Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tommy Flanders - 1969 - The Moonstone

Tommy Flanders 
The Moonstone

01. Since You've Been Gone - 2:37
02. Blue Water Blue - 3:05
03. Morning Misty Eyes - 2:59
04. A Detective Story - 3:52
05. Purple And Blue - 3:40
06. The Moonstone - 4:38
07. By The Mailbox We Stood - 3:16
08. Angel Of Mercy - 3:42
09. Boston Girls - 3:08
10.Sleepin' - 3:50
11.She's My Love - 4:44

Tommy Flanders - Vocals
J. Bruce Langhorne - Guitar
Michael Botts - Drums
Dick Rosmini - Guitar, Keyboards
Jerry Scheff - Bass

Tommy Flanders the singer of The Blues Project  departed the group after their first LP, "Live At The Cafe Au-Go-Go". In 1969 he released this, his own Solo Debut LP, The Moonstone, featuring: J. Bruce Langhorne (Guitarist with Bob Dylan; Joan Baez, etc); Dennis McCarthy, Michael Botts (Drummer with Hoyt Axton, Karla Bonoff, etc); Dick Rosmini (Guitarist with Hoyt Axton; Doug Dillard; etc); and Jerry Scheff (Bass with Hoyt Axton; Marc Benno; The Association).

The faded, melancholy vibe herein is somewhat unsettling, as the ghost of a fairly straight acoustic pop album is dimly apparent, and Tommy's voice still sounds occasionally as positive as it did on his earlier "Violets Of Dawn”.

Tommy Flanders comes off gentle and unassuming on "The Moonstone".  This is one of those albums that I encountered because of some long forgotten internet recommendation.  Took a few listens to get down with this album's low key charm, although the last track immediately caught my attention.  "She's My Love" is like a lot of the tracks in its instrumentation, but over five minutes has enough time to reach an epic climax.  This is one of the few albums I know of in which the artist addresses the audience as if they were in a night club on a couple of tracks.   Flanders announces that the end of the album is at hand and then says a quick thanks.  Well, alright!  Thank you.  Anyway, its personal touches like this that make it seem more than just the run of the mill.  Lots of acoustic guitars and acoustic piano and analog pleasant times - warm recommendations from me for the lot of it.  Wish there was more like it these days

The Blues Project - 2014 - Live At the Matrix, September 1966

The Blues Project 
Live At the Matrix, September 1966

101. Louisiana blues
102. Steve's song
103. I can't keep from crying sometimes
104. Caress me baby
105. Flute thing
106. Wake me shake me
107. The way my baby walks
108. Love will endure
109. Jelly jelly

201. Cheryl's going home
202. You can't catch me
203. Shake that thing
204. Catch the wind
205. You can't judge a book
206. Flute thing
207. Hoochie coochie man
208. If you don't come back

Al Kooper
Steve Katz
Roy Blumenfeld
Andy Kulberg
Danny Kalb

The Blues Project was a short-lived band from the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City that was formed in 1965 and split up in 1967. While their songs drew from a wide array of musical styles, they are most remembered as one of the earliest practitioners of psychedelic rock, as well as one of the world's first jam bands, along with the Grateful Dead.

In 1964, Elektra Records produced a compilation album of various artists entitled The Blues Project which featured several white musicians from the Greenwich Village area who played acoustic blues music in the style of black musicians. One of the featured artists on the album was a young guitarist named Danny Kalb, who was paid $75 for his two songs. Not long after the album's release, however, Kalb gave up his acoustic guitar for an electric one. The Beatles' arrival in America earlier in the year signified the end of the folk and acoustic blues movement that had swept young America in the early 1960s. The ensuing British Invasion was the nail in the coffin. Seeing the writing on the wall, Kalb gave up acoustic blues and switched to rock and roll, as did many other aspiring American musicians during this period.

