Bloomfield, Kooper & Stills: Super Session (1968)
Read the full review:
Albert's Shuffle 9.5/10
Yeah, Super Session helped fashion rock 'n' roll as an art form. This is the most revolutionary song ever concocted. Nobody ever thought of making a slow-tempoed R&B instrumental with an organ riff and rip-roaring electric guitar solos...... OK, you caught me. I was being sarcastic! (Tee-hee!!!) Hate to burst your bubbles, but this album was about as influential as the 1910 Fruitgum Company (who was probably even more creative). But anyway, this is as convincing of a Booker T. and the MG's clone as there ever was one. This Mike Bloomfield fellow proves why he's such a guitar legend. Holy crap, that guy could play some wicked guitar! That's all I really need to say about this ... GREAT GUITAR!!!! I love hearing the MG's, but I love this just as much. That's saying something indeed. This is great as far as jammy music goes. A complaint I have is the organ noodling --- usually it's pretty great, but there's a moment in here where he just sounds like he's just twiddling his fingers --- and Bloomfield has to rescue him with another beautiful solo. Anyway, this whole track is pretty dang soulful, which makes this quite a treat. They pepper this up with horns, which was mixed in later. They didn't need it, but whatever. This music might not be influential whatsoever, but it's entertaining.
This is mid-tempoed (and therefore a little bit more upbeat) and probably more prone to make you snap your fingers! This one not only features those wicked guitar licks but also some rip-roaring organ noodling from Al Kooper. I actually find this a little bit more fun than the previous track, which was admittedly much more soulful. Well... as I said, this is an entertaining jam record.
Man's Temptation 7.5/10
It's shorter than the previous two tracks, and it actually features vocals. The melody is fine though boring! The horn sections are featured over the electric guitar and organ solos, unfortunately, and they're way too imposing if you ask me. Yeah, this song isn't anything special... It's pretty weak compared to the previous two.
His Holy Modal Majesty 7/10
This features drugged up organ solo that sounds like it's emulating bagpipes. No, that's not even original since the Beatles already tried that on "Tomorrow Never Knows" and properly subdued that sound amidst other sounds... You know what I'm talking about. Even though Kooper is the glue that held this album together, he also seems to be the weakest link. This is the second time his noodling didn't impress me. Meanwhile, the backing band does all it can to keep a jazzy beat going... Nothing about that organ solo is good. It's would have worked better if it were just 10 seconds long, but this is extended for several minutes. Fortunately, Bloomfield comes in with some very noodly jazz solos. He has technique, but this one seems like its sleepwalking a bit. Not a whole lot of personality here, which would have been nice. This rambly song goes on for nine minutes, and all you can do is hopefully marvel at their skills. Overall, this thing is pretty monotonous. The end doesn't improve it much, but I like the idea... it sort of twinkles into nothingness.
OK, "really" is a meaningless word in the English language that I admit I have a bad habit of overusing (I mean, I REALLY overuse "really"). I guess it's appropriate that "Really" is another R&B cliche! You do have to love those guitar licks, which do pick up a lot of steam that was lost after that boring previous track. Unfortunately, Kooper's twiddling his fingers again. Does this guy have no reason to live or something? I mean, he does a good job with the organ 80 percent of the time, but he's just plain obnoxious the other 20 percent of the time. Again, it takes Bloomfield with an even more rip-roaring guitar solo to rescue him...
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry 9.5/10
Out with Bloomfield and in with Stills. Hello, Stills! He decides he wants to cover a Bob Dylan song that was never officially recorded by Dylan (and just appears on his Bootleg series). This is an enjoyable and bouncy pop song with highly developed vocals. (Wow, that's a *huge shift* from that heavy blues number that just preceded this.) The melody is wonderful, and I like how they deal with that riff. There's a sort of distorted organ tone that you hear --- it sounds perfect. I like Stills' voice, and he even does a very good job with Byrdsian harmonies. Kooper's Beatles organ is only 10 seconds long --- like it should have been on "His Holy Modal Majesty."
Season of the Witch 14/20
They're back to the bluesy jams with this over-extended Donovan cover. It's 11-freaking minutes long!!! It's a shame that it doesn't say a whole lot, but this is OK to listen to as background music. You'll be wishing that Stephen Stills could play like Mike Bloomfield, because his guitars are nowhere near as soulful. To make the matters worse, he uses a strange, watery guitar that just sounds awkward. Well, who needs any of this, to be honest??? I guess Stills should just stick to the pop music --- as he would perfectly with CSN.
