The Blues Project

Lazarus/Blues Project

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On paper, the Blues Project was a great idea, but in spite of an abundance of talent (Al Kooper, Steve Katz, Danny Kalb, and Tommy Flanders were all members), somehow the band's innovative mix of blues, folk, rock, pop, and jazz never quite gelled the way it should have. The original lineup released one studio project (Projections) and two live sets (Live at the Café Au Go Go and Live at Town Hall) in the late '60s before collapsing from the usual ailments of the era (ego, poor management, drugs), leaving behind a sketchy but occasionally brilliant legacy. Kooper and Katz went on to form Blood, Sweat & Tears, while Roy Blumenfeld started up Seatrain and Kalb pasted his life back together after a few too many heavy acid trips. In 1971, newly signed to Capitol Records, the Blues Project resurfaced as a trio, with bassist and saxman Don Kretmar of Seatrain joining Kalb and Blumenfeld for Lazarus, which was recorded in England and produced by Shel Talmy. While Lazarus doesn't rise to the level of the original band, it does feature some striking tracks, including Kalb's pretty, impressionistic "Vision of Flowers," the ominous title cut, "Lazarus," and the rocking version of Joe Turner's "It's All Right Baby" that opens the set. Kretmar's tenor sax work is a delight throughout the album, as is the piano contribution of session player Tom Parker. A year later, the Blues Project released a second album on Capitol, this time as a six-piece ensemble. With the addition of the band's original singer, Tommy Flanders, on vocals, second guitarist Bill Lussenden, and Country Joe & the Fish keyboardist David Cohen, the self-titled Blues Project (produced by Gabriel Mekler) sported a fleshed-out sound but suffered from weak material (Flanders' "Plain and Fancy" is a notable exception), and the band wisely called it quits a second time after the project was completed. Acadia has reissued both albums on a single disc, and while neither is essential, fans of the early incarnation of the Blues Project may well find more to like here than expected.

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