Danny Kalb's first rock and roll band was formed in the spring of 1965, playing under various names at first, until finally settling on the Blues Project moniker as an allusion to Kalb's first foray on record. After a brief hiatus in the summer months of 1965 during which Kalb was visiting Europe, the band reformed in September 1965 and were almost immediately a top draw in Greenwich Village. By this time, the band included Danny Kalb on guitar, Steve Katz (having recently departed the Even Dozen Jug Band) also on guitar, Andy Kulberg on bass and flute, Roy Blumenfeld on drums and Tommy Flanders on vocals.

The band's first big break came only a few weeks later when they auditioned for Columbia Records, and failed. The audition was a success, nevertheless, as it garnered them an organist in session musician Al Kooper. Kooper had begun his career as a session guitarist, but that summer, he began playing organ when he sneaked into the "Like a Rolling Stone" recording session on Bob Dylan's seminal album Highway 61 Revisited. In order to improve his musicianship on the new instrument, Kooper joined the Blues Project and began gigging with them almost immediately.

Soon thereafter, the Blues Project gained a record contract from Verve Records, and began recording their first album live at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village over the course of a week in November 1965. While the band was known for their lengthy interpretations of blues and traditional rock and roll songs (making them, along with the Grateful Dead, rock's first "jam band"), their first album saw them rein in these tendencies because of record company wariness as well as the time restrictions of the vinyl record.

Entitled simply Live At the Cafe Au Go-Go, the album was finished with another week of live recordings at the cafe in January 1966. By that time, vocalist Tommy Flanders had left the band and was not replaced. As a result, Flanders appears on only a few of the songs on this album.

The album was a moderate success and the band toured America to promote it. While in San Francisco in April 1966, during the height of the city's Haight-Ashbury culture, the Blues Project played at the Fillmore Auditorium to rave reviews. Seemingly New York's answer to the Grateful Dead, even members of the Grateful Dead who saw them play were impressed with their improvisational abilities. (SOURCE: "Rock Family Trees" TV show.)

Returning to New York, the band recorded their second album and first studio album in the fall of 1966, and it was released in November. Arguably better than their first album, Projections was certainly more ambitious than their first album, boasting an eclectic set of songs that ran the gamut from blues, R&B, jazz, psychedelia, and folk-rock. The centerpiece of the album was an 11-and-a-half minute version of "Two Trains Running", which, along with other songs on the album, showed off their improvisational tendencies. One such song was the instrumental, "Flute Thing", written by Kooper and featuring Kulberg.

Soon after the album was completed, though, the band began to fall apart. Al Kooper quit the band in the spring of 1967, and the band without him completed a third album, Live At Town Hall. Despite the name, only one song was recorded live at Town Hall, while the rest was made up of live recordings from other venues, or of studio outtakes with overdubbed applause to feign a live sound.

The Blues Project's last hurrah was at the Monterey International Pop Festival held in Monterey, California, in June 1967. By this time, however, half the original line-up was gone and most of their early magic was, too. Al Kooper had formed his own band and played at the festival as well, but no sort of reunion was in the offing. Guitarist Steve Katz left soon thereafter, followed by founder Danny Kalb. A fourth album, 1968's Planned Obsolescene, featured only drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist Andy Kulberg from the original lineup. Upon the album's completion, the Blues Project called it quits.

In 1968, Al Kooper and Steve Katz joined forces once again to fulfill a desire of Al Kooper's to form a rock band with a horn section. The resulting band was Blood, Sweat & Tears. While Kooper led the band on its first album, Child Is Father to the Man, he did not stick around for any subsequent releases. Katz, on the other hand, remained with the band into the 1970s.

The Blues Project, with a modified lineup, reformed briefly in the early 1970s, releasing three further albums: 1971's Lazarus, 1972's The Blues Project, and 1973's The Original Blues Project Reunion In Central Park (which featured Al Kooper but not Tommy Flanders). These albums did little to excite the public, however. Since then, the group's activity has been confined to a few sporadic reunion concerts.

"They play through the hugest amplifiers we've ever seen, and their music makes your ears ring for two days after. Oh, yes--they swing like mad and drive their audiences insane." Hit Parader Magazine.

