, must find out more about Mr Cresci... Just goes to show: one man's fish is another man's poisson.