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Archive for the ‘Michael Bloomfield’ Category

Audio Fidelity In Surround: Label Premieres Kooper’s Multichannel “Super Session,” Reissues Benson’s “Breezin'” In 5.1

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Super Session SACDThanks to the dedication of audiophile specialty labels like Audio Fidelity, Analogue Productions, and Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, the high-resolution Super Audio CD (SACD) format remains alive and well.   Yet most of these labels’ recent releases have featured stereo mixes only.  Audio Fidelity is finally making its first major leap into the world of 5.1 multi-channel surround sound with two upcoming reissues of classic albums including one long-coveted title.  On August 5, the label will premiere Al Kooper’s never-before-issued surround mix of his seminal 1968 Super Session album, a collaborative effort with Michael Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.  The label also restores to print the surround mix of George Benson’s 1976 commercial breakthrough Breezin’, which topped the U.S. Pop, Jazz and R&B Albums charts.  In addition, both of these hybrid CD releases will also happily feature the albums’ original stereo mixes as newly remastered by Steve Hoffman.  (The stereo mixes will be playable on both the SACD and standard CD layers whereas the surround mixes, of course, can only be played on SACD-compatible players.)

Having departed his group Blood, Sweat and Tears, Al Kooper was working in A&R (Artists and Repertoire) for the band’s label Columbia Records when he conceived of a blues-rock jam session record with Mike Bloomfield of The Electric Flag and Paul Butterfield Blues Band fame.  Enlisting Barry Goldberg and Harvey Brooks (both of The Electric Flag) and “Fast” Eddie Hoh for support, producer-keyboardist Kooper booked two days of studio time in Los Angeles in May 1968.  The group jammed on a number of songs the first day, including Kooper/Bloomfield originals “Albert’s Shuffle,” “Really” and the John Coltrane tribute “His Holy Modal Majesty.”  When Bloomfield failed to show up for the second day of the session, however, Kooper called in young gun Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield.  The guitar slinger joined Kooper for songs by Bob Dylan (“It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”), Donovan (“Season of the Witch”), bluesman Willie Cobb and bassist Brooks.  With both Bloomfield and Stills firing on all cylinders, Kooper’s Super Session, issued in July 1968, went on to a Gold certification.

Kooper revisited Super Session early in the 2000s for a 5.1 surround mix to be issued by Legacy Recordings alongside a new surround mix of BS&T’s Child is Father of the Man.  Unfortunately with the label abandoning the SACD format, both titles were relegated to the vaults.  Kooper confirmed this in 2004: “They both came out incredible and so I mastered them with Bob Ludwig. Now it seems they will languish on the shelves…”  Audio Fidelity has belatedly come to the rescue.  The label’s deluxe Super Session reissue will feature new liner notes by the great raconteur Kooper chronicling both the making of the album and the 5.1 mix.  Kooper’s mix, mastered by Ludwig, will be joined by a new mastering of the stereo tracks for SACD Stereo and CD Stereo by engineer Steve Hoffman.

After the jump: details on the new edition of George Benson’s Breezin’, and more! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 27, 2014 at 10:16

Review: Michael Bloomfield, “From His Head to His Heart to His Hands”

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mike-bloomfield-box“I think we’ve exploited you enough.  I just want you to know I’m signing you!”  With those words, spoken by John Hammond Sr. and heard on the first disc of Legacy Recordings’ new 3-CD/1-DVD box set From His Head to His Heart to His Hands, Michael Bloomfield became a Columbia Records recording artist.  Though he died in 1981 at the age of 37, the blues guitarist extraordinaire left behind a substantial body of work in a variety of musical settings.  Perhaps he never fulfilled the entirety of his tremendous promise, having battled personal demons for much of his too-short life.  But the “sweet blues” left behind by Bloomfield speaks volumes in this invitingly personal “Audio/Visual Scrapbook” curated by his longtime friend and collaborator Al Kooper.

