Provogue [Release date 26.08.13]
It’s ten years since the release of the re-mastered ‘Super Session’ on CD, with Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills, and it’s a startling 45 years since its original release. And while it would be less than generous to suggest that the one real unifying factor between this project and the ground breaking late 60’s white boy blues jam is a lack of material, the fact remains that the 4 self penned songs on ‘Can’t Get Enough of Loving You’ stand out like a beacon.
The mundane name of the band belies some spirited playing, but what’s lacking is consistent material. Stephen Stills sparkles occasionally and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s fluid solos provide a perfect foil, while veteran keyboard player Barry Goldberg just about glues it altogether, much like he did back in ‘68. But too often the band bow in deference to Stills and it sounds like they only really seize the moment on the final ‘Word Game’.
At times you’d be hard pushed to recognise Stills’s voice on the opening ‘Mississippi Roadhouse’, until his trademark phrasing and vibrato kicks in. But it’s still an impressive, guitar heavy groove that ignites around the 2.15 minute mark and alludes to a standard that the rest of the album only sporadically manages to deliver.
Stephen is equally good in his own ragged way, on the beautifully poised and political charged ‘Don’t Want Lies’. You know exactly when the guitar line is going to kick in, yet when it does; it brings real emotion and feel to one of the best tracks on the album.
Stills draws on all his experience and raw gut feeling to deliver lines like: ‘And I heard all the questions, I just don’t have the answers, Ain’t no fool to begin with, don’t serve puppet masters’.
Kenny’s cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘Search & Destroy’ is well suited to his vocal range and his incendiary solo acts as the perfect lift for an album that is anchored by the Stills dominated bluesy title track. He may be in the autumn of his career, but Stephen Stills is still capable of bringing real grit and feel to a song as well as trading licks with KWS.
Thereafter it’s a process of diminishing returns, with Kenny’s passable version of Muddy’s ‘Honey Bee’ – complete with Goldberg’s rolling piano flourishes – and Elmore’s ‘Talk To Me Baby’, suggesting nothing more than filler material.
Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ brings out a bristling vocal from Stills, some intense riffing from Kenny and a honky-tonk piano from Goldberg, but it’s surely been covered to death by a thousand bar bands. Even Stephen’s closing ‘Word Game’ is a rehash of an old, previously unrecorded Buffalo Springfield song of his.
The album is kept on track by the deeply wrought ‘Only Teardrops Fall’. Flecked by smouldering unison guitars and layered organ, the piece features some ragged expressive vocals by Stills and is moulded by a decent production from Jerry ‘Talking Heads’ Harrison, who wisely pairs Stills’ gruff vocals with angelic bv’s.
The closing track ‘Word Game’ certainly fires and burns with all the indignation of the time of its creation and is arguably the best band tracks on the album.
If this really was meant to be an update of the ‘Super Session’ concept, they might as well have dragged Al Kooper into the project and at the very least thought about a bit more material. As it is, you either buy into this cross generational triumvirate – featuring KWS’s drummer, the former Double Trouble sticks man Chris Layton and Stephen’s bass player Kevin McCormick – revisiting the blues, or you view it as an attempt to throw a jumble of ideas against the wall to see what sticks.
Truth be told, there are several inspired moments on this album but it lacks a true spine. It sounds like a great Stills album in the making, until they ran out of time and songs. Perhaps much like the original ‘Super Session’, everything will all come together when they hit the road. ***½
Review by Pete Feenstra
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12:00-13:00 MAD MAX 35 (SPV)
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