You Don't Love Me 8.5/10
What a strange song. Composition-wise, it isn't too unique, but there's a weird keyboard tone Al Kooper uses. It's interesting --- not always so successful as it probably should have been. But it's difficult to argue with the uniqueness of this... Again, it's just this synth tone that's unique, and I'm still debating with myself if I actually like it or not. The actual vocal melody is alright though...
Harvey's Tune 8/10
Such an odd way to end the album though I can't say I don't appreciate it. It's a two-minute lite-jazz track featuring mostly horns and twinkly guitars. I almost think it's a shame that they didn't expand on that a little more ---- Oh, crap. What am I saying? This is lite-jazz!!! Yeah, two minutes was long enough.
Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969)
Read the full review:
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes 9.5/10
If you're going to make a seven-minute soft-rock song, this is how you should probably make it. It's the type of song that's excellent to sit back and soak up. The first part is a happy and enjoyable soft-rock bit, and they get a little bit operatic in the middle. The melody is wonderful and even whistle-worthy. Most importantly are the vocal harmonies, which are pretty and make this work seem almost theatrical. Compositionally, it's well written, and even a little bit creative. It's easy for me to underrate their artistic abilities, but I guess that's being unfair --- This is a little bit unusual. They're obviously riding on the coattails of their "parent groups," but there is a decent amount of strange ideas packed in here. Notably, they end this on a bit of a tropicana vibe... That was a fun idea that worked.
Marrakesh Express 10/10
Yay! This is a shorter and remarkably catchy soft-rock tune. Those guitar tones are unusual enough to give the sound of the track considerable novelty value even though the songwriting itself might not be that strange. I like the drums, which produce a good "train" feel! How excellent!
This is strongly reminiscent of a Simon & Garfunkel tune. It's a slow and engaging ballad with a rather thick and beautiful atmosphere. I also like the melody, and I'm glad they're not forgetting their melodic duties just because they're writing an atmospheric song. At the same time, I'm having to struggle with myself to keep my senses from getting dulled.
You Don't Have to Cry 7.5/10
Even more boring than the previous one although at least they use a happy tambourine to keep the beat! The vocal harmonies are very well used, but it seems like they're sleepwalking through those. There's an unfortunate tendency for these guys to just use those vocal harmonies out of habit instead of having any purpose for it...
Pre Road Downs 7.5/10
This is even more upbeat than the last one and utilizes instruments such as rhythm guitar and regular drums! They also predomenantly use a guitar that sounds like they're playing it backwards. It's a weird effect --- and nothing else. My big problem is the rudimentary melody just doesn't capture me. I want to be captured, you know! Sorry though...
Wooden Ships 8/10
Begins strangely with some guitar tones that sound like they were holding the strings too tightly! What quickly emerges after that is another slow song, but it unfortunately doesn't manage to be engaging as "Guinnevere." Perhaps this is one place where the three-part harmonies would have been beneficial if they were to use them all the way through. (Maybe I don't know when I want three-part harmonies... I'd be a horrible band manager.) But I like the cool, rhythm of this song, though, and the instrumental choices utilized throughout it were wisely arranged and performed. This is solid, and I sure like it a heck of a lot better than the previous two tracks!
Lady of the Island 7/10
Yet another slow song. Would it kill them to make another "Marrakesh Express" type pop song? Anyway, this track manages to truly succeed at being boring! It's minimal, and it just consists of someone singing a very dull melody to an acoustic guitar. It does seem to pick up a little bit in the middle, but it's too little too late. I can't complain about the overall composition, though, because it does have a nicely composed melody, and the whole experience seems genuine. Plus, it's only two minutes long, so it doesn't have enough time to actually bore me, anyway. I give this song a thumbs down but with severe reservations...
Helplessly Hoping 8.5/10
This one sounds like a folky roots song! As usual, I dig the three-part harmonies and they give this particular song more body than it would have had otherwise. The melody is pretty good though nothing that's going to be running through my head after it's done playing. I can't say I would define this experience as "special," but this is a solid song beyond everything else. This is obviously not one of the highlights, but that's just because it's not "Marrakesh Express."
Long Time Gone 8.5/10
This is a mid-tempoed track that seems to be on more of a bluesy vein. It's extremely well done and it turns out to be one of the album's more solid works. I don't normally enjoy blues songs, so that distinction is surprising! Anyway, the melody and structure of the song, however, are done especially well for the genre. You still get the feeling that it's soft-rock, so they're not trying to be "soulful" or anything like that.