The three discs of From His Head to His Heart to His Hands are helpfully organized in rough chronological fashion as “Roots,” “Jams” and “Last Licks.”  It starts at the very beginning – always a very good place to start, natch – with three previously unreleased from the birth of Bloomfield’s career, recorded at an audition session for the legendary Hammond.  Although the Chicago-born Bloomfield was just in his early twenties, he had already soaked up the essence of that city’s storied blues.  Hammond clearly cottoned to the young man’s mastery of the guitar.  Accompanied only by bassist Bill Lee, Bloomfield showed off the styles which he had perfected, including Merle Travis-inspired “ragtime” guitar.  He also introduced Hammond to his guttural, growled vocals; as a singer, Bloomfield was a tremendous guitarist!  But if his voice was rough around the edges, it was – like his virtuosic guitar playing – all heart.

Kooper’s tour of Bloomfield’s early years continues with raucous live blues, recorded (where else?) in Chicago with fellow white bluesman Charlie Musselwhite, and then with a powerful one-two-three punch of sessions with Bob Dylan, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and The Electric Flag.  The newly-remixed backing track of Dylan’s revolutionary “Like a Rolling Stone” shows how deft Bloomfield’s country-western lead guitar could be in a band setting – subtle yet forceful and distinctive, so well-integrated with Kooper’s washes of organ, Dylan’s guitar and harmonica, Bobby Gregg’s booming, thunderous drums, Joe Mack’s anchoring bass, and Paul Griffin’s ironically rollicking barroom piano.

A previously unreleased alternate version of “Tombstone Blues” with Columbia recording artists The Chambers Brothers on backing vocals is another thrill. (This is not same take previously issued on The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home.)   Bloomfield’s searing rockabilly-meets-the-blues lead and The Chambers’ earthy backups add to the gritty authenticity of Dylan’s dark, oblique, impressionistic story with its references to Ma Rainey, Beethoven and Cecil B. DeMille.  This “Tombstone” is yet another example of how Dylan synthesized so many styles of music into something utterly new and shocking – and how integral Bloomfield was to the singular sound of Highway 61 Revisited.

Dylan plays a major role, too, bookending the set.  A never-before-released live track from San Francisco circa 1980 is a bittersweet treat.  It’s prefaced by a touching, affectionate introduction that leaves one hankering for the days when Bob would actually address the audience in concert.   Dylan storms and seethes through “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar” with Bloomfield smoothly ingratiating himself into the band with a smoking turn alongside guitarist Fred Tackett (Jimmy Webb, Little Feat) and the gospel backing vocals of Clydie King and company.  As with Kooper, Bloomfield was so sympathetic to Dylan that his instrument could translate and express his musical partner’s vision as his own.

Bloomfield had a similar connection with Paul Butterfield, sharing guitar duties with Elvin Bishop on the driving blues-with-a-beat of “Born in Chicago” and the torrid my baby-up-and-left-me “Blues with a Feeling” (both from 1965’s The Paul Butterfield Blues Band).  The sequence of the Butterfield tracks builds to the 13+-minute jam “East/West.”  One can hear the roots of Santana in the Latin vibe of its opening strains.  It builds in fury and fire, with Bloomfield’s guitar leading a small, electric (and electrifying) group that packs the power of a blues orchestra.  He evinces the variety and invention of a jazz improviser as the song shifts moods as he builds solos on a single chord and creatively performs them in different scales.

The guitarist’s early arc culminates, at the conclusion of Disc One, with a brace of performances with The Electric Flag.  There’s still a certain incongruity to Mike Bloomfield leading a horn band; Al Kooper points out the similarity to his own history in his entertaining introductory note.  (Both men left their “outré blues bands” to form horn bands and then exited those horn bands after just one album!)  The Flag largely resisted the temptations of pop, however.  Proof can be found on the two scorching live tracks here, both of which are previously unreleased.  Perhaps “blues with horns” was simply a concept too far ahead of its time; the Kooper-founded Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago both proved the viability of jazz-rock with horns (and had massive success when marrying that sensibility to pop melodies).  Five selections from The Electric Flag do, however, demonstrate the band’s versatility.  Yet the Electric Flag was too short-lived (and as the liner notes reveal, too plagued by drugs and interpersonal problems) to fully succeed.   But even for just a while, Bloomfield, Harvey Brooks, Nick Gravenites, Barry Goldberg, Buddy Miles and co. created one hell of a joyful noise.

