Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Blues Project - 1967 - Live At Town Hall

The Blues Project 
Live At Town Hall

01. Introduction / Electric Flute Thing     10:25
02. I Can't Keep From Crying     5:33
03. Mean Old Southern     2:36
04. No Time Like The Right Time     2:48
05. Love Will Endure     2:22
06. Where There's Smoke, There's Fire     2:27
07. Wake Me, Shake Me     9:31

Full Title: Howard L. Solomon Presents The Blues Project Live At Town Hall

Danny Kalb (lead guitar)
Al Kooper (organ)
Steve Katz (guitar)
Roy Blumenfeld (drums)
Andy Kulberg (bass)

Kooper and Katz had split, and the label, sensing trouble, released this album to cash-in.  Half is from an undated concert at "the Town Hall" (wherever that is), with some fill-in studio outtakes.  Curious then that the album is pretty good - the concert half really rocks and is pretty cutting edge.  Even rocks in a way that you would not expect from the boys who put out Live at the Cafe A So-So.  The Project were cranked up, fast, and blurred on the edges.  This version of "Flute Thing" (titled "(Electric) Flute Thing") takes the jazzy underpinnings of the original and runs off into psychedelic territory.  The band got so far out there that Kooper played static on his organ, Katz made odd clunking noises on the bass, while Kulberg played against a delayed version of himself on flute.  This was brand new for 1967, and was the same thing that both Terry Riley would do with Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band, and more famously Brian May of Queen would do with guitar.  Pretty cool.  Kalb was as fast and sloppy as ever ("I Can't Keep from Crying"), although he is sometimes hard to hear in the mix.  This version of "I Can't Keep from Crying" is downright revelatory: it unlocks the mystery of Steve Katz.  It turns out good old Steve was a hardcore rhythm guitar player, in addition to his passable harmonica skills.  I mean, how many rhythm guitarists do more than just strum away?  Katz made the rhythm guitar punch - bursts of electricity pulsating along with the rest.  After all that breakneck playing, Kooper topped the song off with one of his odd ondioline solos, sounding like the electric bagpipes (if such a thing exists).  Sweaty.  Great.  The other two live tracks ("Mean Old Southern" and a long version of "Wake Me, Shake Me") are not as good, but they still show a band far more interesting than Projections, as they get the little things right as only a band that has worked through the numbers can.  "Wake Me, Shake Me" has some nice moments of interplay between the band.  Oddly enough, the thing that sounds most out of place is Kooper's organ amongst the suped-up guitars.  The ondioline is bizarre enough that he sounds futuristic, but aside from that his solos are never anything that make you go wow, a lot of times he sounds like the passable session guy who played on Dylan albums. 

The studio tracks are a letdown, comparatively - the necessary lukewarm Katz folk cover ("Love Will Endure"), and a couple of more poppy Kooper numbers.  His "No Time like the Right Time" has a great mid-60s soul chorus, s uch that you could hear someone like Mitch Ryder destroying with it, but the others are the sort of passable fare that was wisely cut from Project records.  It is pretty strange that some of their best tracks came out without their even really trying. The live tracks will not make anyone forget about the MC5, but they show that the band really had energy, often lost in the studio.

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