49 Bye-Byes 8/10
The one aspect about this song that's most gripping is that it's impossible to hate it. Not that I'd really want to, but --- Well, it's just a nice song. It's a tad bit unconventional, so there's no way I can throw the "generic" card at it. The melody is certainly pleasant and the development is followable. You wonder what was with that silly operatic singing at the beginning of it, but --- well, don't dwell on it! The song picks up dramatics as it ends, which actually makes it sound like a good conclusion to the album. But despite all of those pleasantries, it doesn't strike me in any real way. I just listen to it with my numb brain...
Deja Vu (1970)
Read the full review:
Carry On 8/10
This is nothing if it isn't a solid track though not particularly melodic enough to really excite me. It does contain a decent riff, and some nice electric guitar line. They seem to rely this one quite heavily on some Byrds-esque harmonies ... which is OK, but that doesn't make this any more interesting to listen to I think. Anyway, this whole track feels like it was written by people bored of rock music. Yikes, and it was only one year after Woodstock! The development is alright --- but it's nowhere near as exciting as the opening track of their previous album.
Teach Your Children 8/10
Er, slide guitar? They weren't going country in CSN! Clearly they're enjoying the Byrdsian country-rock those weirdos pioneered a few years ago. I always thought that stuff was pretty boring, but at least it's calming, and straight-forward. That is certainly worth something. But at the same time, it grows boring because it's so predictable. Whoever's responsible for providing the slide guitar throughout deserves a cookie.
Almost Cut My Hair 8/10
I'm not sure about the purpose of this one ... whether it's a genuine political statement or a parody. Considering the personnel involved, I don't think this is a joke (since they do tend to take themselves *very* seriously). At the very least, this is a rather guitar heavy rocker although it's pretty dang slow. The guitar work makes up for everything.
The Supreme Being contributes this old song (you can tell it's Neil Young, because he's the only member of this group who has an annoying voice). I find it to be a pretty decent ballad although it doesn't go too far melodically. It's a nice, pleasant thing you can sit back and listen to. Good but not phenomenal.
These guys have yet to impress me, although I do appreciate that they're genuinely trying to "rock" with "Woodstock." The track is poppier than the rest, which makes it easier to digest, and I do like the fact that the melody is a little better. For some reason, it took them covering a Joni Mitchell song to do that! (Come on --- Let's do another "Marrakesh Express" ... Be pleasant for goodness sake.) At the same time, this rocks a lot more than Mitchell's version! Their layered harmonies are bugging me for some crazy reason. I'm probably stupid, but I think this would have been better with just one singer. Screw the three-part harmonies. They're getting to be passe anyway...
Deja Vu 8/10
This one is alright and fairly engaging if you give it the right chance. I have to stress that their melodies aren't great. They almost don't care about their melodies, which is a real downer. Anyway, the instrumental quality of this track does provide interest. It's also structured rather strangely, and I like it that they're not writing derivative music. Developmentally, I would be tempted to give this a 9/10, except it gets rather dull by the end. I want something a little more memorable and exciting, frankly.
Our House 8.5/10
They're being uncharacteristically Beatles-esque now, and this also manages to be the most memorable original track of the album. The melody is pretty catchy even though it grows stale after awhile. It might have helped if they upped the tempo. The instrumentation is OK, but they're not doing anything special enough to further redeem this track. No great guitar solos or interesting arrangements or anything! Interestingly, I was reminded of Klaatu's "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft" just now. That's a more interesting song...
20 + 4 7/10
20 + 4 = a popular television show. Math lesson over. I guess this is their obligatory boring folk tune. I have nothing against tracks that involve simply playing an acoustic guitar and singing, but not when they're interntionally trying to put me to sleep! The melody is OK and the mood is charming, but --- it's freaking boring. Oh well, it's a short track.
Country Girl 9/10
I guess this proves that Neil Young was ultimately the strongest link of this group. His other solo contribution "Helpless" was also one of the nicest songs of the album. But this one sort of takes the cake. Finally, there's a song in this boring freaking album that makes me sit up and take notice of it. The melody isn't especially catchy, but it's good enough. Who cares about the melody anyway? It's the creepy mood that wins me over. It sounds like Neil Young actually has something to say, musically. It's epic, loud and overpowering ... they even import a timpani drum. Yeah... Watch me get so excited over a timpani...
