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29 Jun 2017

The Blues Project “Reunion In Central Park” 1973 Live US Blues Rock

The Blues Project “Reunion In Central Park” 1973 Live US Blues Rock

Considering the acrimony with which the original lineup had broken up six years earlier -- Tommy Flanders (who wasn't even here for this event) stomping out at the end of the group's beginning and Al Kooper cast out in an internal hijacking at the beginning of its end -- this ranks as one of the most artistically successful reunions in blues or rock. The participants are all on the same page and, to judge from the evidence of this recording, in the same groove from beginning to end. The rocking numbers like "You Can't Catch Me" work the best, but tracks like "Steve's Song" and "Louisiana Blues" are equally rewarding. If there were any personality conflicts, they don't show, and while Kooper and Danny Kalb are in the best position to shine, everyone acquits themselves well, and the quintet creates a truly long-lasting concert document of their work. Most important, the members seem to respect their own past -- and re-create it with spontaneity and energy. And the sound quality is first-rate as Bruce Eder.....allmusic.................

Reunion in Central Park has to be among the rare few good "reunion" albums ever released. It's almost like the engaging, but somewhat weak-sounding band on Projections spent six years learning their instruments, and learning how to, er...project. Which, in a way, is exactly what they had been doing. My only quarrel with it is that it really is a dead-end. The band was finished, and as good as the album is, it really relies on what was ancient material by then. As a last hurrah, it's great. As part of the rock continuum, it is barely a footnote. However, I am glad it exists, because what was best about the Blues Project does not survive on their studio albums.

If you don't mind, I would like to use your Blues Project thread as a (rare) opportunity to be perhaps the first person on the planet to offer praise for the universally-hated Blues Project album of 1972, which preceded this one. This album is so despised, it has never received a proper reissue after going out of print more than 40 years ago (it was part of a lousy sounding two-fer with Lazarus, the preceding album, also largely disliked and long out-of-print). I admit it isn't a great album, although it isn't awful, and reminds me a bit of the Band. The return of Tommy Flanders returns some vocal strength to the band, and there's nothing really wrong with the playing.

The universal dismissal of this album means the world at large has never heard what I consider to be the best cover of a Tim Hardin song ever, one that significantly improves the original by adding a simple-but-effective chorus the original lacked. I dig the bass too, which threatens to fall into a hole around 2:30, and digs itself out at the last second... I don't know how this can be on an album that is truly 'awful'. .................

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 the United states earlier in the year signified the end of the folk and acoustic blues movement that had swept the US in the early 1960s.

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 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 played on the "Like a Rolling stone" recording session for Bob Dylan's 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 recording 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

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. ..........

Believe it or not, but the original Blues Project did come back together in 1973 — if even the Byrds could have a reunion, why not the noble act that tried to carry on the relay? (It wasn't their fault, after all, that time was speeding up way too fast for them). Everybody except for Tommy Flanders is here, yet somehow, the inspiration just wasn't there to try for some creativity — instead, The Original Blues Project, as they call themselves on the sleeve, embarked on a brief American tour, culminating in a free show in New York's Central Park, almost a whole decade before Simon & Garfunkel popularized the idea on a wider scale.

Actually, according to Al's own memories, the LP continues the band's tradition of strange «semi-fakes»: only the audience reaction comes from Central Park, while most, if not all, of the per­for­mances come from earlier shows (in Washington), where the atmosphere, Al says, was more «spontaneous». Not that it would probably matter much — I'd bet anything that The Blues Pro­ject at their worst differed little from The Blues Project at their best: mediocre bands do have that slight benefit of consistency, you know.

The setlist is largely predictable: Projections done in almost all of their entirety, plus a couple additional live favorites from the early days — no attempts whatsoever at sinking their teeth into anything written in the post-Kooper epoch. The surprising glaring omission is ʽFlute Thingʼ, which made me double-check if Kulberg was present at the show at all, yet apparently, he was, and they did perform the song, but, for some reason, left it off the final album, even if, the album being a double one, there was most certainly enough space remaining for it. Maybe Andy forgot to oil the flute or something, or perhaps they consciously decided that it would be a cool gesture to leave their best-known and most-respected composition off the reunion album — you know, so it wouldn't go multi-platinum and turn them into commercial sluts.

Seriously, though, this is a decent performance, delivered with such confidence as if it were 1966 all over again — the band plunges into old-school dance-blues of Muddy's, rockabilly of Chuck's, and starry-eyed folk idealism of Donovan's with such vehemence you'd think the world still lived and breathed these tunes in 1973. However, once we get past this element of energetic surprise there is little else to say — except that the slow blues numbers (ʽCaress Me Babyʼ and particular­ly the excruciatingly tedious journey through the twelve minutes of ʽTwo Trains Runningʼ) are predictably uninteresting, and that, with their exclusion, the album could have been a far more elegant and economic single LP.

Since Kooper had already established himself as a solo artist by that point, it was obvious that the reunion would not last long — this was, in fact, the last time that The Blues Project blipped on the radar, although, rumor has it, in recent years Katz and Blumenfeld have brought the name back from the grave once again, touring as «The Blues Project» with a bunch of sidemen (hope­fully, we will be spared any new studio recordings). As a last goodbye, Reunion In Central Park plays its part with sufficient conviction — more credibly, at least, than the Kalb-dominated bland platters from 1971-72. But if you want a good live album by The Blues Project... then again, I am not even sure why you should want a live album by The Blues Project in the first place. Just get Al Kooper's Soul Of A Man instead..........................

Recorded live at The Schaffer Festival, Central Park, New York, on June 24, 1973.

Bass – Andy Kulberg
Drums – Roy Blumenfeld
Organ [Hammond], Clavinet [Hohner], Mellotron, Synthesizer, Rhythm Guitar, Vocals – Al Kooper
Producer – Al Kooper, Andy Kulberg
Rhythm Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals, Percussion – Steve Katz
Vocals, Lead Guitar – Danny Kalb

A1 Introduction: Ron Delsener 0:37
A2 Louisiana Blues 3:38
A3 Steves Song 3:34
A4 Introduction: Al And Andy 0:42
A5 I Can't Keep From Cryin' Sometimes 5:26
B1 You Can't Catch Me
Harp – Steve Katz
B2 Introduction: Al 0:55
B3 Fly Away
Harp – Steve Katz
B4 Caress Me Baby 7:36
C1 Introduction: Andy 0:35
C2 Catch The Wind 4:22
C3 (I Heard Her Say) Wake Me Shake Me 9:11
D1 Introduction: Danny Kalb 1:00
D2 Two Trains Running 13:30 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..





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