After the jump: much more on Mike’s blues! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

February 5, 2014 at 10:49

Release Round-Up: Week of February 4

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Together OST CDBurt Bacharach, Together? — Original Soundtrack Recording / Toomorrow: From the Harry Saltzman-Don Kirshner Film “Toomorrow” — Original Soundtrack Recording / The Mamas and the Papas, A Gathering of Flowers / Brotherhood, The Complete Recordings / Smith, A Group Called Smith/Minus-Plus / Troyka, Troyka / Jim Reeves, A Beautiful Life — Songs of Inspiration / The Grateful Dead, Dick’s Picks Vol. 20 — Capital Centre, Landover, MD 9/25/76 — Onondaga County War Memorial, Syracuse, NY 9/28/76 (Real Gone Music)

What could be better than this Real Gone bounty, featuring a classic compilation by The Mamas and The Papas, an exciting compilation by Brotherhood, a post Paul Revere & The Raiders combo, and two exceptional, long-out-of-print soundtracks? How about those latter two soundtracks making their way to domestic CD with liner notes from The Second Disc’s very own Joe Marchese? I’d call that a big yes!

Together?Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
ToomorrowAmazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Mamas and The Papas: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Brotherhood: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Smith: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Troyka: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Jim Reeves: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Grateful Dead: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Otis Redding - King of SoulAretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul / Otis Redding, The King of Soul (Atlantic/Rhino)

Two of the most legendary performers in the Atlantic soul catalogue are newly anthologized with simple four-disc overviews.

Aretha: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Otis: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

mike-bloomfield-boxMichael Bloomfield, From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (Legacy)

One of the best (and most unfairly obscure) guitarists of the 1960s gets his due in a new career-spanning box set featuring three CDs of favorites and rarities and a new film about the late performer, who played with Bob Dylan, Al Kooper, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and others. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Tina Turner Love SongsTina Turner, Love Songs (Parlophone)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a new romantically-inclined compilation from another all-time soul queen. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Small Faces - Here Come the NiceThe Small Faces, Here Come The Nice: The Immediate Years 1967-1969 (Charly/Snapper Classics)

An exhaustive new box set (exclusive to Amazon) featuring all of the mod legends’ single sides for the Immediate label, rare and unreleased studio outtakes, four repressed vinyl EPs/acetates and a load of extra content, including replica press kits, posters, art prints, a hardbound book and more. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)


The Day Before of Wine and Roses

The Dream Syndicate, The Day Before of Wine and Roses (Omnivore)

A killer live set recorded at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, weeks prior to the recording of The Dream Syndicate’s seminal debut. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

rainbow_singles_box_setRainbow, Singles Box (Polydor/UMC)

A 19-disc box replicating various 45s from Ritchie Blackmore’s iconic rock combo. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Gene, Olympian To See the Lights Drawn to the Deep End Revelations Libertine: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

All five of the alt-rock/Britpop band’s standard albums (including the B-sides compilation To See the Lights) have been newly expanded as double-disc sets in casebound packages, all featuring rare B-sides and some unreleased live material and demos throughout.

Olympian: Amazon U.K.
To See the Lights: Amazon U.K.
Drawn to the Deep End: Amazon U.K.
Revelations: Amazon U.K.
Libertine: Amazon U.K.

Cast, All Change / Mother Nature Calls / Magic Hour Beetroot: Deluxe Editions (Edsel)

In the same vein as Gene, John Power’s band after the dissolution of The La’s was notable in the Britpop era, particularly for debut All Change, the highest-selling debut in Polydor Records’ history. All four of their albums have been expanded as triple-disc (double in the case of Beetroot) sets, including rare B-sides and other material as well as DVDs packed with music videos, live appearances and new interviews with Power about each album.

All Change: Amazon U.K.
Mother Nature Calls: Amazon U.K.
Magic Hour: Amazon U.K.
Beetroot: Amazon U.K.