For people who were around in the '60s, The Blues Project (TBP) were one of the most exciting and innovative groups around. They combined folk, blues, rock, jazz, r&b, and even a smidgen of classical music styles into one new kind (at the time) of music that was unheard of before. Other American bands (like Butterfield's) were beginning to look past musical borders and combining different types of music, but TBP was one of the first--and one of the most exciting--to consistently blend their music into something new. I can still recall listening to the band's albums when they were released and thinking that this is something new and different--and very exciting. This set from The Matrix in 1966, (which has been issued before) is a good example of how exciting the band was live. The sound is very decent across this reissue--fairly clean and very immediate sounding. The booklet has a portion of an interview from Hit Parader Magazine from 1966, which helps give more of a period feel to those times, but doesn't give newcomers any real background on the band's career. Fans of course know about the very fine 2 CD set "Anthology" that came out a few yeas back, which is the best way to hear TBP in the studio and live, plus the booklet is very informative.

But if you're a fan of this band (and if you like '60s music you should definitely know about TBP) and haven't heard this great set, you need to pry a few bucks out of your pocket and get this set sooner rather than later. At one time TBP was heralded as possibly the most exciting and innovative band in the country. And listening to this set it's easy to hear why they deserved that title. Remember, 1966 was a time before many bands had become known for incorporating different genres of music into one sound, and then stretching out into long jams, both on their albums and on stage. Included are blues tunes like "Hoochie Coochie Man", folk songs ("Love Will Endure"), jazz things ("Flute Thing"), r'n'r ("You Can't Catch Me"), and several tunes that incorporate different musical genres. The band sounded best on tunes like "Steve's Song", "I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes", "Wake Me Shake Me", "Cheryl's Going Home" (all included here), and other similar songs that gave the band a chance to show their musical influences.

With Danny Kalb you had one of the most exciting electric guitarists of the period. Steve Katz too was a fine guitar player, and his harmonica playing was very good for the times. Al Kooper's jazzy, bluesy organ sound was new and exciting, and set the sound for other bands to follow. But one of the identifying sounds of TBP was Andy Kulberg's (who also played bass) flute work. His jazzy sound was extremely innovative for the era. He also had a slight classical sound that blended well with his jazzier playing style. It's not well known except by fans, but the band was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane (among others in both jazz and blues), and it shows in Kulberg's musical flights, and when he and Kalb would get going together in long winding solos, the music was very advanced sounding. Holding everything together on drums was Roy Blumenfield (who gets a short solo on "Flute Thing") that is of the times.

The only flaw (to some fans) is the lack of a good vocalist. By this set their original vocalist, Tommy Flanders (who released a pretty decent album, "The Moonstone"), had left. In some ways he was the ingredient that helped elevate the band to the top of the heap of then emerging bands. Kalb, Katz, and Kooper handled the vocals after he left, and you'll hear why they never really wanted the job. Kalb handled the blues tunes, Katz the folk stuff, and Kooper the more rock arranged songs. But taken altogether the band was one of the best to ever come out of that whole '60s era.

So if you already own "Anthology", or the individual albums (the two studio and two live sets--one of which isn't actually live), you need to add this exciting set to your shelf. Be aware that some of these tunes are (quite possibly) taken from one of the band's live albums, but that's a minor complaint. When taken as a live set this is one of the more exciting and "new" sounding live albums from a band that knew how to blend genres and stretch then out into awesome workouts. And it's a good example of just how exciting music was becoming in the late '60s.

It's good to have this set easily available once again. It's a perfect example of how new and exciting music was becoming in the '60s. It's too bad TBP fell apart when they did. But the music they left behind is some of the period's best.

The Blues Project - 1973 - Reunion In Central Park

The Blues Project 
Reunion In Central Park

01. Introduction: Ron Delsener     0:37
02. Louisiana Blues     3:38
03. Steves Song     3:34
04. Introduction: Al And Andy     0:42
05. I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes     5:26
06. You Can't Catch Me     4:13
07. Introduction: Al     0:55
08. Fly Away     3:28
09. Caress Me Baby     7:36
10. Introduction: Andy     0:35
11. Catch The Wind     4:22
12. (I Heard Her Say) Wake Me Shake Me     9:11
13. Introduction: Danny Kalb     1:00
14. Two Trains Running     13:30

