Friday, October 11, 2013

Al Kooper - You Never Know Who Your Friends Are (2nd Album US 1969)

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You Never Know Who Your Friends Are was the second album by New York City-based multi-instrumentalist Al Kooper, issued in 1969 on Columbia Records.

A continuation of sorts of his début, the album displays another eclectic mix of rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, pop, and blues, though without the psychedelics that had somewhat permeated through I Stand Alone. Utilizing a large group of musicians under the direction of Charlie Calello, known collectively as "The Al Kooper Big Band", Kooper also strayed away from the heavy string orchestrations of his début.

Relying on more original compositions, with nine of twelve tracks by Kooper (with the remaining three by Harry Nilsson), and Motown staff songwriters, the album further helped to cement Kooper's reputation.

Al Kooper's second solo album is a bit more uneven than its predecessor, I Stand Alone, for understandable reasons -- it would have been nothing less than a miracle for Kooper to have matched the consistency and daring of that album, and he doesn't have quite the same array of memorable tunes here. He's still ranging freely, however, through pop, jazz, R&B, and soul, with some songs that are among the most glorious of his output. "Magic in My Sock" is a good enough opener, making up in its virtuoso horn parts and guitar for what it lacks in melodic invention; "Lucille" is hardly the best ballad that Kooper has ever written, but it forms a good bridge to "Too Busy Thinkin' About My Baby," a Motown cover that's one of the highlights of Kooper's entire output -- from a black singer this track would be a priceless gem, but coming from Kooper it's extraordinary in its every nuance. 

You get some blues instrumental (principally piano-based) and an abortive but entertaining effort at pop/rock with the title tune, and then Kooper plunges into arty balladry with the hauntingly beautiful "The Great American Marriage/Nothing." He goes back into Motown territory, just as successful as before, on "I Don't Know Why I Love You," and back to moody art-song with Harry Nilsson's "Mourning Glory Story." Kooper returns to the soulful side of rock on "Anna Lee (What Can I Do for You)" and finishes with "I'm Never Gonna Let You Down" -- the latter would be worth the price of the album by itself, a soaring, more lyrical and moody original classic that manages to be unpretentious yet epic in its treatment. [AMG + Wikipedia]

»»» Al Kooper Biography «««
Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt; February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears (although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity), providing studio support for Bob Dylan when he went electric in 1965, and also bringing together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills to record the Super Session album. He has had a successful solo career since then, written music for film soundtracks, and has also lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live.

Kooper, born in Brooklyn, grew up in Hollis Hills, Queens, New York. His first musical success was as a fourteen-year-old guitarist in The Royal Teens, best known for their 1958 ABC Records novelty twelve-bar blues riff, "Short Shorts". In 1960, he joined the songwriting team of Bob Brass and Irwin Levine, and wrote "This Diamond Ring", which became a hit for Gary Lewis and the Playboys. When he was twenty-one, Kooper moved to Greenwich Village.

Al Kooper Press Release 1969
(click on picture for bigger size)
He performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965, and in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Kooper also played the Hammond organ riffs on Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar-playing he admired. He worked extensively with Bloomfield for a number of years. Kooper played organ once again with Dylan during his 1981 world tour.

Kooper joined The Blues Project as their keyboardist in 1965, leaving the band shortly before their gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967, leaving after the group's first album, Child Is Father to the Man, due to creative differences in 1968. He recorded Super Session with Bloomfield and Stills in 1968 as well, and in 1969 he collaborated with 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis on the album Kooper Session. In 1975 he produced the debut album by The Tubes.

Kooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by The Rolling Stones, B. B. King, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. On occasion, he has even overdubbed on his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and on other albums, as "Roosevelt Gook". After moving to Atlanta in 1972, he discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums, including the single "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". Kooper also wrote the score for the TV series Crime Story and the film The Landlord and has also written music for several made-for-television movies. He was also the musical force behind many of the children series, Banana Splits pop tunes, including "You're the Lovin' End."

Al Kooper - US Promo Single 1969
Kooper has published a memoir, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life In The Sixties (1977), now available in revised form as Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor (1998). The latter includes indictments against "manipulators" within the music industry, including his one-time business manager, Stan Polley. His status as a published author enabled him to join (and act as musical director of) the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of writers including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, & Matt Groening.