Everybody I Love You 8/10
For once, they decide to add an upbeat rocker. Although this track honestly isn't all it could have been. For the love of God, quit layering those vocals. That especially doesn't suit this song ... I know you're doing it to be a "signature" but I just don't like it. Otherwise, this track is OK. There's some good guitar. The melody isn't anything special, but at this point it doesn't matter. At least it's not a boring and slow country ditty.
Stephen Stills (1970)
Read the full review:
Love the One You're With 9.5/10
This song is really freaking great. I think that's all I need to say. ... OK, I'll elaborate. This is quite a joyous little song that he came up with. Everything sounds perfectly organic --- like he assembled a nice group of musicians over to the country to have a folky sing-a-long in the middle of the country. He's playing around furiously with his acoustic guitar spouting off some lyrics, and a happy gospel choir joins into sing the chorus. It's a little bit cheesy, but it absolutely works, and it's a lot of fun to hear. The melody works just fine --- it's a tad bland, but then again this is Stephen Stills!
Do For the Others 8/10
I listen to this song, and I would really like it to do something interesting. And then I remember that this is Stephen Stills. (OK, I'm going to quit picking on him. We're good buds, right, Stevie??) Frankly this one's a little bit boring to me. Stills bland melody writing turns in a fairly monotonous song although I certainly find this a decent song to sit back and soak up... It's tasteful---it's just not too interesting.
Church (Part of Someone) 7/10
I kind of like Stephen Stills' brand of gospel music, but it helps if he had a nice melody to deal with. I think he listened a bit too much to Joe Crocker and then wrote a song like his but forgot to write a melody. He's incorporating some thick instrumentation in here, but it's as aimless as the melody.
Old Times Good Times 8/10
He's rocking out a bit more, and I like hearing that. Musically speaking the song isn't that interesting. Historically speaking it's interesting only because it features Jimi Hendrix on guitar. Also, there's Booker T. Jones on organ. The beginning of the track is more melody and groove related --- and frankly none of that is catchy. The end focuses on some jamming, and it's OK. I'm neither impressed nor disgusted!
Go Back Home 9.5/10
And here's Eric Clapton! I like listening to his licks a lot better than Hendrix's, but that statement doesn't reflect on either of their solo careers. This is a much better song in general anyway. The groove is absolutely snappy, and --- that guitar noodling is a real treat. I don't even listen to what Stills is singing; my attention is 100 percent on the guitar. In fact, I don't even think there's an actual melody here. It's just a cool bass groove, drum beat, guitar --- um --- yeah, that's it. Everything kind of culminates at the very end, and there's some mighty guitar playing. Yeah... This track is a lot of fun. A real treat!!
Sit Yourself Down 7.5/10
I get a little bit put-off, because this track sounds so bland, but then I remember that this is Stephen Stills! (...I backed away from my promise, it seems.) This has the same feeling as the opening track except it's not nearly as compelling. The melody just might have well been not written at all --- and that chord progression is as plain as mayonnaise on white bread. The gospel singers come in, and that's worth something. If he was trying to create another "happy in the country" vibe, he had the right sound but the wrong spirit this time.
To a Flame 8.5/10
This might be a real classic if the melody were a little catchier. But the real highlight here is the full-scale orchestra Stills is incorporating here. It's kind of like what he was attempting to do with "Church," but it worked much nicer. There's a real brief moment in here where it really sounds magical though... Nicely done, hippie man!
Black Queen 8/10
Yeesh. OK. This song seems to feature a lot of heavy and involved guitar licks and Stills is singing in this absolutely gruff voice. I know he's not kidding, but I can't help but giggle, anyway. The vocal performance is absolutely ridiculous. This sounds like he just sat down and decided to do whatever came to his mind --- almost as if he wasn't really paying attention to what his vocals were doing. Well if his concentration was solely on that guitar playing, then it was worth it. It certainly is impressive.
Wow. Here's a rather normal, mid-tempoed song without much a melody, but hear some of the instruments he's using: a flute and a guitar played very much like a sitar. Stephen Stills probably still wishes the '60s weren't over! The orchestration is the best aspect of this track, and that's saying enough. But I wish he would write a nice melody...
We Are Not Helpless 9/10
Stills at least gives his album a wonderful ending! It has that 'conclusive' feeling, so I know the album's coming to an end. Of course, that's probably what Stills had in mind when he wrote this. (Ah, he was undoubtedly excited to be recording his first solo album!) Finally, the melody is quite nice. Again, he feels the need to "rock out" at the end, but he's not as good at that as he thinks he is. It's OK though.
Movie Reviews | Short Stories | Message Board | Contact Me