Al Kooper: keyboards, vocals, rhythm guitar
Andy Kulberg: bass
Danny Kalb: lead guitar, vocals
Steve Katz: harmonica, percussion, rhythm guitar, vocals
Roy Blumenfeld: drums

Recorded Live at the Schaffer Festival in Central Park New York on June 24th, 1973

This reunion concert, -the first featuring all five members since early 1967-, was a major event at the time. Heard today, the Project's unique blend of blues, pop, and folk rock is as potent as ever, and the performances here simply crackle with energy. It's easy to understand why fans called them the Jewish Beatles. Actually, on balance, this is probably the group's all-around best album, if for no other reason than the excellent sound quality; the Project's two "official" albums famously suffered from some of the tinniest sonics of the period.

The Blues Project - 1972 - The Blues Project

The Blues Project 
The Blues Project

01. Back Door Man     3:34
02. Danville Dame     5:00
03. Railroad Boy     3:14
04. Rainbow     4:25
05. Easy Lady     3:03
06. Plain And Fancy     4:30
07. Little Rain     5:10
08. Crazy Girl     3:21
09. I'm Ready     4:25

Danny Kalb: guitar
Bill Lussenden: guitar
Tommy Flanders: vocals
Don Kretmar: bass guitar, saxophone
Roy Blumenfeld: drums
Gabriel Mekler: marimba, organ, piano

In 1972 Tommy Flanders rejoined a version of The Blues Project that included Danny Kalb and Roy Blumenfield. Even though Flanders had demonstrated a tender and skilled singing voice on his own Moonstone a couple of years earlier, he referred to his heavier more bluesy voice for this.

The best song hands down is their cover of Tim Hardin's "Danville Dame", a song that is given a fine workout by the group. A few other songs are impressive and there isn't anything that doesn't work.

Same people as Lazarus, but including Flanders, guitarist Bill Lussenden, and ex-Country Joe and the Fish pianist David Cohen.  Produced by Gabriel Meckler, most famous for producing Steppenwolf

The Blues Project - 1971 - Lazarus

The Blues Project 


01. It’s Alright     3:15
02. Personal Mercy     4:03
03. Black Night     5:40
04. Vision Of Flowers     3:16
05. Yellow Cab     2:46
06. Lazarus     9:00
07. Brown Eyed Handsome Man     3:15
08. Reachings     2:53
09. Midnight Rain     2:38
10. So Far, So Near     2:50

Danny Kalb (lead guitar)
Roy Blumenfeld (drums)
Don Kretmar (bass, vocals)

Tommy Flanders was long gone. Al Kooper and Steve Katz left to start Blood, Sweat and Tears leaving the band with out it's three best vocalists. What's left is great playing, good material and mediocre if not awful vocals.

The title track "Lazarus" is the highlight(it's actually sung fairly well). Danny Kalb manages to supply some good guitar on several other tracks to at least make an interesting listen.

The Blues Project - 1968 - Planned Obsolescence

The Blues Project 
Planned Obsolescence

01. If You Got To Make A Fool Of Someone     4:31
02. Calypso     3:41
03. Frank 'N' Curt Incensed     3:26
04. Turtle Dove     3:24
05. Mojo Hannah     3:26
06. Niartaes Hornpipe     2:09
07. The Endless Sleep     3:53
08. She Raised Her Hand     3:39
09. Dakota Recollection     12:32

Bass – Andy Kulberg, Donald Kretmar
Drums – Roy Blumenfeld
Flute – Andy Kulberg
Guitar – John Gregory
Piano – Andy Kulberg
Saxophone – Donald Kretmar
Violin – Richard Greene
Vocals – John Gregory

