AL KOOPER - Rekooperation (1994) & Soul of a Man: Al Kooper Live (1995)
The best of all of Al Kooper's studio albums, Rekooperation is a mostly instrumental album, on which the artist (playing organ and piano, and occasional guitar) and a band including Jimmy Vivino, Harvey Brooks, and Fred Walcott, among others, roar and pound their way through a baker's dozen of R&B, rock & roll, and soul classics. Everything from chestnuts like "Soul Twist," "Honky Tonk," "Johnny B. Goode," "Clean Up Woman," and " "Don't Be Cruel" to originals such as "Downtime" and "Alvino Johnson's Shuffle" without a notable gap in quality between them, are included - and the one vocal number, "I Wanna Little Girl," contains one of the finest singing performances that Kooper has ever turned in on record (but is also played so well, that it would work as an instrumental too). In many ways, this recording is a distant cousin to Blood, Sweat & Tears' Child Is Father to the Man, and was his first attempt at leading a band since that 1968 venture, which was sort of fitting since it led to Soul of a Man, Kooper's live-in-concert career retrospective album, the next time out.
A gift from heaven is the only adequate way of describing this superb double-CD set, which comes in a slipcase with a neat little booklet. It is the definitive Al Kooper solo project, and a career reconsideration and retrospective, but it's also damn close to definitive as a document of the Blues Project and the original Blood, Sweat & Tears as well. At three February 1994 gigs at New York's Bottom Line, Kooper got together the original members of both bands (with BS&T billed as "Child Is Father to the Man") and his own Rekooperators, including John Simon and Harvey Brooks, with John Sebastian sitting in on harmonica, to perform new versions of 33 years' worth of repertory. The eerie thing is that it sounds like Kooper didn't skip a beat between the last shows of any of those bands and these gigs - his voice is better than ever, and the performance on "I Can't Quit Her" (a song he introduces by saying he hates playing it "except with these guys" - the original BS&T) and the rest of the '60s repertory has all of the energy one could wish for, and more precision than the group might have achieved in 1968 (and certainly better sound).