Jon Anderson, Olias of Sunhillow / Alice Cooper, Billion Dollar Babies (Audio Fidelity) / The Doobie Brothers, Stampede / Dean Martin, This Time I’m Swingin’ / Frank Sinatra, Point of No Return (Mobile Fidelity)

The latest hi-def offerings. Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman respectively master the Audio Fidelity gold disc titles, while MFSL offers two crooners and a ’70s rock band on hybrid SACD.

Jon Anderson: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Alice Cooper: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
The Doobie Brothers: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Dean Martin: Amazon U.S.
Frank Sinatra: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Sweet Blues: Guitar Legend Mike Bloomfield Celebrated On New Box, Bob Dylan Tracks Debut on Set

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???????The time was 1965, the place was Columbia Records’ studios on Seventh Avenue in New York City between 52nd and 53rd Streets, the occasion was the recording of Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. Al Kooper – he of the famed organ riff that propelled “Like a Rolling Stone” – recalled, “Suddenly Dylan exploded through the doorway with this bizarre-looking guy carrying a Fender Telecaster guitar without a case. It was weird, because it was storming outside and the guitar was all wet from the rain. But the guy just shuffled over into the corner, wiped it off with a rag, plugged in, and commenced to play some of the most incredible guitar I’ve ever heard. And he was just warming up!”

Kooper recounts the whole story of his first encounter with Michael Bloomfield in his indispensable tome Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards. Kooper’s fateful introduction to “the man who can still make me pack up my guitar whenever his music is played” led to the seminal Super Session record in 1968 and further collaborations. Now, decades later, Kooper has produced and curated what may well be the definitive anthology dedicated to the music of Michael Bloomfield, the guitarist Bob Dylan recognized as “the best.”  On February 4, 2014, Legacy Recordings will unveil From His Head To His Heart To His Hands, a career-spanning 3-CD/1-DVD box set chronicling the life and times of the late artist.  The box premieres a number of unreleased tracks including rare cuts from Bob Dylan like an alternate of “Tombstone Blues” featuring The Chambers Brothers, or a Bloomfield/Dylan live performance of “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar.”

Born in Chicago and discovered by Columbia’s John Hammond, Bloomfield participated in sessions for the label in 1964 but soon joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band alongside Butterfield, Elvin Bishop, Sam Lay, Jerome Arnold and Mark Naftalin.  But the same year Butterfield’s group debuted with its first Elektra long-player (1965), Bloomfield was making history with his friend Bob Dylan. In addition to lending his scorching guitar to Highway 61, Bloomfield was among the musicians backing Dylan on his legendary, first-ever electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival.  But there were many other paths for the guitarist with the fire in his soul to pursue.  He joined the genre-bending “horn band” The Electric Flag in 1967, debuting with the group at the Monterey Pop Festival and issuing a 1968 album on Columbia.  Shortly after the album’s release, The Electric Flag imploded, but Bloomfield bounced back that same year.

Super Session was recorded with Al Kooper, the composer-singer-organist behind the original Blood, Sweat and Tears.  David Fricke wrote in 2001, “Bloomfield and Kooper, with pianist Barry Goldberg, bassist Harvey Brooks [both of The Electric Flag] and drummer Eddie Hoh, cut enough music for one whole side of an LP…[but] Bloomfield didn’t play another note on the record.  A chronic insomniac sinking into long-term heroin addiction, he abruptly split for home the next day, leaving Kooper to finish the album with a hastily recruited Steve Stills.  But what Bloomfield left behind is still the best half an album in late-Sixties rock.”  Bloomfield continued making incendiary music until his untimely death in 1981 at the age of 37.  In addition to recording solo albums such as 1969’s debut It’s Not Killing Me, Bloomfield found time to perform and record with Janis Joplin, Dr. John, John Cale, and The KGB Band (with Ray Kennedy and Barry Goldberg) and even sat in again with Dylan in 1980.

What will you find on the new box?  Hit the jump for details and the full track listing, plus pre-order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 23, 2013 at 13:16