By Mike Curtin
Special to the Post-Star
Published: Saturday, March 01, 2008
The Egg at the Empire Plaza in Albany presents a double dose of rock
music history at 8 p.m. tonight with its pairing of Dave Mason and Al Kooper.
The concert is yet another in the venue's ongoing American Roots and
From his work with Traffic, Jimi Hendrix and "Mama" Cass Elliot to
his own stellar solo career, singer-songwriter-guitarist Mason has
amassed an impressive resume.
His career began inauspiciously in the early '60s as road manager for
"British Invasion" sensations the Spencer Davis Group ("Gimme Some
Lovin'," "I'm a Man"). There he met the teenaged keyboard prodigy
Steve Winwood. He later joined him in Traffic for three albums, as
the group forged its unique blend of rock, folk, jazz and psychedelica.
"Feeling Alright," his best known song from that period, was recorded
by dozens of artists, including a take by Joe Cocker that was a major
FM radio hit in 1969.
During this period, Mason was a popular, albeit often uncredited,
musician, appearing on the Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet," George
Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" and Jimi Hendrix's incendiary
version of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."
After a short stint with Southern soul singers Delaney and Bonnie
Bramlett, he released his 1970 debut "Alone Together." The album
charted "gold" (sales in excess of 500,000 copies) and later was a
highly coveted collector's item for its distinctive packaging and
mottled vinyl design.
He followed with a self-titled collaboration with Cass Elliot of the
Mamas and Papas, and in 1977 he enjoyed his biggest success with "We
Just Disagree," which reached No. 12 on Billboard magazine's singles chart.
In later years, he sang a duet with Michael Jackson on 1980's "Save
Me," briefly joined Fleetwood Mac in the mid-1990s and continued to
perform throughout the U.S. and the world.
In 2004, he was inducted with other members of Traffic into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Legendary" is an overused adjective in critical circles, but a word
which eminently describes the half-century career of Al Kooper.
Singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer -- from Bob Dylan to Lynyrd
Skynyrd to the Rolling Stones -- scores of singers and musicians have
benefited from his golden touch, and like Woody Allen's "Zelig," he
appears to be always there, at the right time and at the right place.
Born Feb 5, 1944, in Brooklyn, his first brush with fame came in 1959
as part of the Royal Teens of "Short Shorts" fame. He soon drifted
into the city's vibrant music community, penning hits for the
reigning teen idols of the day like Tommy Sands, Freddie Cannon and
Gene Pitney, and in 1965 for Gary Lewis, son of comedian Jerry Lewis,
who topped the charts with "This Diamond Ring".
He also was a session guitarist, who later in '65 was invited to a
Bob Dylan recording date, at one of the latter's early excursions
into electric music.
Chastened by the blazing work of Mike Bloomfield, perhaps the finest
of the decade's sterling guitarists, he put his instrument away, but
remained at the session and on impulse provided the organ
accompaniment for the final take of "Like a Rolling Stone."
He later joined Dylan for landmark performances at the Newport Folk
Festival, Forest Hills and the Hollywood Bowl and traveled to
Nashville to back him on his subsequent "Blonde on Blonde" album.
He sessions work continued on recordings by Joan Baez, Judy Collins,
Phil Ochs, Tom Rush and Eric Andersen. He also joined one of the
city's up-and-coming bands, the Blues Project, whose mix of jazz,
folk, pop and blues made them stars of the nascent "underground" scene.
In 1967, he formed Blood, Sweat and Tears, an expansive, horn-driven
ensemble whose debut disc, "The Child Is Father to the Man," remains
one of the decade's essential discs. Refusing to pursue a more
commercial approach, he quit for brief pairing with old friend
Bloomfield and Steven Stills on the highly successful "Supersession"
album and live disc that followed.
By decade's end, he was one of the music's most prolific artists. He
recorded his first solo album, "I Stand Alone," featuring a cover
shot of the singer dressed as the Statue of Liberty. He released
"Kooper Session" with young guitar sensation Shruggie Otis.
He played on Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland," on Dylan's "New
Morning" and on the Rolling Stones' epic "You Can't Always Get What
You Want," contributing the song's indelible piano, organ and French
By the early '70s, he retreated to the other side of the recording
booth. Now living in Atlanta, he formed his own Sounds of the South
record label, whose biggest signing was a scrappy combo from
Tallahassee, Fla. -- Lynyrd Skynyrd. Kooper produced the band's first
two albums, championing a storied career that culminated in 2006 with
its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
More production work followed with the Tubes, B.B. King, Nils
Lofgren, Joe Ely, Alice Cooper, the Stones' Billy Wyman and the
Beatles' George Harrison and Ringo Starr. He scored the music for
Michael Mann's stylish TV series, "Crime Story," and for the John
Waters' satiric take on '50s teen movies, "Cry Baby". He also penned
his acerbic look at the music business, "Backstage Passes and
In 1997, he joined the faculty of Boston's Berklee School of Music
and established the college's "It Can Happen" fund for disabled students.
He also revived his solo career with 1993's all-instrumental
"Rekooperation" and the double-disc "Soul of a Man," the latter
recorded at a New York concert where he revisted all stages of his
Released in 2005, "Black Coffee" captures the artist still at the
peak of his game, with a soulful set of originals that recall his
days with Blood, Sweat and Tears and spirited covers of Smokey
Robinson's "Get Ready" and Booker T. & the MG's "Green Onions."