Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Blues Project - 1966 - Live At The Cafe Au Go Go

The Blues Project 
Live At The Cafe Au Go Go

01. Goin' Down Louisiana     4:04
02. You Go And I'll Go With You     3:49
03. Catch The Wind     3:05
04. I Want To Be Your Driver     2:23
05. Alberta     4:10
06. The Way My Baby Walks     3:09
07. Violets Of Dawn     2:56
08. Back Door Man     3:16
09. Jelly Jelly Blues     4:45
10. Spoonful     4:58
11. Who Do You Love?     5:30

Bass, Flute – Andy Kulberg
Drums – Roy Blumenfeld
Lead Guitar, Vocals – Danny Kalb
Organ, Keyboards, Vocals – Al Kooper
Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals – Steve Katz
Vocals – Tommy Flanders

Please note Tommy had left the group by the time the album was released.
All titles recorded "Live At The Café Au Go Go" in November 1965 and January 1966

The Blues Project is a group rarely mentioned these days, and may not have been that high-profile in the first place.  Like the Lovin' Spoonful and the Youngbloods, they started out on the East Coast, the band had a good live reputation covering everything from folk to R&B, but never found much success.  Their one semi-hit, "Flute Thing," was a bit out of character too, relying on bassist Andy Kulberg showing off his classically-trained flute skills. Odder still, they managed to record only one studio album, Projections, before keyboardist Al Kooper's desire to add horns to the group caused them to split in 1967.  Kooper and guitarist Steve Katz formed Blood, Sweat and Tears, and the rest of the band re-located to the West Coast, to wait for guitarist Danny Kalb to join them.  Kalb never did, and so Kulberg put together a new band, beginning a long partnership with lyricist Jim Roberts.  After one album released under the Blues Project name, Planned Obsolescence, the new band became Sea Train, and successfully mixed just about everything (blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, classical).  Their official debut, Sea Train is one of the finest examples of American progressive rock, and the best place to start with the band.  Alas, it was unsuccessful commercially, and half the band left afterwards.  When Kulberg assembled Seatrain anew, they became more of a standard roots-rock band, and focused greatly on the talents of excellent violinist Richard Greene.  A couple more albums ensued (Seatrain and Marblehead Messenger), and one minor hit ("13 Questions") before the foundations (Greene and guitarist Peter Rowan) dropped out again.  Kulberg made one final stab with the group (Watch) before calling it a day.

American musicians influenced by English musicians, who were influenced by American musicians.  While it was perfectly acceptable for the Yardbirds to release a live album of blues and R&B covers in 1964, by 1966 groups were expected to write their own material.  Excepting one instrumental, "The Way My Baby Walks," this album is just one standard after another.  I mean, how many covers of Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" does the world really need?  The band sounds like it was an outgrowth of the jugband blues scene (the sing-along take on Willie Dixon's "You Go and I'll Go With You"), along with The Lovin' Spoonful and the Youngbloods.  Their material consists exclusively of blues songs, and they shine when covering some lesser-known material: an excellent cover of Eric Andersen's dreamy folk "Violets of Dawn," and a beautiful, slow, jazzy take on the traditional "Alberta."  Guitarist Danny Kalb was among the scene's best guitarists, eschewing the Chicago-blues style for a jugband band's dancing finger approach, but rest of the band is unexciting.  Vocalist Tommy Flanders was decent, bassist Andy Kulburg is sometimes inaudible and neither Steve Katz (who gets his spotlight number on Donovan's lethargic ballad "Touch the Wind" and is otherwise dispensable), nor Al Kooper (his spotlight is Chuck Berry's "I Want to Be Your Driver") show much.  An interesting historical artifact, and pleasant enough to listen to once in a while, but if you really want R&B and blues buy yourself the Rolling Stones, the Paul Butterfield Blues band, or even Willie Dixon himself. 

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