Hot Platters: The Blues Project - Projections (Verve/Folkways 1966)

"One of the first album-oriented, underground groups in the United States, the Blues Project offered an electric brew of rock, blues, folk, pop, and even some jazz, classical, and psychedelia during their brief heyday in the mid-'60s. It's not quite accurate to categorize them as a blues-rock group, although they did plenty of that kind of material; they were more like a Jewish-American equivalent to British bands like the Yardbirds, who used a blues and R&B base to explore any music that interested them." (Richie Unterberger / All Music)

TRACK LIST

01. I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes 

02, Steve's Song 

03. You Can't Catch Me 

04. Two Trains Running 

05. Wake Me, Shake Me 

06. Cheryl's Coming Home 

07. Flute Thing 

08. Caress Me Baby 

09. Fly Away

 

The Blues Project

Steve Katz (vocals, guitar, harmonica) 

Al Kooper (vocals, guitar, keyboards) 

Danny Kalb (vocals, guitar) 

Andy Kulberg (flute, bass) 

Roy Blumenfeld (drums) 

 

Hmmm...I can hear somebody out there in the ether saying, "Say who were The Blues Project anyhow?" Formed in the Greenwich Village section of New York city in 1965, the band was one of the first psychedelic "jam" bands in rock and roll. Much like Grateful Dead, their sound was heavily influenced by a wide variety of folk, early rock and blues styles. The band's first album, Live At The Cafe Au Go-Go, received a moderate response from the record buying public in 1966. A real turning point for the band came while they were on the road promoting their first effort and they played a gig at Bill Graham's Fillmore to much acclaim. Recording began on Projections shortly after this trip and from the sound of the record one suspects that some of the West Coast weed vibe had definitely had some sort of effect on the sounds they were making in the recording studio. 

"the group truly hit their stride on Projections (late 1966), which was, disappointingly, their only full-length studio recording. While they went through straight blues numbers with respectable energy, they really shone best on the folk and jazz-influenced tracks, like Fly Away, Katz's lilting Steve's Song, Kooper'sjazz instrumental Flute Thing (an underground radio standard that's probably their most famous track), and Kooper's fierce adaptation of an old Blind Willie Johnson number, I Can't Keep from Crying. A non-LP single from this era, the pop-psychedelic No Time Like the Right Time, was their greatest achievement and one of the best "great hit singles that never were" of the decade." (Richie Unterberger / All Music)

From The Best Classic Bands website: "In just a year the Blues Project had developed into a formidable and creative exploratory force, incorporating elements of other genres ranging from folk to jazz and tossing it all into a psychedelic blender. Although the track list this time around was still tilted toward cover material, both Kooper and Katz also contributed songs, suggesting that they were not such purists that they were restricted to updating the works of the Chicago and Delta masters....Considering it was recorded in three days with little preparation, Projections, with a cover pic by famed rock photographer Jim Marshall and liner notes by the band’s new manager, (Beatles concert promoter) Sid Bernstein, who called the album “a work of determination,” did OK, reaching #52 on the BillboardLP chart."

 

More info from the Wikipedia website: "Projections was certainly more ambitious than their first album, boasting an eclectic set of songs that ran the gamut from blues, R&B, jazz, psychedelia and folk rock. The centerpiece of the album was an 11-and-a-half minute version of Two Trains Running, which, along with other songs on the album, showed off their improvisational tendencies. One such song was the instrumental, Flute Thing, written by Kooper and featuring Kulberg.  Soon after the album was complete, the band began to fall apart."

 

Al Kooper quit the band in the spring of 1967, and the band soldiered on and completed a third album, Live At Town Hall.  Despite the name only one song was recorded live at Town Hall, while the rest was made up of live recordings from other venues or of studio outtakes with overdubbed applause to feign a live sound. 

The Blues Project's last hurrah took place at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. 

A fourth Blues Project album called Planned Obsolescence, which was recorded in 1968, featured only drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist Andy Kulberg from the original line-up.  After the dismal failure of Planned Obsolescence, Blumenfeld and Kulberg were involved in the formation of the American Roots Fusion band, Seatrain.

From an interview with Al Kooper on the Folk Works.org site:

"Folk Works: Most notable for our readers is your being a part of Blues Project and founding Blood, Sweat and Tears. It seems you've specialized in breaking new ground in musical genre. Is this something that you pursued or did it pursue you? 

Al Kooper: I was the last person to join the Blues Project. I don't consider myself a founder or co-founder of that band. Just a 1/5 participant. My role was to write songs, arrange music, play keyboards (and occasionally guitar) and sing. In that order. Blood Sweat & Tears was a concept I had in my head that I finally had to bring to fruition. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how you look at it, I cast it in such a way that it quickly brought about my demise as a member and writer. Some of my arrangements were used on the second album, but they weren't played at the right tempos, etc. I'm glad, artistically (but not financially) that I got out when I did. I did not agree with the Las Vegas sheen the band had on it from that point on. But they sold a l.ot of records and made a lot of money. I was more interested in the direction I was headed on that first album."

 

In 1968, Al Kooper and Steve Katz joined forced to form Blood Sweat & Tears, the first rock band to feature a horn section.  Kooper ended up leaving the band shortly after the release of the group's first album, Child Is Father To The Man, to pursue a solo career and producer.  As a producer, he works with Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Tubes, Nils Lofgren, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Ray Charles, B.B. King, The Staple Singers, Lorraine Ellison, Bob Dylan, Joe Ely, Thelonious Monster and Green On Red.


Al Kooper also went on to write a great memoir about his life in the music business called Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards.  

Danny Kalb went on to fashion a career as a blues artist and still continues to perform and release albums.  Here's a recent article on Kalb which was posted on the smartset.com site: A Minor Rock Star: A nostalgic look at The Blues Project's Danny Kalb.

 

In 2015, Steve Katz released a memoir of his life in the music business...Blood, Sweat and My Rock N' Roll Years (Lyons Press)

Steve Katz, Roy Bluemenfeld, Jesse Williams, Ken Clark & Mick Connolly join together as The Blues Project. The Blues Project was formed in 1965 and their songs draw from a wide array of musical styles, making them a great classic rock band crowd pleaser! They are most remembered as one of the most artful practitioners of pop music, influenced as it was by folk, blues, RnB, jazz and the pop music of the day. Their hits such as "No Time Like The Right Time," "Flute Thing" and "Steve's Song" have seen different incarnations play them over time, and we're excited for the current, power packed line up fronted by original member Steve Katz and Roy Blumenfeld!

It's all happening TONIGHT!

THURS OCT 3rd

THE BLUES PROJECT

My Father's Place @ The Roslyn Hotel

Purchase Tickets HERE

 

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE BLUES PROJECT , ‘PROJECTIONS': EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS

 


 

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