Kooper is currently retired from teaching songwriting and recording production at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and plays weekend concerts with his bands The ReKooperators and The Funky Faculty. In 2008, he participated in the production of the album Psalngs, the debut release of Canadian musician John Lefebvre and was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.

In 2005 Martin Scorsese produced a documentary, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan for the PBS American Masters Series, Kooper's most notable playing with Dylan is the organ parts on "Like a Rolling Stone". Kooper had been invited to the session as an observer, and hoped to be allowed to sit in on guitar, his primary musical instrument. 

Al Kooper - US Promo Single 1969 (Back)
Kooper uncased his guitar and began tuning it. After hearing Mike Bloomfield, who was the hired session guitarist for the sessions, warming up in the room, Kooper concluded that Bloomfield at that point, was a much better guitarist, so Kooper put his guitar aside and retreated into the control room.

As the recording sessions progressed, keyboardist Paul Griffin was moved from the Hammond organ to piano. Kooper quickly suggested to producer Tom Wilson that he had a "great organ part" for the song (which he later confessed was just a ruse to play in the session), and Wilson responded, "Al, you're not an organ player, you're a guitar player", but Kooper stood his ground. Before Wilson could explicitly reject Kooper's suggestion, he was interrupted by a phone call in the control room. Kooper immediately went into the studio and sat down at the organ, though he had rarely played organ before the session. Wilson quickly returned, and was shocked to find Kooper in the studio. By this time, Kooper had been playing along with Dylan and The Band, his organ can be heard coming in an eighth-note just behind the other members of the band, as Kooper followed to make sure he was playing the proper chords. During a playback of tracks in the control room, when asked about the organ track, Dylan was emphatic: "Turn the organ up!"

♦ Al Kooper: piano, organ, guitar, ondioline, vocals and arrangements
♦ With The Al Kooper Big Band under the direction of Charlie Calello
♦ Guitars: Ralph Casale, Stu Scharf and Eric Gale
♦ Piano and Organ: Ernie Hayes, Paul Griffin and Frank Owens
♦ Moog Synthesizer: Walter Sears
♦ Electric Bass: Chuck Rainey, Jerry Jemmott and John Miller
♦ Drums: "Pretty" Purdie and Al Rodgers
♦ Trumpets: Bernie Glow, Ernie Royal and Marvin Stamm
♦ Trombones: Ray Desio, Jimmy Knepper, Bill Watrous and Tony Studd
♦ Saxophones: George Young, Sol Schlinger, Seldon Powell and Joe Farrell
♦ Voices: Hilda Harris, Connie Zimet, Albertine Harris, Lois Winter, Mike Gately, Lou Christie, Robert John   and Charlie Calello
♦ Record Cover Art Direction and Design: Ron Coro

Discography (Solo):
○ I Stand Alone (February 1969)
○ You Never Know Who Your Friends Are (October 1969)
○ Easy Does It (September 1970)
○ New York City (You're A Woman) (June 1971)
○ A Possible Projection of the Future / Childhood's End (April 1972)
○ Naked Songs (1973)
○ Act Like Nothing's Wrong (January 1977)
○ Championship Wrestling (featuring Jeff "Skunk" Baxter) (1982)
○ Rekooperation (June 1994)
○ Black Coffee (August 2005)
○ White Chocolate (2008)

Album Tracks:
01. "Magic in My Socks" (3:55)
02. "Lucille" (3:24)
03. "Too Busy Thinkin' 'bout My Baby" (Norman Whitfield, Janie Bradford, 3:20)
04. "First Time Around" (2:48)
05. "Loretta (Union Turnpike Eulogy)" (3:48)
06. "Blues, Part IV" (5:04)
07. "You Never Know Who Your Friends Are" (2:53)
08. "The Great American Marriage / Nothing" (3:19)
09. "I Don't Know Why I Love You" (Lula Mae Hardaway, Don Hunter, Paul Riser, Stevie Wonder, 3:22)
10. "Mourning Glory Story" (Harry Nilsson, 2:16)
11. "Anna Lee (What Can I Do For You)" (3:18)
12. "I'm Never Gonna Let You Down" (4:37)

1. Link
2. Link
Al Kooper And Mike Bloomfield - Netherland Single 1969
(Live at Fillmore East)


Anonymous said...

ha ha! Christophe! Always back!
Mick Taylor.

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