Somewhere on the spectrum between contract filler and normal album lies Planned Obsolescence.   It is a shame that nobody really remembers this album, because it shows that America did make progressive rock. The Blues Project started with an album that showed their stylistic diversity (Live at the Cafe Au Go Go), and to live up to their name the group mixes the blues into the sound in various ways.  Planned Obsolescence was really a group effort, and with violin (Greene), sax (Kretmar) and flute (Kulberg) at their disposal a great mix of blues, jazz and folk was at play. This incarnation can deliver "Mojo Hannah," a fascinating kick-butt slice of blues and soul, and then follow it up with "Niartaes Hornpipe" a folky tune that incorporates some bluegrass from Greene.   They generally stuck with the same jazz-blues vibe that contemporary Jethro Tull used, although without the same drive or force ("She Raised Her Hand", "If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody").  Yet, they also predict where Jethro Tull was headed, playing traditional classical/folk music in other spots ("Calypso, "Turtle Dove" a traditional folk song arranged into a well-disguised blues number).  Planned Obsolscence has a very loose feeling, perhaps caused the fact that this was a contract-fulfilling album.  I do not know how to explain Gregory's "Frank 'N' Curt: Incensed" which is blues-rock with Dylan-esque lyrics, fuzz guitar and a decent jazz line by Kretmar plopped in the middle, or Gregory's off-the-cuff vocals during "Endless Sleep."  Still, the "contract fulfilling" flags are raised throughout.  Only "Calypso," "She Raised Her Hand" and "Frank 'N' Curt: Incensed" are songs written by the group.  The first two bear the hallmark of Seatrain - poetic lyrics by Jim Roberts.  Another flashing light is the 10 minute traditional jazzy jam which closes out the album ("Dakota Recollection").  Fear not - the core band was a good live act with enough playing skills to pull it off. "Dakota Recollection" was traditional in that everyone a chance to step out and solo, before pulling back and supporting the others.  Nobody's going to mistake this for an English band, although few rock bands were delving this far into jazz, outside of Spirit or Soft Machine's Third.  Even though it was 1968, only a few inoffensive production tricks appear (backwards music at the end of "Calypso" for example) and one pretty bold one - having Kulberg play against a delayed tape of himself ("Dakota Recollections"), like he did live at the Town Hall.  The final warning flag is that the album jacket credits the production and arranging to the Blues Project, while the actual record gives it to Seatrain.  The arrangements aren't quite up to the level of Seatrain's official debut, but are still good.  It's a shame it did not sell - maybe it lacked the braying horns of their sister group.

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.

The Blues Project - 1966 - Projections

The Blues Project 


01. I Can't Keep From Crying     4:25
02. Steve's Song     4:55
03. You Can't Catch Me     4:14
04. Two Trains Running     11:20
05. Wake Me, Shake Me     5:15
06. Cheryl's Going Home     2:35
07. Flute Thing     5:58
08. Caress Me Baby     7:12
09. Fly Away     3:30

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

Despite having a lot of things going for it - lots of talented musicians and an closer ear to musical trends than most American bands - the Blues Project never put it together.  Sure, "Flute Thing" was an underground hit, but this album is no underground classic.  R&B was still the band's main element, and they usually did a good job with it.  Kooper's "I Can't Keep From Crying" kicks off the album with a supremely catchy bass riff, "Wake Me, Shake Me," and Chuck Berry's "You Can't Catch Me" are all excellent tracks.  Projections is not all R&B of course, and the band experimented with classical folk (the intro to "Steve's Song" which is better than actual song) and the infamous jazz-rock underground hit (an oxymoron par excellence) of "Flute Thing."  The latter is what both the album and the band are most remembered for - but is it any good?  It is an instrumental constructed around a nice lead riff, whichtakes advantage of the fact that Kulberg just happened to be an excellent flautist, and so everyone takes turns soloing.  Well, everyone but Katz that is, but since he was stuck playing bass, it is not a real loss.   Not many people were creating jazz-rock at this time, so it certainly was ground-breaking, but nowadays it is just a nice song.  The same can be said for other little contemporary cool moves, such as Kalb's Indian-like guitar lines on "Cheryl's Going Home".  R&B may have been their bedrock, but Projections' blues numbers are its real drag.  Kalb had his own easily identifiable technique, using quick runs with lots of note bending, but he mistook plodding on indefinitely for drama (Muddy Waters' "Two Trains Running" runs for over ten minutes and Jimmy Reed's "Caress Me Babe" is a blues that is all atmosphere and no excitement).  His speed also led him to get a bit sloppy in parts ("You Can't Catch Me" among others).   Still, he was clearly the instrumental star - even though Kalb's bass lines are usually catchy, and Kooper place-holds when given the chance to solo ("Caress Me Babe").  Kooper displays the most songwriting talent, the nice folk-rock "10" shows him merging his earlier pop talent with Dylanesque folk-rock, and a touch of jazz.  Sure, Steve Katz has a song, but it is ...well, it's a Steve Katz song.  Slightly goofy in nature, delivered in his earnest straight-man voice, just like his cover of Bob Lind's folky "Cheryl's Going Home".  He never really hit his songwriting stride until after the Project broke up.  The result is an album that has its moments and good songs ("I Can't Keep From Crying" is my mark for a keeper), but feels like less than the sum of the individual players.

