Sunday, February 3, 2008

Blood Sweat & Tears -- "Child is Father to the Man"

Al Kooper (organ, piano, vocals), Steve Katz (guitar), Fred Lipsius (piano, horn arrangements, Saxophone), Bobby Columby (Drums, percussion), Jim Fiedler (bass), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Dick Halligan (trombone), Jerry Weiss (trumpet), John Simon (arranger, organ, cowbell).

"What?" you say. "How is Blood Sweat & Tears forgotten? They're songs are all over classic rock radio!"

Well, obviously, this is another Blood Sweat & Tears.

Note that there is no mention of David Clayton-Thomas. He wasn't part of the group at the time Child is Father to the Man was made. The album and group were part of the genius of Al Kooper.

Kooper broke into music as a member of the Royal Teens (who had a small hit before Kooper joined with "Short Shorts," written by Bob Gaudio before he became a Jersey Boy). He quickly became a fixture of the New York music scene as a studio musician and cowrote "This Diamond Ring." He was asked to observe a Bob Dylan recording session and was able to get himself hired on the spot to play organ on "Like a Rolling Stone" (despite the fact most of his session work was on the guitar) and on Blonde on Blonde. After Dylan, he was asked to join the Blues Project, a well-regarded jazz-blues group of the era.

In 1967, with the Blues Project broken up, Kooper got together with a few other musicians -- Jim Fiedler (fresh from a gig with Buffalo Springfield), Steve Katz (a friend from the Blues Project), and Bobby Columby -- with a new idea for a group, something that would merge rock and jazz, using jazz horns the way rock bands used guitars. They played a few gigs together, and started to recruit a horn section.

The result was Blood Sweat and Tears.

In 1968, their album was released. It was a triumph. It started with an overture, which, like a Broadway overture, had snippets of the songs in the album. It was an eclectic mix. Kooper wrote a good deal of the material, but there were songs by Harry Nilsson ("Without Her"), Randy Newman ("Just One Smile"), and Jeff Buckley ("Morning Glory'). There's the paranoid blues of "Something's Going On" (about a man afraid his lover is leaving him), the blusey "I'll Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," and the love song, "I Can't Quit Her." There's the gloriously goofy "Life in the Country," and Steve Katz's song to his young daughter, "Megan's Gypsy Eyes." There really isn't a bad cut on the records.

The album did OK, grazing the bottom of the charts and showing a promishing new group.

But Kooper, always restless, left. He returned to playing as a session musician, and became a producer, where he helped discover Lynyrd Skynyrd and gave the Zombies their last big hit. He put out some solo albums, along with a couple of live albums -- Super Session (with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills) and The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper -- both of which were big sellers at the time.

The rest of Blood Sweat & Tears, of course, continued. Columby and Katz decided to find a new vocalist; the result of David Clayton-Thomas and superstardom (which deemphasized the Jazz background in the first album). Many people who liked the second (hit) album may have gone back to hear the first and be confused and disappointed (I know I was).

As time goes one, Child is Father to the Man is being recognized as a milestone in 60s music. If you hate Blood Sweat & Tears, then you may want to give it a listen.

5 comments:

candlemasus said...

great band i been lost in time with this band the only i know is al kooper

anastasios said...

A really nice album, bluesy and jazzy full of dynamic passages and beautiful fuzzy guitar with crystal horns,deversed from their more commercial second but as reviewer writes deserves a close listen in order to respect

Don said...

Nice description, with one factual error. Morning Glory was written by Larry Beckett and Tim Buckley, Jeff Buckley's father. Both Tim and Larry were classmates of Jim Fielder at Loara High School, in Anaheim, California.

Bill Reynolds said...

Sorry to keep breaking in like this, but I have a history with these guys, too. I saw the Al Kooper lineup in late 1967 as an unannounced special guest at a James Cotton Blues Band show at the Café au Go Go. He hadn't named the band yet and they were announced as "Al Kooper's new band". Of course Kooper felt right at home at the Café au Go Go because the Blues Project had played and recorded there. I saw the David Clayton-Thomas lineup twice at the Fillmore East. They were OK, but always a disappointment after the Child album. Bobby Columby once bought drumsticks from me one evening in the late 1070s when I was working at Sam Goody. He told me that he had the rights to the name Blood, Sweat and Tears and would tour using hired musicians. In 1994, for his 50th birthday, Kooper played the Bottom Line with a reunited Blues Project (who I'd seen in a couple of reunions there earlier in the '90s), an ensemble under the Child is Father to the Man moniker (I guess Bobby still owned the original name) who played that album basically straight through (the string quartet was on tape), and a 3rd set of some of his solo material. He released that concert as a double CD, but Katz (whose relationship with Kooper was always strained - the latter alleges that he was fired from his own band) refused to sign a release to appear on the album. Jimmy Vivino (Uncle Floyd's brother) overdubbed Katz' guitar parts and none of Steve's vocal leads from the first 2 sets could be used.

Bill Reynolds said...

That should be "1970s", obviously.