Al Kooper

Rare + Well Done: The Greatest & Most Obscure Recordings

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Using an uncommon format, this two-CD set is divided into a rarities disc and a kind of best-of disc. It features primarily solo material, but also throws in some cuts from his group projects with Blood, Sweat, & Tears, the Blues Project, and '60s collaborations/jam sessions with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. As either a rarities compilation or a best-of collection, this anthology has its shortcomings. Those who want the rare stuff may already have much of the best-of disc; the interest of those who want the best-of section might not extend to rarities; and either way, one will have to pay for two discs, which might be more material than desired. The rare component is quite erratic, and his material from after the early '70s on that disc is far inferior to the tracks from 1964-1972. Some goodies are unearthed, like his 1964 "Somethin' Goin' On" gospel/blues demo, his quirky 1965 solo single "New York's My Home (Razz-A-Ma-Tazz)" (aka "The Street Song"), a 1971 live version of "Baby Please Don't Go," and a 1970 cover of Bob Dylan's "Went to See the Gypsy," which Kooper had in mind as an arrangement for Dylan's own version. Yet these are outweighed by tracks of more later vintage that offset his intact knack for gospel/pop/blues/jazz-rock songwriting with inappropriately heartless modern keyboards, drums, and production. The well-done section avoids that problem by taking all but three of its selections from the 1966-1971 era, including such highlights as the Blues Project's "Flute Thing," Blood, Sweat, & Tears' "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know," and the title cut of his I Stand Alone album. It also has some tracks that even those fairly familiar with Kooper might have overlooked, like 1969's "Bury My Body" (with Shuggie Otis on guitar).

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