Thursday, April 7, 2016

Al Kooper - 1982 - Championship Wrestling

Al Kooper
Championship Wrestling

01. I Wish You Would (4:07)
02. Two Sides (To Every Situation) (3:31)
03. Wrestle With This (5:30)
04. Lost Control (5:21)
05. I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than A Young Man's Fool) (2:57)
06. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (4:21)
07. Bandstand (4:25)
08. Finder's Keepers (3:33)
09. Snowblind (5:37)

Jeff Baxter Guitar
Valerie Carter Vocals
Vinnie Colaiuta Drums
Jim Ehinger Piano
Steve Forman Percussion
Bruce Gary Drums
Jim Gilstrap Vocals
Ed Greene Drums
Paul Harris Piano
Al Kooper Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
George "Chocolate" Perry Bass
Elliott Randall Guitar
Neil Stubenhaus Bass
Bill Szymczyk Vocals
Greg "Fingers" Taylor Harmonica
Mickey Thomas Vocals
Julia Tillman Waters Vocals
Tower of Power Horn
Joe Vitale Drums
Ricky Washington Vocals
Waters Family Vocals
Maxine Willard Waters Vocals

Championship Wrestling started life as an attempt at another "super session"-type production, with more of a focus on R&B than blues, to have featured Al Kooper and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter as equal partners with dual credit. Midway through what took a third of a year to get down on tape, Baxter withdrew from collaboration, and Championship Wrestling turned into a Kooper album featuring Baxter. It wasn't what Columbia Records expected, and it was dumped on the market -- based on the paucity of reviews, it's doubtful that promo copies or even a press release went out to A- or B-list critics -- and forgotten. Despite the fact that it's sort of "off-brand" (or "off-game") Kooper, Championship Wrestling has more than a few good, even exciting and bracing moments. Kooper later admitted in his autobiography that, weary of reading of the supposed inadequacy of his vocals, he chose to keep his singing role to a minimum here -- two songs and that's it, though both "I Wish You Would" and "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" are excellent, the former even making another link in a chain of classic blues reinterpretations by Kooper going back to his Blues Project days. But even better is the rest of the material, sung radiantly by Valerie Carter and with Mickey Thomas and Ricky Washington not too far behind. The fact is, Kooper knew 20 years before this how to make a good soul record, and with the talent he assembled here -- including the Tower of Power horns -- and Bill Szymczyk producing, it would have been hard for the resulting album not to be worthwhile; considering that even the two instrumentals (arguably the weakest tracks here) are highly diverting, the whole album is a keeper, assuming one can find it. Sony made that a lot easier by reissuing it as a mini-LP-sleeve CD in Japan to coincide with Kooper's concert tour of the country, and Kooper thought enough of it despite some unpleasant memories to include one track on his first Columbia Records anthology.

1 comment: