Wednesday, 9 February 2011

"Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis" by AL KOOPER and SHUGGIE OTIS (2007 Repertoire CD Remaster Of The Rare 1970 US Album) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Double Or Nothing..."

An impossibly cool album from the beginnings of 1970 (recorded in 1969) - and one that’s too bleeding difficult by far to find on original vinyl LP anyway – this fantastic CD reissue comes to our Bluesy rescue in 2014.

Originally released July 2007 (reissued 2014) - "Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis" by ALL KOOPER and SHUGGIE OTIS on Repertoire RES 2336 (Barcode 40009910233627) comes in natty CD card digipak repro sleeve and breaks down as follows (40:46 minutes):

THE SONGS (Side 1):
1. Bury My Body [Al Kooper song] - Al Kooper on Organ, Piano & Lead Vocals, Shuggie Otis On Guitar, The Harris Robinson Singers on Backing Vocals
2. Double Or Nothing [Instrumental cover of a Booker T. & The M.G.'s song from 1967] - Al Kooper on Organ, Mark "Moogy" Klingman on Piano, Shuggie Otis On Guitar
3. One Room Country Shack [Cover of a 1949 Blues song on Specialty Records by Mercy Dee Walton] - Al Kooper on Organ, Guitar & Lead Vocals, Shuggie Otis On Guitar
4. Lookin' For A Home [Cover of a 1961 Blues Song by 'Little Buster' Forehand]

THE BLUES (Side 2):
1. 12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues [Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis song] - Al Kooper on Organ and Piano, Mark "Moogy" Klingman on Piano, Shuggie Otis On Guitar
2. Shuggie's Old Time Dee-Di-Lee-Di-Leet-Deet Slide Boogie [Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis song] - Al Kooper on Piano, Shuggie Otis On Guitar
3. Shuggie's Shuffle [Al Kooper & Shuggie Otis song] - Al Kooper on Organ and Piano, Mark "Moogy" Klingman on Piano, Shuggie Otis On Guitar

Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Kooper Session - Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis" which was first released in January 1970 in the USA on Columbia Records CS-9951 and a few months later on CBS Records S 63979 in the UK.

"Kooper Session" featured a sensational new guitar prodigy called Johnny "Shuggie" Otis Jnr - son of the Fifties Rhythm 'n' Blues legend Johnny Otis - playing alongside Al Kooper and a group of complementary blues musicians (see credits above).

Capitalizing on his success with Stephen Stills, Mike Bloomfield and the first Blood, Sweat & Tears LP, Al Kooper was not only able to get the 15-year old Shuggie signed to a major label - he then produced and played on his debut album - and used his more famous name to get Shuggie noticed. Loose and even ramshackle in places, the record showcased the young wire-haired Californian guitar player and his extraordinarily accomplished playing. And it was hip and bluesy too...

The inner-flap of the digipak reproduces the Al Kooper liner notes on the rear of the original American album, while the 8-page booklet features in-the-studio photos of the session with new notes by respected UK music-writer CHRIS WELCH.

Side One was called "The Songs" and featured structured tunes - mostly blues covers - but Side Two called "The Blues" was instrumental loose jams (you can literally hear Shuggie say "...Take 1..." at the beginning of the superb instrumental "12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues"). Stu Woods from the group ARS NOVA played Bass, while Mark Klingman played organ and piano (would later become "Moogy" Klingman in TODD RUNDGREN'S UTOPIA) - but most of the time it was a duet guitar/vocal blues battle between Al Kooper and Shuggie Otis. The false 78" crackle added onto to National Steel Guitar blues of "Shuggie's Old Time..." may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it sounds gimmicky now and gets in the way of hearing the great guitar chops on show...

It doesn't say who did the remaster, but the sound is superb - full and none too trebled to the nines for effect. One or two of the tracks on Side 1 are a little hissy but I suspect that reflects the loose nature of the original recordings. Stateside they even tried a 7" single edit of "Bury My Body" (lyrics above) with "One Room Country Shack" as its B-side - but it made little headway. The album was well received though and paved the way for his solo debut proper - 1970's superlative "Here Comes Shuggie Otis".

"Kooper Session" is a good bluesy-based album and this reissue is a very reasonable way of getting a now hard-to-find vinyl album (especially in the UK)...

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