Al Kooper “I Stand Alone”

I Stand Alone

Al Kooper’s debut should really be heard by more people. This record was released by Columbia in 1968, sometime after Kooper had left the original Blood, Sweat and Tears. Casual listeners know Kooper as a mid-60’s Bob Dylan sideman, sometimes Mike Bloomfield/Shuggie Otis collaborator, respected record producer and keyboard player in the legendary underground New York City group, the Blues Project. Kooper left behind many fine solo records in the late 60’s and 70’s but I Stand Alone is something special, a disc that captures it’s place and time very well.

I Stand Alone is one of those records that’s inventive in a post Sgt. Pepper way, ambitious in its wide array of styles, experimental within a pop context and bound to confuse at least a few listeners. It’s amazing that Kooper’s solo work and the first Blood, Sweat and Tears record have never been reassessed for the great records they are. I Stand Alone is a strong listen all the way through, divided evenly between originals and well chosen covers. The disc opens with the title track, which was recorded in Nashville and is one of Kooper’s signature tunes. Had this strange but wonderful Nashville blue-eyed soul hybrid been released as a single it may have had a chance at reaching the charts. About half the tracks are in a pop sike vein. Kooper does a nice job covering Nilsson’s One and stretches out with the Kooperfone on an excellent reading of Traffic’s Coloured Rain. Song and Dance for the Unborn, Frightened Child is somewhat similar to one of the more arty, psychedelic cuts on Blood, Sweat and Tears debut, it’s an excellent, elaborate production though and proof that strings and horns can work well in the rock n roll format. Other tracks see Kooper cover classics by Sam & Dave (Toe Hold), Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Hey, Western Union Man) and Bill Monroe (Blue Moon of Kentucky). Blue Moon of Kentucky, which Elvis also covered in 1969, is a wild bluegrass rockabilly take on the classic that was clearly a homage to the Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

All the covers are great and Kooper gives his own individual stamp on each song but of course it’s the originals that grab your attention. The Stonesy swagger of Camille and the dreamy Impressions-like I Can’t Love A Woman are killer soul songs and two of Al Kooper’s best in this particular style. Another classic on the album, Right Now For You, sounds like a really good British psychedelic track with very trippy Kooperfone which sounds well ahead of it’s time. This is an undeniably great album by an artist who should really be looked at with the same esteem as say a John Cale, Captain Beefheart or Frank Zappa. Al Kooper is one of New York’s great musicians and his contributions to rock music have been tremendous. In 2008, Raven reissued I Stand Alone with Kooper’s 1969 followup lp, You Never Know Who Your Friends Are on compact disc. Both lps are a must.

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“I Can Love A Woman”

:D CD Reissue | 2008 | Raven | buy from Raven | buy from amazon ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1968 | Columbia | search ebay ]

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  • Nina

    thank you for the songs!
    the second one must be one of the most beautiful love songs I have ever heard.

  • Thanks for this post…this album is truly classic

  • deadbob

    Nice heads up piece of music journalism UNTIL you decide that Al belongs in an esteem category w/ Beefheart and Zappa! I like Al’s stuff plenty, and he’s great live too, but get real. Assertions like that can nullify the good points you make in an article. Try to be more careful when you throw names around.

  • dk

    Thanks for the recco. This is now on my wishlist…

    And I’m just curious… since when did Beefheart and Zappa become holy names that can only be invoked during religious sacrament?? As far as I can tell, those two are a couple of loons…

  • mredge

    I Stand Alone is really the second Blood, Sweat and Tears album. BST never touched their first with Al Kooper running the show. How can you mention Al Kooper without noting that he found and produced the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album, too.

    I agree with dk. Beefheart and Zappa are not holy names. Kooper may not be holy with the mainstream, but he is on my personal holy list.

  • Jason

    Your right, I Completely forgot about Lynyrd Skynyrd, definitely one of the classic debuts from the era. I believe Kooper did much to shape the sound of NYC rock n roll (or rock n roll in general) just as Beefheart and Zappa did. One of my personal favorite tracks by Kooper is the 66/67 Blues Project single No Time Like The Right Time – it’s a true psych classic. Thanks for leaving all the good comments by the way!

  • Duncanmusic

    This LP was a touchstone for me. I loved the Blues Project ‘Projections’ which led me to the first BS&T and then this and Super Session. Al was the man for me for three or four years. What happened was that I kept reading credirs (and he liked to give them) and kept following on to extensions of the next ones (like post-Blues Project Seatrain’s first on A&M) or influences that surfaced (like the rockabilly,country rock and jazz ones). I kept following Al no matter what into the eighties to that UA LP where he switched heads with his girlfriend on the cover.

    There’s always been one LP of his that I’ve never found. It may not even exist as I’ve never seen one outside of a review…it was called “Four On The Floor” which I think was the name of the LP as well as the group and Al was a member…of that I’m almost positive. Have you guys ever heard of that one? I think it was somewhat of a below the radar instrumental super-group…maybe on United Artists? SUre would like to find it.

    Oh, and one last thing. My first wife (I’m on number three now) left and moved to Nashville back in the late 80s. She was working for a video house doing art work for video collections and got to getting around town and met quite a few people. (Kind of ironic since I was the musician who turned her on to country and Americana and she got to go to Nashville). Anyway, who does she date a couple of times? You guessed it, Al Kooper. Later she said she stopped seeing him because all he could talk about was …you guessed it, Al Kooper.

  • TimB

    I have just heard Kooper’s two debut albums on the Raven reisuue CDs. I remember some tracks from years ago, but I Stand Alone is quite a diverse set of songs. The screams are a bit off putting – just hope your neighbours don’t misinterpret any goings on. Kooper’s You Know Who Your Friends Are is more cohesive, yet still has many influences – The Zombies, and Spirit come to mind.

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