A Look at Al Kooper's Home Movie
by Ray D'Ariano

Wanna see a great little flick about a rock legend?

Sure you do. But hang in there for a moment& "The Allman Brothers Live At The Fillmore East" is often said to be the greatest live album ever recorded. It's not. Don't get me wrong it is a spectacular recording of a brilliant performance by one of the greatest bands in history. It's just not the greatest of all time. I've decided it comes in second place. See, last month I got a new iPod and was digging through a trunk pulling out dozens of CD's that I hadn't heard in a while so that I could load them into my new toy. There it was Al Kooper's "Soul Of A Man," the greatest live album of all time. The iPod project was put on hold and I spent some time with this old favorite. Not only did the collection stand up, it was even better than I remembered.

The interesting thing is like the Allman's album "Soul Of A Man" was also recorded in New York City. It all went down at The Bottom Line on the occasion of Al's 50th birthday celebration back in 1994. There were three sets a night. The first featured a reunited Blues Project. The second set had a lot of the boys from the original Blood Sweat and Tears guys like Jim Fielder, Randy Brecker, Lou Soloff and Fred Lipsius. The third set featured The Rekooperators and guest stars like John Sebastian and Chuck Berry's pianist, the great Johnnie Johnson.

They performed stuff from Al's entire recording career including Flute Thing, Somethin' Goin' On, I Can't Quit Her, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Season Of The Witch, and Just One Smile. All those and more make up the double CD. Now I'm not saying "Soul Of A Man" is the greatest live rock album ever because it's not just rock. The set contains country, blues, pop, jazz, and rock. I'm suggesting that it is the greatest overall live album of all time. The production quality is outstanding and it's probably the best Al Kooper compilation ever.

No discussion of great live albums would be complete without paying tribute to Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" from the early 70's. This is a true classic from what turned out to be a one of a kind tour that featured Leon Russell, Rita Coolidge, Bobby Keyes, and the rest of the 43-member entourage. The large group were all on the same stage kicking out amazing tunes like: The Letter, Space Captain, Feelin' Alright, With A Little Help From My Friends, Delta Lady and Honky Tonk Woman. The DVD of the tour's theatrical film came out last year.

Now let me tie this all together. When I rediscovered "Soul Of A Man" for the iPod project I decided to go to Kooper's web site and send him an email to say hi and thank him. While at the site I stumbled across a note that read: "Free Video!! To see Al's homemade video of his Italy/Scandinavian tour click here". CLICK& and there it was "Heady Spaghetti and Salmon on the Hammond."

Al's documentary is somewhat shorter than the Cocker DVD, which is a shame because the 25 minutes or so of sound checks, bits of concert performances with The Funky Faculty, backstage footage and interviews are tremendous. Al tells some fantastic stories including one about a phone call from George Harrison. I don't want to spoil the party so I'll let you hear it for yourself on the video.

The glimpses into Kooper the artist relaxing backstage and dealing with questions that he's been asked a thousand times by interviewers offers an insight into the man's patience, not to mention his total understanding of what he means to people. Small flashes of his wit are also exposed. He is a wise road warrior who has seen and done it all and a man who totally understands his gig.

"Heady Spaghetti and Salmon on the Hammond" was videotaped by ML Liebler, directed by Liebler and Al Kooper and features the talents of Bob Doezema - guitar, Larry Finn - Drums, Jeff Stout - Trumpet, Daryl Lowery - alto sax & flute, and Jessie Williams - bass.

Go to www.alkooper.com and check it out. It's a treat. I wish they'd release a two-hour version like the Cocker flick, but I'm thankful for the short film that does exist.

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