Rock Icon Al Kooper, Super Sessions 5.1

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on July 30, 2014

al-kooper-resizeHOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — Ā In a career that spans fifty years, Al Kooper has managed to turn up at key points in the last five decades. He is often referred to as the “Zelig” or “Forrest Gump” of rock.

Herald De Paris had the opportunity to speak the man, the myth, the legend, Al Kooper.

He said, ā€œI guess they called me Forrest Gump,Ā I think because I was involved in so many situations in a small time period.ā€

As far as his influences are concerned, Al says, ā€œI don’t think anyone was influenced by me in the beginning, I started in 1958. I didn’t have that much to offer until 1965.ā€

Kooper started out as a guitar player but quickly became known as a keyboard player, as Al explains, ā€œBecause I played the organ on ā€˜Like a Rolling Stoneā€™ā€. He is well known for his organ playing on Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone.” He played off and on with Dylan for many years, both live and in the studio.

In 1958 Kooper began his professional career as guitarist in The Royal Teens (“Short Shorts”). He reinvented himself into a Tin Pan Alley songwriter with cuts such as ā€œThis Diamond Ringā€ by Gary Lewis and the Playboys. He also went on to write for artists such as Gene Pitney, Keely Smith, Carmen MacRae, Pat Boone, Freddie Cannon, Lulu, Lorraine Ellison, Donnie Hathaway and was later sampled by The Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, The Pharcyde, and Alchemist to name but a few.

In the mid-sixties Al was a member of The Blues Project and then founded Blood Sweat & Tears, remaining only for their debut albumĀ Child Is Father to the Man.

Regarding Blood Sweat & Tears he said,ā€Ā I just had become a pretty good arranger by then and wanted to add a horn section to new songs that I had written that called out for them.ā€

He then slipped his producer hat on and began working on the top ten albumĀ Super SessionĀ in 1968, featuring Mike Bloomfield & Stephen Stills.

Regarding the mega hitĀ Super SessionĀ he told me,Ā ā€œIt was just something to do while I got used to being on staff at Columbia Records. Bloomfield and I were friends and enjoyed playing together. So I proposed a jam session album and they took me up on my proposal. NOBODY thought it would be a gold record.ā€

His playing skills have graced the works of The Rolling Stones, George Harrison, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Peter Paul & Mary, Tom Petty, Joe Cocker, BB King, Taj Mahal, Alice Cooper, Roger McGuinn, Betty Wright, Trisha Yearwood, Tracy Nelson and scores more. Major moments include playing piano, organ and french horn for The Rolling Stones on “You Canā€™t Always Get What You Want,” keyboards on George Harrison’s #1 hit “All Those Years Ago,” keys on The Whoā€™s ā€œSell Outā€ and on “Electric Ladyland” for Jimi Hendrix.

He is held in high regard by rock superstars and has worked with rock royalty his whole life. A this point in life he said that the really standout moment in his musical career was,Ā ā€œProbably playing onĀ Highway 61 RevisitedĀ andĀ Blonde on BlondeĀ with Bob Dylan.ā€

As a producer he is best known for discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd and producing their first three albums includingĀ Sweet Home AlabamaĀ and songs like “Free Bird”, “Gimme Three Steps” and “Saturday Night Special.ā€

As an A&R guy he not only discovered Skynyrd he is glib when he says, ā€œMost folks know how to spell Lynyrd Skynyrd (hahahaha) I have found many talented people and worked with them but very few people know who they are.ā€

Kooperā€™s other producing clients included, The Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ray Charles, BB King, The Staple Singers, Lorraine Ellison, Bob Dylan, Joe Ely, Thelonious Monster and Green On Red.

His autobiographyĀ Backstage Passes & Backstabbing BastardsĀ is considered by many to be a rock-n-roll must read. He scored Hal Ashby’s first filmĀ The Landlord,Ā John Watersā€™ filmĀ Cry Baby,Ā Michael Mann’s TV seriesĀ Crime StoryĀ and Peter Riegert’s recent directorial debutĀ King of the Corner.

Kooper continues to perform live all over the world. His live show accompanied by his band of Berkeley professors, “The Funky Faculty,” has been acclaimed all over the USA and in Japan. Touring through Italy, Spain, Demark, Finland, Norway, The Czech Republic, with more countries lining up for the future.

There are many more credits, too numerous to mention, I recommend you buy his books for more information. His solo albumĀ Black CoffeeĀ released in 2005 to much critical acclaim featuring four stars inĀ MOJOĀ magazine and three stars inĀ Rolling Stone. It was awarded the Memphis Blues Award for Comeback Album of the Year.

His humorous appearances in the Martin Scorsese Dylan biopicĀ No Direction HomeĀ were considered a highlight by many. In 2006, he was awarded the Milestone Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2007, the AES voted him the Les Paul Award and it was presented to Al by Les Paul himself, and in 2008 he was inducted into the Musicians Hall Of Fame. Kooper shows no signs of retirement with a new albumĀ White Chocolate,Ā more live concerts and the brisk sale of his book published for the third time in 2008.

Marshall Blonstein’s label Audio Fidelity will be releasing a limited numbered edition 5.1 Multichannel Hybrid SACD of the legendary Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen StillsĀ Super SessionĀ album! TheĀ Super SessionĀ album was conceived as a jam session with Kooper on keyboards and former Paul Butterfield Blues Band member, Mike Bloomfield, on lead guitar along with veteran studio musician and Wrecking Crew member “Fast” Eddie Hoh on drums and Barry Goldberg, also on keyboards.

Bloomfield was available during the first day of recording for Side one of the LP (tracks 1-5). For the second day of recording, Kooper brought in former Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills to perform on the music that became Side 2 of the LP (tracks 6-9). Recorded on a shoestring budget over a two day period in Los Angeles,Ā Super Sessionwent on to become a rock classic and earned the trio a gold record for sales of over one million copies.

Regarding the new 5.1 Multichannel HybridĀ Super SessionĀ release Kooper said, ā€œColumbia asked me if I would be interested in mixing that album in 5.1. And I was. So it was setup and done in 2006. Then Columbia went out of the 5.1 business and it has been sitting there since then until I proposed Audio Fidelity put it out and they were very interested and here we are.ā€

“I always wanted to mix this in 5.1. I finished it in 2007, and it’s been sitting there until Audio Fidelity released it from captivity. It’s the first album I ever mixed in 5.1 I hope everyone enjoys it. Surround Sound allows the listener to get up close to each musician and hear details you can’t hear in stereo. Hope ya like details – I DO!”

The package includes new liner notes written by Al Kooper that tells the story of theĀ Super SessionĀ album and the new 5.1 Multichannel Hybrid mix. The 5.1 mix by Al Kooper with mastering by Bob Ludwig was never released and yet it has acquired some fame from industry insiders familiar with the Multichannel mix with comments like “excellent” and “it deserves to be heard.” The new mastering of the stereo layer of tracks for new SACD Stereo and CD Stereo audio are by mastering engineer Steve Hoffman.

Al Kooper has seen it all and done it all, he is one of the iconic architects of modern music and in the end he says,

ā€œI would like to be remembered by the people that enjoyed the music I was involved with and I hope the legacy is that it lives a long time.ā€

Edited by Mariam Salarian

George Grund July 30, 2014

Great information here, AC, enjoyed it very much. People need to know of this
man and his contributions!

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