Sunday, July 1, 2012

On the turntable this Sunday...Super Session

Super Session is an album envisioned by Al Kooper and featuring the work of guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills, released on Columbia Records in 1968, CS 9701. Bloomfield and Stills do not play together on the album, with tracks including Bloomfield on side one, and those including Stills on side two. It peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200.

Kooper and Bloomfield had previously worked together on the sessions for the ground-breaking classic Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan, as well as playing in support of his controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in July 1965. Kooper had recently left Blood, Sweat & Tears after recording their debut album with them, and was now working as an A&R man for Columbia. Bloomfield was about to leave Electric Flag, and at relative loose ends. Kooper telephoned Bloomfield to see if he was free to come down to the studio and jam; Bloomfield agreed, leaving Kooper to handle the arrangements.

Kooper booked two days of studio time in May 1968, and recruited keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks, both members of the Electric Flag, along with well-known session drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh. On the first day, the quintet recorded a group of mostly blues-based instrumental tracks, including a modal excursion "His Holy Modal Majesty" reminiscent of "East-West" from the second Butterfield Blues Band album. On the second day, with the tapes ready to roll, Bloomfield did not show up.

Needing to have something to show for the second day of sessions, to sit in for Bloomfield, Kooper hastily called upon Stephen Stills, also in the process of leaving his band Buffalo Springfield. Regrouping behind Stills, Kooper's session men cut mostly vocal tracks, including "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry" from Highway 61 and a lengthy and atmospheric take of "Season of the Witch" by Donovan.

Some overdubbed horns were later added while the album was being mixed, and sales worth a gold record award were garnered from an album which cost just $13,000 to make. The success of this record opened the door for the "supergroup" concept of the late 1960s and 1970s — Blind Faith, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the like. Kooper forgave Bloomfield, and the two of them made several concert appearances after the album was released. The results of one of those became the album The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

Track listing:

Side One:

1. "Albert's Shuffle"   Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield 6:54
2. "Stop"   Jerry Ragovoy, Mort Shuman 4:23
3. "Man's Temptation"   Curtis Mayfield 3:24
4. "His Holy Modal Majesty"   Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield 9:16
5. "Really"   Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield 5:30

Side Two:

1. "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry"   Bob Dylan 3:30
2. "Season of the Witch"   Donovan Leitch 11:07
3. "You Don't Love Me"   Willie Cobbs 4:11
4. "Harvey's Tune"   Harvey Brooks 2:07

Mike Bloomfield — guitars on side one
Stephen Stills — guitars on side two
Barry Goldberg — electric piano on "Albert's Shuffle" and "Stop"
Harvey Brooks — bass
Eddie Hoh — drums, percussion 

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