Indeed, this was their only album that was entirely recorded in a studio.  Afterwards they split over a disagreement on whether or not to add horns, with Kooper and Katz forming Blood, Sweat and Tears.

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. 

The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale - 1966 - Batman and Robin

The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale 
Batman and Robin

01. Batman Theme    
02. Batman's Batmorang    
03. Batman And Robin Over The Roofs    
04. The Penguin Chase    
05. Flight Of The Batman    
06. Joker Is Wild    
07. Robin's Theme    
08. Penguin's Umbrella    
09. Batman And Robin Swing    
10. Batmobile Wheels    
11. The Riddler's Retreat    
12. The Bat Cave

Alto Saxophone – Marshall Allen
Bass – Andy Kulberg, Pat Patrick
Drums – Roy Blumenfeld
Guitar – Danny Kalb, Steve Katz
Organ – Al Kooper
Organ – Sun Ra
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore

You aren’t going to believe this one. In 1966 kids were going wild over ABC’s “Batman” television show. A New Jersey toy company wanted to cash in on the craze and rip off kids by releasing an album called “Batman and Robin.” This slab of vinyl had nothing to do with the t.v. show even though it was chock full of tunes like “The Penguin Chase,” “Robin’s Theme,” “Batmobile Wheels,” “Flight of the Batman” and “The Bat Cave.”

Here is the unbelievable part: Producer Tom Wilson hired Sun Ra and several members of his immortal Arkestra (including supposedly John Gilmore, Marshall Allen and Pat Patrick) to collaborate with members of the New York-based rock and blues band, The Blues Project (best known as Al Kooper’s band even though he wasn’t an original member) and record the sides as The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale. Why is this unbelievable? Because Sun Ra,  the otherworldly jazz composer, band leader and musician, was better known for bringing Outer Space and big band-tinged compositions into the experimental frenzy and fun of free jazz.

The album features twelve songs – ten instrumentals and two songs with vocals. It’s obvious that this was a quickie – something they churned out in a day or two. The rfiffs are simple and repetitive and many of the tunes consist of the Arkestra horns turning out recycled classical melodies (like Tchaikovsky’s “Fifth Symphony,” Prokofiev and Chopin) so they wouldn’t have to pay licensing fees.

“Batman and Robin” features pretty traditional instrumentation, especially for a Sun Ra session, of organ, guitar, bass, drums and horns. The album is pretty dang groovy actually. Because it is a record for kids, you won’t find any atonal experiments or any of Sun Ra’s infamous counter melodies layered over big band-like melodies here. It actually sounds like a Southern R&B instrumental combo in the vein as Booker T. & the MGs. Even though the riffs are simple, there is a surprisingly joyful aspect to the playing. It’s obvious they had fun at the sessions. It is also obvious that Sun Ra did in fact play on part of the album as you can tell by the organ blast at the beginning of the album’s first song, “Batman Theme.”

The real star of the record is the uncredited guitar player – it could be The Blues Project’s Danny Kalb or it might not be him. The “Sensational Guitars” is actually it pretty apt title because I imagine the album sounds like what would happen if Steve Cropper was given free reign to rip fractured, Yardbirds-like solos over every one of Booker T.’s song.

The verdict: An interesting and unexpected addition to the already eclectic Sun Ra catalog.